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Laurence Fishburne Reveals Why He Turned Down the Oscar-Nominated Role of Ike Turner from ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’ Five Times Before Accepting It

Laurence Fishburne recently recalled the numerous times he turned down the role of Ike Turner in 1993’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” It’s a story he told during a guest appearance on Jemele Hill’s “Unbothered” podcast.

The film, which nabbed Fishburne and his co-star Angela Bassett Oscar nominations for their portrayals, respectively, of Ike and Tina Turner, told the story of legendary singer Tina Turner’s life and the volatile relationship with her late ex-husband Ike Turner.

During an appearance on Jemele Hill’s (top) “Unbothered” podcast, Laurence Fishburne (bottom) reveals that he turned down the role of “What’s Love Got to Do With It” five times before accepting it. Photo:@jemelehill/Instagram

On Nov. 21, Fishburne shared this admission while discussing the past roles previously turned down and how it helped elevate the careers of other actors. When asked about the number of times he’d passed on the part of Ike Turner, the 61-year-old said at the 11:17 mark, “I’ve turned it down five times.”

Fishburne revealed the reason why he had previously passed on playing Ike Turner was because of how his character was portrayed. He said, “The writing’s really strong with respect to Tina’s character, and it wasn’t strong enough with respect to Ike’s character.”

The “Matrix” star that he changed his mind once he was made aware that Angela Bassett was playing Tina Turner. He said, “But you know, once I recognized that Angela’s going to be playing Tina, I thought well I have to do this now ’cause I was a fan of hers and I worked with her before.”

Fishburne continued, “We have done “Boyz in The Hood” together and we almost made another movie together in 1988…and that movie unfortunately never got made. I was a huge fan of Angela’s ’cause I had seen her in Joe Turner’s “Come and Gone” play, and I needed to be there to work with her and provide the kind of support I knew she would need.”

Fishburne also admitted that because he didn’t like how Ike Turner was portrayed in the film, he would change the script regularly. He said, “I would change the script every day.” Further in the conversation, Fishburne disclosed that in the film he made production purposely not show the times he made physical contact with Bassett.

While discussing the adjusted scenes from “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” he said on mark 12:34, “Most Black folks who enjoy the movie always quote ‘Eat the cake, Anna Mae.’ The two things that I did that was most effective were, I made this decision that whenever Ike was being physically abusive with Tina that you actually never see Ike make physical contact with her.”

He added, “When he strikes her when he punches or any of that stuff, there’s always something obscuring it. The reason for that so that it would be the viewers’ imagination that was really involved in creating whatever that moment is so that the viewer will have to participate in it.”

Fishburne isn’t the only star who encountered an issue with “What’s Love Got to Do with It.” Last month, Angela Bassett shared that her acting career was at a standstill after she was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 1994. 

During an interview with Essence magazine, the 64-year-old revealed that following her Academy award nomination, she didn’t work for a year-and-a-half. Bassett said, “That’s perhaps when I thought, ‘Okay, I’ve made it.’ But then the phone didn’t ring for a year-and-a-half after that. ‘But I’ve made it,’ I thought. Yes, you’ve made it, but now there are other things to consider.”

Bassett went on to star in various projects, including “Waiting to Exhale,” “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” “Akeelah and the Bee,” “Jumping the Broom,” Marvel’s “Black Panther” franchise and many other works. 

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