What's Love Got to Do with It (film)

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What's Love Got to Do with It
Whats love got to do with it poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Brian Gibson
Produced by Doug Chapin
Barry Krost
Screenplay by Kate Lanier
Based on I, Tina
by Tina Turner
Kurt Loder
Music by Stanley Clarke
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc.
Release date
  • June 6, 1993 (1993-06-06) (Los Angeles)
  • June 25, 1993 (1993-06-25) (United States)
Running time
118 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million
Box office $39,100,956

What's Love Got to Do with It is a 1993 American biographical film directed by Brian Gibson, loosely based on the life of American-born singer Tina Turner. It stars Angela Bassett as Tina Turner and Laurence Fishburne as Ike Turner.

The screenplay was adapted by Kate Lanier from the book I, Tina written by Tina Turner and Kurt Loder. Both Ike and Tina Turner assigned rights to Lanier for their lives to be dramatized in the film. The film's soundtrack featured the hit song "I Don't Wanna Fight", which went to number one in seven countries. In the United States, the film grossed almost $40 million and around $20 million in rentals. In the United Kingdom, it grossed nearly £10 million.


Born and raised in Nutbush, Tennessee, Anna Mae Bullock (Tina's birth name) grows up in an unhappy family, with her parents leaving and abandoning her at a young age. Following her grandmother's death, she relocates to St. Louis, reuniting with her mother and close sister Alline. Anna Mae pursues a chance to be a professional singer after seeing charismatic bandleader Ike Turner perform one night. Later she wins her spot in Turner's band after singing onstage and he begins mentoring her. In time, an unexpected romance develops between the two after she moves into Ike's home. Shortly afterwards, they marry and begin having musical success together as Ike and Tina Turner.

The marriage quickly turns violent when Ike starts physically dominating her, leaving her no chance to escape. In public, Tina rises from local St. Louis phenomenon into an R&B superstar with Ike growing increasingly jealous of the attention given to her. Ike turns to drugs and his abusive behavior worsens. As Tina seeks solace in her chaotic life, a friend turns her on to Buddhism, eventually convincing her that reciting the Lotus Sutra and chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo will help "change her life." Tina grows increasingly confident afterwards and in a final fight with Ike finally musters the courage to defend herself, eventually leaving Ike after they arrive at a hotel.

Winning the right to retain her stage name after their divorce, Tina continues working to pay bills. She gets a break after meeting Roger Davies, who eventually helps her realize her dreams of rock stardom. Despite Ike's attempts to win her back, Tina eventually prevails and finds solo success, accomplishing her dreams without Ike.



Angela Bassett, nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Tina Turner

Halle Berry, Robin Givens, Pam Grier, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, and Vanessa L. Williams were all considered for the role of Tina Turner.[1] Whitney Houston was actually offered the role, but had to decline due to imminent maternity. Jenifer Lewis also originally auditioned to play Tina Turner but was cast instead as Tina's mother even though she was born in 1957 and just one year older than Angela Bassett.

Angela Bassett auditioned for the role in October 1992 and was chosen only a month before production began in December. During that time she had to learn not only how to talk like Turner but to dance and move like her. She would have been willing to try to do the singing as well, but ''not in the time we had,'' she said. ''I did think about it for a second, though.'' Instead, she lip syncs to soundtracks recorded by Tina Turner and Fishburne. Bassett worked with Tina Turner, but only ''a little bit.'' Turner helped most with the re-creations of her famed dance routines.[2]

All the Ike and Tina Turner songs used in the film were newly re-recorded versions featuring Tina Turner covering her own songs. On "Proud Mary" and "It's Gonna Work Out Fine", Laurence Fishburne sings Ike Turner's parts. For Tina Turner's solo recordings, the original masters were used, including the Phil Spector-produced "River Deep - Mountain High".

Laurence Fishburne was offered the role of Ike Turner five times and turned it down each time.[3] ''It was pretty one-sided,'' said Fishburne, who turned down the project based on the script he first read. Ike, Fishburne added, was ''obviously the villain of the piece, but there was no explanation as to why he behaved the way he behaved - why she was with him for 16 to 20 years, what made her stay.'' The writers made some changes and though Ike is still shown as a pretty despicable sort, the film offers at least some insight into him - most notably a scene in which Ike recalls watching, at age 6, his father's death from wounds suffered in a fight over a woman. The changes helped persuade Fishburne to do the role, but he says that Bassett's casting as Tina played a key part. ''She was the deciding factor, really,'' he said.[2]

Fishburne did not have Ike Turner around as a role model as much as he would have liked. He did meet Ike Turner once, though, during production of the film. "He was not particularly welcome on this project," Fishburne says. The actor's only meeting was a brief introduction when Ike showed up at the Turners' former home in Baldwin Hills during a location shoot. Ike signed some autographs and showed Fishburne his walk. "It was nice to meet him," says Fishburne. "Regardless of his actions, he was so much a part of Tina's life. The movie is about him just as much as her. It's unfortunate that he wasn't welcomed, that both of them weren't around more."[4]

In his autobiography Taking Back My Name, Ike Turner claims the movie damaged his reputation immensely and attacks many of the scenes for being either not strictly accurate or completely fabricated.[citation needed] Director Brian Gibson had no contact with Ike. "I never spoke to him," says Gibson. "I was not allowed to. Disney felt that it would not be a good idea."[4] Tina herself admitted she wish the film had more truth to it. Since they sold the right to use their name and image for the film, neither Tina nor Ike had control over the script. Tina's more graphic accounts of Ike's abuse in her book were not added to the film.

Bassett was injured while filming the first spousal abuse sequence. She fell off the back of a high-rise sofa, put her hands out to reduce the impact, and suffered a hairline fracture of her right hand. She only tried the stunt fall once, and footage leading up to the mishap appears in the film.[citation needed]

Actress Vanessa Bell Calloway, who plays the fictional character Jackie, was leery of voicing the Buddhist chant because of her strong Christian faith. Director Brian Gibson allowed her to form the words with her lips silently during filming and added the words with a voice double in post-production. She also appeared alongside Tina in the music video of "What's Love Got to Do with It".[citation needed]

Differences from noted events[edit]

Though the film took its story from Tina Turner's autobiography, I, Tina, it was determined to be only loosely based on the book, meaning certain events in the film were "fictionalized for dramatic purposes".[5] Examples of the fictionalized scenes include:

  • In the film, Tina's constant friend, "Jackie" (played by Vanessa Bell Calloway), was a member of The Ikettes who left the Ike and Tina Turner Revue after a violent blowup with Ike in a roadside restaurant. In actuality, this character was fabricated for dramatic purposes. This fictionalized character also visits Tina in the hospital after her attempted suicide and later introduces Tina to Buddhism, chanting "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo" in front of the Gohonzon. Turner never mentioned a friend named Jackie in her autobiography; this single character apparently represents an amalgamation of friends from Tina's past, including members of the Ikettes and friends from the band's entourage.[citation needed]
  • When Anna Mae Bullock sees Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm perform, Ike is shown as the front man. The real-life Ike Turner had stage fright, and though he was a band leader and organizer, he often had other performers, particularly male singers, fronting the band.[citation needed]
  • The original vocalist behind "Rocket 88", sung by Laurence Fishburne as Ike in the movie, was Jackie Brenston.
  • During Anna Mae's first performance with Ike and the Kings of Rhythm, Ike is shown playing guitar. But both Tina and Ike have stated Tina sang after being given a microphone by the band's drummer, while Ike played piano during an intermission, rather than during a live performance as illustrated in the film, though she did later front the band the night she began singing with them.[citation needed]
  • A reenactment shows Tina recording her first song, called "Tina's Wish," on the film's soundtrack. However, this song is actually a re-recording Tina made of an old Ike and Tina song, "Make Me Over," from the Ike & Tina album, Nutbush City Limits (1973). Tina's first recording (as "Little Ann") was actually singing background on one of Ike's songs, "Box Top".[citation needed]
  • In the film Ike's live-in girlfriend Lorraine Taylor pulls a gun on Tina before Ike and Tina began a sexual relationship. In reality, Ike and Tina were already intimate prior to Lorraine confronting Tina with hi's .38-caliber pistol. Tina was pregnant with Ike's baby at the same time as Lorraine. They tried to keep the fact that he was the father of Tina's baby a secret from Lorraine.
  • During the scene where Ike and Tina are scheduled to perform at the Apollo Theater in 1960, the bill lists Martha and the Vandellas and Otis Redding as fellow headliners. In reality, Martha and the Vandellas had not formed yet, several of them were performing in another different vocal group called the Del-Phis, while Redding had yet to record his first single and was fronting several bands.[citation needed]
  • The film shows Tina giving birth to Ike's son, named Craig, but in reality, Craig Turner was Tina's child with another man, Raymond Hill. Hill was a member in Ike's band. Tina gave birth to Craig when she was 18 in 1958. Ike and Tina's only child together, Ronald Renelle Turner also known as Ronnie, was born on October 27, 1960.[citation needed]
  • Ike did not sneak Tina out of the hospital after she gave birth. In her book she says Ike was not present for the birth of their son. Tina checked herself out the hospital when she discovered a woman Ike hired to replace her while she recovered was a prostitute. While in the hospital Tina was informed that her replacement was using the name Tina Turner to get clients so she went to confront the woman and beat her. Ike mentions the incident in his book as well, he was out of town and unaware that the woman was a prostitute. Tina does mention another incident of being sick in the hospital and claimed Ike had his guys sneak her out.
  • The film depicts Ike and Tina getting hitched after the birth of their son Craig (who was actually Ronnie) in 1960 when in reality they married two years later in 1962.
  • While Tina mentions that there were accounts of Ike abusing her, he never pushed cake in her face leading to a fight in a diner. That scene in the film dramatizes an incident Tina accounted in her autobiography, which describes that Ike had bought a pound cake because someone told him she asked for it. Tina says she did not but Ike told her to eat it anyways so she complied.[6]
  • During the scene in the ambulance after Tina tried to commit suicide by overdosing on prescription pills Ike's character tells her, "If you die, I'll kill you." In reality Tina was unconscious and did not know what Ike said to her. In her book she joked that survived because she was so afraid of Ike.
  • The film portrays Ike raping Tina in their home studio during the recording of "Nutbush City Limits." In reality, the song was recorded at Ike's Bolic Sound Studio and there is no mention of marital rape in Tina's autobiography. Ike also denied that he raped Tina.
  • When Tina performs at the Ritz, the film has the timeline at 1983, and the host announces her arrival as her "debut solo performance". However, Tina had first performed at that theater in 1981.[citation needed] Also inaccurate was the film's portrayal of Ike's visit to the theater, where he failed at silencing Tina with his gun. In truth, Ike was never at the Ritz; he had not been seen in public for years following his and Tina's divorce in 1978. Ike had remained in Los Angeles, estranged from Tina for quite some time by 1981. The film's loose depictions do, however, capture the reality that Ike made multiple dangerous attempts to get Tina back following her divorce suit, in which he did threaten bodily harm, and Tina bought a gun to protect herself from Ike and his friends at the time.[6]

Awards and honors[edit]

Bassett won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical and an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture. Laurence Fishburne was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Bassett was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role. The film won an American Choreography Award for one of its dance sequences.

Ebony Readers' Poll[edit]

Year Nominee/work Award Result Ref.
1994 What's Love Got to Do with It favorite movie of the year Won [8]

Other honors[edit]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


The movie received critical acclaim.[14][15][16][17] It currently holds a 96% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 49 reviews with the consensus: "With a fascinating real-life story and powerhouse performances from Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne, What's Love Got to Do with It is a can't miss biopic."

Ike Turner complained that Fishburne's portrayal of him was inaccurate.[18]

Phil Spector slammed the movie (and the book) as a "piece of trash", which "demonized and vilified Ike".[19]


  1. ^ Walker, Michael (1993-05-16). "SUMMER SNEAKS : Tina Turner's Story Through a Disney Prism : The singer's film biography, 'What's Love Got to Do With It,' focuses on her turbulent relationship with her mentor and ex-husband Ike Turner as well as her triumphant comeback - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com/2. Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  2. ^ a b "How Laurence And Angela Became Ike And Tina". tribunedigital-orlandosentinel. Retrieved 2017-10-24. 
  3. ^ Walker, Michael (1993-05-16). "SUMMER SNEAKS : Tina Turner's Story Through a Disney Prism : The singer's film biography, 'What's Love Got to Do With It,' focuses on her turbulent relationship with her mentor and ex-husband Ike Turner as well as her triumphant comeback - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com/2. Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  4. ^ a b WALKER, MICHAEL (1993-05-16). "SUMMER SNEAKS : Tina Turner's Story Through a Disney Prism : The singer's film biography, 'What's Love Got to Do With It,' focuses on her turbulent relationship with her mentor and ex-husband Ike Turner as well as her triumphant comeback". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-10-24. 
  5. ^ Walker, Michael (1993-05-16). "SUMMER SNEAKS : Tina Turner's Story Through a Disney Prism : The singer's film biography, 'What's Love Got to Do With It,' focuses on her turbulent relationship with her mentor and ex-husband Ike Turner as well as her triumphant comeback - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  6. ^ a b Turner, Tina. I, Tina. 
  7. ^ Seymour, Gene (1995-12-22). "Angela Bassett: Grounded--and Soaring as an Actress : After Vampires, Strange Days, the Film Star Can 'Exhale'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-22. 
  8. ^ "EBONY Readers Poll End Of Year". Retrieved March 31, 2018. 
  9. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-14. 
  10. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-14. 
  11. ^ "Top 9 Subjects of a Music Bio-Pic". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2018-03-20. 
  12. ^ "Top 10 Best Rock Biopics". Rolling Stone Readers' Poll. Retrieved 2018-03-20. 
  13. ^ "The Best Black Movies of the Last 30 Years". Complex. Retrieved 2018-03-31. 
  14. ^ "Tina turns tumultuous life into 'Love'". Baltimore Sun. 1993-06-18. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  15. ^ "Tina Turner Story Tunes In To The Rhythms Of Real Life". Chicago Tribune. 1993-06-11. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  16. ^ Turan, Kenneth (1993-06-09). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Love': Playing It Nice and Rough : Exceptional Acting Powers Story of Up and Downs of Ike and Tina Turner". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  17. ^ Rickey, Carrie (1994-03-24). "For Pop Queen Tina Turner, Life Was Never, Ever Nice And Easy". Philly.com. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  18. ^ Philips, Chuck (1993-06-24). "Q&A WITH IKE TURNER : 'I Was the One Who Turned Her Into Tina Turner'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  19. ^ "Phil Spector criticises Tina Turner at Ike Turner's funeral". NME.com News. Retrieved December 24, 2015. 

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