When Angela Bassett starred as Tina Turner in the 1993 biopic What’s Love Got to Do with It, she was still relatively new to the acting game. The intensity of filming took its toll on everyone, but Bassett specifically felt she couldn’t express her discomfort in certain situations. However, Laurence Fishburne provided the support she needed, helping them all get through a particularly rough scene. Turner herself was impressed in the end.
‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’ was released in 1993
In the past few years, biopics have really exploded in popularity. Audiences have seen the release of films centered on the lives of Elvis Presley, Freddie Mercury, Marilyn Monroe, and more. What’s Love Got to Do With It was released back in 1993, focusing on the life of the late Tina Turner.
Directed by Brian Gibson, the film was based on the autobiography Turner had penned back in 1986 called I, Tina. In it, Turner delves into many aspects of her personal life, including her tumultuous relationship with her ex-husband, Ike Turner. Neither the book nor the movie ignores the abuse she suffered from Ike, stemming from both his hot temper and his substance abuse problems.
Bassett felt she couldn’t say much during filming
Actress Angela Bassett was cast for the role of Turner, alongside Laurence Fishburne who starred as Ike. During an interview with Variety discussing the film for its 30th anniversary, Bassett revealed what it was like behind the scenes for her at a time when she was still considered a “new actor.”
Although her acting career began in the mid-1980s, when she was cast in this film she still felt she couldn’t speak up about how many takes she would allow or about things would make her uncomfortable. Thankfully, Fishburne was there and had enough confidence for the both of them to ensure that production stayed on track and no one was treated unfairly.
“He was strong, he was respectful. He could bring order and he had discipline. When things got out of hand, as they did, he could bring some stoppage and clarity to the moment,” Bassett explained. “We literally worked 16-hour days on the smallest of things, like cutting a ribbon.”
In contrast, she said, “… whereas I could not, as an up-and-coming actor to this white male British director, Laurence could say, ‘I think we got it. We got it.’ And then we could all go home and get some rest to be ready for the next day.”
Fishburne stood up for her during a difficult scene
Fishburne really helped Bassett out when it came to filming the infamous assault scene. Bassett reflected on how she didn’t want to do that scene “over and over and over again for 16 hours,” but struggled to let Gibson know. “And I knew I couldn’t ask the director because, here I am as a new actor, but I could talk to Laurence,” she said.
Instead, she confided in Fishburne and he made sure they only repeated the scene as many times as she was comfortable with. He even asked most of the film crew to leave the studio during this part. “So Laurence asked me, ‘How many times you want to do this?’ And I looked at him, he took my hand and I said, ‘Four or five,'” Bassett explained.
“And then he told the director, like, ‘Hey man, we’re just going to do this four times. So let’s make sure we get the cameras right and we’re going to keep them outside of the studio.'”
Turner didn’t watch the film for a long time
Tina Turner played a huge role in the production of the film, but even after it was released to the public, she took her time in watching the film herself. It took years before Bassett received any feedback from Turner about her performance.
“Early on she did not see the film. I remember when we went to Italy, she claimed that she did not see the film,” Bassett explained. “Maybe 20 years ago, we were together and she took me aside and said, ‘You played me so well. Thank you.'”
“But even though she did not see the film early on, she was there every step of the way,” Bassett continued. “She was there at the rehearsals. She was at Neiman’s buying me blouses for ‘I Might Have Been Queen.’ Going into her storage and getting the red ‘Disco Inferno’ costume and allowing me to use that in the film.”
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Reflecting on the May 2023 death of the superstar, Bassett wrote on Instagram, “Her final words to me — for me — were, ‘You never mimicked me. Instead, you reached deep into your soul, found your inner Tina, and showed her to the world.’ I shall hold these words close to my heart for the rest of my days. I am honored to have known Tina Turner.”