‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’: Laurence Fishburne Changed the Script to Make Ike Turner Less ‘Evil’

Tina Turner’s HBO documentary sparked renewed interest in her personal life and career journey.

Some viewers turned their attention to her ex-husband Ike Turner and the unforgettable Oscar-nominated biopic, What’s Love Got to Do With It. Mixed in with her achievements are tales about the abuse she endured while with him, which is something that Turner’s been vocal about wanting to forget.

Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne played the couple in the film in two of their most memorable roles. But Fishburne made some adjustments in the script for Ike Turner’s character.

Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne
Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne, 2006 | Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Laurence Fishburne almost skipped ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’

Angela Bassett’s performance as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It is considered one of her best. She earned a Golden Globe for the role, and she and Laurence Fishburne received heaps of praise from critics. The film scored more than $50 million at the box office.

Behind the scenes, it took some convincing for Fishburne to sign on. According to a 1993 interview with the New York Times, he turned down the part multiple times until he learned Angela Bassett was cast as Tina Turner. The pair had already worked together in John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood.

Fishburne rewrote parts of Ike Turner’s character

Prior to committing to the film, Fishburne was told that Ike would be revised, but when he came on board, he ended up doing some of that work himself. Besides adding his own signature in his on-screen portrayal of the musician, he modified the script.

Bassett explained to the NYT that Fishburne added to the real-life character. “He saved Ike. Salvaged it. Lifted it. We had to add so much. Reading the script it was just Ike, devil. Tina, silent saint. That’s kind of boring and dumb. He brought out Ike’s dignity. He wasn’t into making an evil black male stereotype,” she said.

The work he did on the script inspired him to write others after it. While Tina Turner herself did not want to participate in the making of the movie, she did consult with Bassett on certain aspects of her life.

Ike Turner admitted to physically abusing Tina Turner

The last few years of Ike Turner’s life were mostly spent under the radar, save for a memoir he published in 1999.

However, he did do a lengthy interview in 1985 with SPIN magazine after the reporter spent days tracking him down. Turner spoke on how he molded Tina into a sex symbol by directing the stage shows and telling her how to move.

He also confessed to hitting her. “But it’s years ago that I had a temper. I don’t regret nothing I’ve ever done, absolutely nothing, man, because it took all of that to make me what I am today — and I love me today, I really do,” Turner told the outlet.


The Real Story Behind Tina Turner’s ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’ Lyrics

“Yeah, I hit her, but I didn’t hit her more than the average guy beats his wife. The truth is, our life was no different from the guy next door’s. It’s been exaggerated. People buy bad news, dirty news. If she says I abused her, maybe I did.”

When What’s Love Got to Do With It was released in 1993, Turner was livid about how he was depicted in the film. He told the Los Angeles Times it contained lies and that he was made out to be the bad guy. Ike Turner died in 2007.