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

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

What's Love Got to Do with It
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBrian Gibson
Produced byDoug Chapin
Barry Krost
Screenplay byKate Lanier
Based onI, Tina
by Tina Turner
Kurt Loder
Music byStanley Clarke
Distributed byBuena 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
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million
Box office$39.1 million

The screenplay was adapted by Kate Lanier from the book I, Tina co-written by Turner with Kurt Loder. Both Ike and Tina 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 (later to be Tina Turner) 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 & 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, she finally musters the courage to defend herself, eventually leaving him 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.



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] 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.

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.

All the Ike & Tina Turner songs used in the film were newly re-recorded versions by Tina Turner. 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.[1] ''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."[2] 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 "was the deciding factor."[2]

Fishburne did not have Ike Turner around as a role model as much as he would have liked. He met him once during production of the film. "He was not particularly welcome on this project," Fishburne says.[1] 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."[1] 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."[1]

Screenwriter Kate Lanier deleted much of the brutality Tina Turner said she endured in her book.[3] Her character was also sanitized, most notably her relationship with saxophonist Raymond Hill and the birth of their son was excluded from the film.[4] Lanier admitted that Tina Turner was not happy with certain aspects of the film because some parts were fictionalized.[3] Tina Turner tried to talk to Disney about the script. She told Vanity Fair that they saw "a deep need – a woman who was a victim to a con man. How weak! How shallow! How dare you think that was what I was? I was in control every minute there. I was there because I wanted to be, because I had promised." She added, "O.K. so if I was a victim, fine. Maybe I was a victim for a short while. But give me credit for thinking the whole time I was there. See, I do have pride."[5]


Though most of the scenes from the film were somehow depicted from Tina Turner's autobiography I, Tina, some other elements were "fictionalized for dramatic purposes."[1]

  • Ike did not sing or play guitar on the record "Rocket 88" as depicted in the film. Ike wrote the song and played piano on the record. His saxophonist Jackie Brenston was the vocalist. The record was released under the alias Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats who were actually Ike's band the Kings of Rhythm.[6]
  • The song Anna Mae first performs onstage with Ike, "You Know I Love You", was actually a slower B.B. King blues ballad where King is lamenting over a broken relationship; Ike Turner is credited as a piano player on King's record.[7] Tina recorded a song with the title of King's song with similar lyrics she composed with a blues rock composition. Despite this, the record is still credited as written by King on the soundtrack.
  • The first recording Anna Mae records, titled "Tina's Wish", in the soundtrack, was actually a 1973 track titled "Make Me Over" recorded and co-written by Tina on the album, Nutbush City Limits.[8] Her first recording is a 1958 Ike Turner song called "Boxtop", a calypso-ish rock number featuring Carlson Oliver singing with her and Ike who sings bass-baritone on the track.
  • A theater marquee announces a 1960 show starring "Otis Redding, Martha and the Vandellas, Ike and Tina Turner." In reality, Martha and the Vandellas were known as The Del-Phis until 1961. Otis Redding didn't become a solo act until 1962.
  • In the film, Anna Mae learns of her name change to Tina Turner after the song is played on a radio in the hospital where a groggy Anna had given birth. In reality, however, Tina saw a vinyl copy of the song that showcased the name "Ike & Tina Turner."
  • In real life, Ike didn't call her Anna Mae, he called her Ann.[6] Even after she received the stage name Tina Turner, family and friends called her Ann.[9]
  • The film insinuates that Tina's firstborn Craig is Ike's biological child. In reality, Craig Turner (1958-2018) was Tina's son with Ike's saxophonist Raymond Hill. Ike later adopted Craig. Tina gave birth to her son Ronnie, fathered by Ike in 1960.[4]
  • The film depicts the couple getting married after Ike and his entourage sneak Tina out of the hospital. In reality, Tina wrote in her book I, Tina that Ike was not present for the birth of their son. Tina checked herself out of the hospital after she gave birth when discovered the woman Ike hired to substitute as "Tina Turner" while she recuperated was a prostitute using that name to get clients.[10] Tina got into a fight with the woman and she fired her. The next day Tina performed a show. Ike wrote in his book Takin' Back My Name that he was unaware the woman was a prostitute, and he was out of town to attend a court hearing in St. Louis when Tina gave birth in Los Angeles. They married in 1962, two years after the birth of their son.[6][4]
  • Lorraine, the mother of Ike's two sons Ike Jr and Michael did not drop them off at his home with Tina as depicted in the film. In reality, Ike went to St. Louis and brought his sons to Los Angeles after Lorraine informed him she was going to leave them there. Tina also brought her son Craig to live with them.[6]
  • A reenactment clip of an interview with Ike & Tina was featured in 1964, rather than 1971 where the real-life Turners were interviewed backstage at Caesar's Palace in a similar posture: with Tina talking throughout and Ike keeping silent with his back to Tina, smoking a cigarette.
  • In a scene dated 1968, Ike and Tina open for The Rolling Stones, performing "Proud Mary." In reality, Ike and Tina didn't perform "Proud Mary" until after it was released by Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969. The Rolling Stones didn't have any concerts in 1968; Ike and Tina opened for them in 1966 and 1969.
  • The characters Jackie and Frost did not exist in real life. Jackie represents an amalgamation of Ikettes and associates of Tina.
  • The infamous "eat the cake Anna Mae" scene was an exaggerated reenactment of a real-life incident that occurred during the early years of the Revue where Tina recalled a waitress giving her a pound cake while Tina was sitting in Ike's Cadillac. Though Tina said she didn't order it, Ike insisted she did and ordered her to "eat all of it."[4]
  • The scene where Ike rapes Tina during the recording of "Nutbush City Limits" was also exaggerated from what Tina stated in her book that sometimes after Ike would hit her, he then would have sex with her. Tina alleged that after Ike first hit her, he ordered her to bed, to which she later stated was "like rape." Ike maintained that he never raped Tina. Also, "Nutbush City Limits" was recorded at the Turners' Bolic Sound recording studio, not at their home as depicted in the film.
  • The film depicts Tina's suicide attempt in 1974 when it actually occurred six years prior in 1968.
  • Ike did not tell Tina "if you don't make it, I'll kill you" as depicted in the ambulance scene. Tina said on her book that after her suicide attempt she joked with a friend that she was so afraid of Ike, he probably threatened her which is why she survived. Tina was unconscious so she didn't know what he actually said. Ike said in his book that he scolded Tina as his way of motivating her to fight for her life.[6]
  • During the time Tina is planning her comeback in the early 1980s, a reenactment of an interview features Tina rehearsing her song "I Might Have Been Queen." The song would be recorded for her comeback album, Private Dancer.
  • The incident in the Ritz Theatre where Ike fails to scare Tina with his pistol was also exaggerated from when Tina claimed that Ike tried to send people to threaten to kill her and her associates after she left him. Ike did not threaten Tina in person with a gun as depicted.
  • Before performing "What's Love Got to Do with It" at the Ritz in 1983, the emcee announces that it was her "first appearance" though she first performed there in 1981. Her 1983 performance there occurred before the recording of "What's Love Got to Do with It" and led to Capitol Records signing a contract with her.[4]


The film received critical acclaim.[11][12][13][14] 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."[15]

The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress for Angela Bassett (losing to Holly Hunter for The Piano) and Best Actor for Laurence Fishburne (losing to Tom Hanks for Philadelphia).

Ike Turner said that the film and Tina Turner's book are "filled with lies."[16][17] In his autobiography Takin' Back My Name, he said that the film damaged his reputation because of the negative portrayal of himself.[6] At Turner's funeral, Phil Spector slammed the film (and Tina's book) as a "piece of trash" which "demonized and vilified Ike."[18]

Tina Turner stated she wished the film had more truth to it and she was not proud that the film had her being portrayed as a "victim."[5] In 2018, Turner revealed to Oprah Winfrey that she only recently watched the film. She said, "I watched a little bit of it, but I didn't finish it because that was not how things went. Oprah, I didn't realize they would change the details so much."[19]

Awards and honors

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

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
1994 What's Love Got to Do With It Favorite Movie of the Year Won [21]

Other honors

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


  1. Walker, Michael (May 16, 1993). "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". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2013-10-06.
  2. "How Laurence And Angela Became Ike And Tina". tribunedigital-orlandosentinel. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  3. Collier, Aldore (July 1993). "'What's Love Git To Do With It': Larry Fishburne and Angela Bassett portray Ike and Tina Turner In New Movie". Ebony. Vol. 48, No. 9: 110–112.
  4. Turner, Tina. (1986). I, Tina. Loder, Kurt. (1st ed.). New York: Morrow. ISBN 0688060897. OCLC 13069211.
  5. Orth, Maureen (May 1993). "Tina Turner – The Lady Has Legs!". Vanity Fair.
  6. Turner, Ike. (1999). Takin' Back My Name: The Confessions of Ike Turner. Cawthorne, Nigel, 1951-. London: Virgin. ISBN 1852278501. OCLC 43321298.
  7. You Know I Love You. YouTube. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  8. IKE & TINA TURNER MAKE ME OVER. Youtube. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  9. Greensmith, Bill (2015). Blues Unlimited: Essential Interviews from the Original Blues Magazine. Russell, Tony, Camarigg, Mark, Rowe, Mike. University of Illinois Press. pp. 247–248. ISBN 9780252097508.
  10. Bego, Mark (1998). Tina Turner: Break Every Rule. p. 67. Retrieved November 18, 2018.
  11. "Tina turns tumultuous life into 'Love'". Baltimore Sun. 1993-06-18. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  12. "Tina Turner Story Tunes In To The Rhythms Of Real Life". Chicago Tribune. 1993-06-11. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  13. 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.
  14. Rickey, Carrie (1994-03-24). "For Pop Queen Tina Turner, Life Was Never, Ever Nice And Easy". Philly.com. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  15. "What's Love Got To Do With It? (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  16. 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.
  17. "Ike Turner Says Movie Is False, Denies Beating Ex-Wife Tina Turner". Jet: 14. July 19, 1993.
  18. "Phil Spector criticises Tina Turner at Ike Turner's funeral". NME.com News. Retrieved December 24, 2015.
  19. "Tina Turner Talks To Oprah About Keeping Her Spirits Up After a Stroke and Losing Her Son". Oprah magazine. 2018-10-03. Retrieved 2018-12-20.
  20. 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.
  21. "EBONY Readers Poll End Of Year". Retrieved March 31, 2018.
  22. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-14.
  23. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-14.
  24. "Top 9 Subjects of a Music Bio-Pic". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  25. "Top 10 Best Rock Biopics". Rolling Stone Readers' Poll. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  26. "The Best Black Movies of the Last 30 Years". Complex. Retrieved 2018-03-31.
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