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Out of the Archives: Laurence Fishburne on Playing Ike Turner

Laurence Fishburne talked to journalists of the Hollywood Foreign Press in 1993 about playing Ike Turner in What’s Love Got To Do With It opposite Angela Bassett as Tina Turner.
“I didn’t want to play Ike, to begin with, because in the script he was pretty one-dimensional. There was no explanation for his behavior or for why she would stay with him for sixteen years. And because those things were lacking, I was very hesitant, so I talked to the producers, they agreed that he needed to be fleshed out, and we were able to give him some history and texture, some real dimension and depth.”
“He is, dramatically speaking, the villain of the piece, so, no matter what you do, he’s the bad guy, and I understood that, but I wanted to make him interesting, to give him some attractive quality, something that would draw Anna Mae to him, like a spider weaving his web, almost like a Venus flytrap. Something that looks very pretty, that you are really compelled and drawn to and then, once you get close to this thing, it closes its trap on you and there’s no possible way to get out of it.”
“My feeling about the abuse of anybody is that it’s an unfortunate expression of a particular emotion. In the case of Ike, he was expressing his frustration and his hatred, those qualities and emotions that he had within himself, they were really things that he felt about himself. And it is unfortunate that he took those actions, and he transferred those feelings onto Anna Mae, but it is my belief that when someone abuses someone, it is because they don’t feel very good about themselves.”
“Secondly, it has a lot to do with the conditioning that we receive as young boys and the way that we are taught to deal with women. Certainly, for instance, some men may be introduced to sex as pornography and may look at women solely as sex objects, rather than as individuals and human beings. There are a great many types of men who have been abusive to women and they all have very different reasons. I can’t give you a complete dissertation about the whole spectrum, but those two things that I mentioned are pretty clear.”
“Then Angela, through her vocal performance, was able to evoke really strong emotions of terror and fear that would also allow the audience to participate in the beating, which makes it all the more uncomfortable. The hope was that the result would be that people who were in abusive relationships would be able to see themselves.”
“Ike’s way of thinking is very different from my way of thinking, but it is not completely alien and totally foreign to me. We are constantly learning, you know, I have changed throughout my entire life and I hope to continue to change. As a young man perhaps I did not treat women the best way I could have, but you learn as you go, so I hope I have gotten a lot better from where I was. I appreciate women emotionally as well as physically now, which is something that I have had to learn to do, but, in general, I would say that I love and I respect women a great deal.”