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‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’: Is Tina Turner’s movie sexist?

Have you ever wondered how Angela Bassett brought rock ‘n roll icon Tina Turner to life on the big screen in the classic film, What’s Love Got to Do with It? This year, as we mark the film’s 30th anniversary, Bassett herself spills some beans on her experience and the unique dynamics she shared with co-star Laurence Fishburne.

Let’s take a look at the deep details into why the movie became such a hit.

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The dive behind

Bassett’s role in the movie, released in 1993, was far from a walk in the park. Based on the tempestuous life of the iconic Tina Turner, the film required intense effort, and more so for the scenes with Laurence Fishburne, who portrayed Ike Turner. These scenes were sometimes uncomfortable, challenging, and incredibly demanding.

Fishburne, a force in himself, brought a sense of order to the chaos. Even when situations spiraled, Fishburne ensured a sense of calm prevailed, according to Bassett. His discipline and tact helped them get through the long sixteen-hour days, focusing on minor details such as cutting a ribbon.

Bassett, then a rising actor, credits Fishburne for standing up for her, particularly during the filming of a distressing sexual assault scene. She appreciated his support in communicating her concerns to the director about repetitively filming the scene for long hours. This advocacy built a strong trust between the two, further reflecting on their on-screen chemistry.

Bassett narrates a moment where Fishburne asked her about the number of takes she was comfortable with for the said scene. When she said four or five, Fishburne conveyed this to the director and insisted on keeping the camera crew outside the studio for those shots.

The tribute

While the fans and cast members celebrate the film’s enduring impact, they also mourn the loss of the legendary Tina Turner. Turner, the powerhouse behind the story, passed away at the age of eighty-three in May, following a prolonged illness.

The opening of Turner’s rendition of “Proud Mary” contains a line that sums up Bassett’s experience of portraying Turner: “we never ever do nothing nice and easy.” Bassett embraced this spirit wholeheartedly for her role.

The thirty days before the first day of shooting were grueling for Bassett. She underwent rigorous training, including sixteen-hour days of exercises, learning dance numbers with Turner and choreographer Michael Peters, and acting out scenes depicting Turner’s experiences of violence and domestic abuse.

In a recent conversation with Variety, Bassett reflected on her journey with the film, her collaboration with Turner, and the film’s enduring legacy since Turner’s passing. She shared anecdotes about meeting Turner before the screen tests, looking at old photos of Turner with Ike, and listening to her memories from that time.

The rise and remembrance

Bassett’s training routine was no less than a military boot camp. She started her days at five in the morning with a two-and-a-half-hour workout, followed by ten hours of learning dance routines. Her meals consisted of simple, nutritious food – broccoli, string beans, Yukon potatoes, and chicken breast, often eaten on the go.

Bassett confessed that the physical rigor she embraced for the film wasn’t something she maintained after. She joked about swinging to the other extreme, indulging in treats like apple pie. She also reminisced about how Tina worked closely with the makeup artists, focusing on the signature red lips and thick brows, adding an authentic touch to Bassett’s portrayal of Turner.

Whether it was intense training, getting into character, or sharing screen space with the formidable Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett’s portrayal of Tina Turner was as genuine as it gets. As we look back at What’s Love Got to Do with It, we can’t help but ask: How would you prepare to step into the shoes of a legend like Tina Turner?


What do you ultimately think of What’s Love Got to Do with It? Let us know in the comments!

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