Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind the Making of “What’s Love Got to Do With It”

April 30, 2012  |  
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When Rock and Roll icon, Tina Turner co-wrote her biography I, Tina, alongside Kurt Loder in 1986, she probably didn’t imagine it would be transformed into a blockbuster hit in 1993 and go on to become a cultural staple. Lines from the movie, specifically “Eat the cake, Anna Mae,” would become catch phrases in the black community. Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you probably have a friend who has it memorized.  There are people who can recite entire scenes from that movie. They may know the plot and the all the lines but we’d bet money, most people don’t know the back story behind this classic.


Who’s Gonna Be Tina?

This was a much sought after role. Everybody from Halle Berry, Robin Givens, Pam Grier and Vanessa L. Williams wanted to play Ms. Turner. Whitney Houston was actually offered the role but because she was pregnant at the time, she had to turn it down. Jenifer Lewis, who plays Tina Turner’s mother in the film (though she is only two years older than Angela Bassett), also auditioned for the role. But we can honestly say that the best woman for the job, got it. Can you imagine anyone else playing Tina? Angela embodied that role. She did so well in fact that rumor has it, she hasn’t had to audition for a role since then.


Laurence Wasn’t Feelin’ It

The casting directors for this film desperately wanted Laurence Fishburne to play the role of Ike Turner. But Fishburne was not interested, in every sense of the word. He was offered the part five times before he eventually came aboard. And he only accepted because he found out Angela Bassett was going to be playing the role of Tina. Talk about respect for your fellow actor. Once Fishburne decided he was going to take the role, he committed. When “Ike” sings in the movie, that’s actually Fishburne. The portrayals of Ike and Tina were so convincing, both Fishburne and Bassett received Oscar nominations.


Charlie Murphy?

While Laurence wasn’t too geeked about portraying Ike Turner, Charlie Murphy was gunning for the role. Who knew the younger, comedically   talented, Murphy wanted to take on serious roles? Though it’s hard to imagine anyone but Laurence as Ike, a part of me feels like Charlie might not have been so bad.


Did that really happen?

Two of the most memorable scenes in the movie, the rape scene and the cake scene are partially or completely fabricated. As for the rape scene, sources have at least four different versions of the way it did or didn’t happen.

  1. Ike and Tina acknowledged that the rape never happened.
  2. Ike is the only one who’s denied that the rape.
  3. Others claim that Tina said Ike forced her to have sex against her will, but back in the day rape within the context of a marriage wasn’t legally punishable.
  4. Then there are those that claim Tina said that having sex with Ike was like rape.

Being that it’s a sensitive subject, Ike is dead and Tina probably never wants to talk about him again, we’ll probably never know the truth about that one.

But the cake scene, isn’t true. He never pushed cake in her face. There was an incident where someone brought cake to their car at a drive in restaurant, though she hadn’t ordered it, and Ike told her she was going to eat it anyway. But there was no big production of him slamming it in her face, like the film portrayed.



Bet you never knew how to spell those words, huh? Although that Buddhist chant has become a punchline from the movie, Vanessa Bell Calloway, who played the fictional friend “Jackie,” took it very seriously. So seriously, that she didn’t feel comfortable saying it. Being a Christian she was a little skeptical. The director allowed her to silently mouth the words and later dubbed the video with a voice double.


Why didn’t Ike ever sue Disney/Touchstone for their portrayal of him?

A lot of folk assumed Ike didn’t have an issue with the way he came across in this movie because he never sued the movie makers for their monstrous depiction of him. That’s not exactly true. In his autobiography, Takin’ Back My Name, he states that the movie unfairly destroyed his image: “Sure I slapped Tina. There have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I never beat her.” Hmm…ok, Ike. While I will admit that some of the scenes were certainly dramatized for the movie, that fact that Ike was a drug addict, makes it hard to trust his credibility. Later in an interview with Dominick A. Miserandino, he said that he was dupped into signing a contract that eliminated his rights.

I have an attorney, man, who is going to sue Disney for it. See, what happened, back during my “druggie days,” I signed a contract with Walt Disney, giving them permission. This lawyer lied to me. I thought I was giving them permission for somebody to play me in the movie, and that I wouldn’t sue them for somebody else being Ike Turner in the movie. I didn’t care. If Tina didn’t want to do it with me, that’s okay. I didn’t find out until I got sober and clean, coming out of jail, when I was trying to find out how I was going to start back with my career. Only then did I find out that I had signed away my rights to sue them, and they could portray me any way that they wanted to.

While most of us will never know the true nature of Ike, but we do know that he was both an abusive, tyrannical husband and band leader and  musical genius who changed the sound of Rock and Roll. Complicated to say the least.

What did we miss, what surprising facts do you know about this movie or the actual story of Ike and Tina Turner?

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  • Dizzy

    I believe Angela Bassett went on 106 & park and admitted to really singing in the movie. I could be wrong, but you should look it up. 🙂

    • Dizzy

      Nevermind I was mistaken.

  • corbin56

    Charlie Murphy looks like he would give a woman 2 to the body and 5 across her lips. Yeah, he would’ve made a wonderful “Ike”.

  • Just saying!!

    I couldn’t imagine ANYONE else playing Tina, and Jackie really didn’t want to chant because she’s Christian? It’s acting girl. Her character was the party smoking girl in the beginning of the movie but she can’t do a peaceful chant even for a movie? Am I missing something? I’m sorry I don’t mean to be so hard on her. It just sounds a little ridiculous to me. Lol

    Ike really things “hitting her around” isn’t beating her? Guess he’s exactly who everyone thinks he is. Besides even in his interviews back then he seemed so mean and detached, just like the interviews in the movie….so yah!

    • Just saying!!


  • RealTruth

    Great movie!Laughed and cried! They both deserved Oscars!

  • MzMaddox

    You die..imma kill ya…hear me?! Fiction or not after his comments I can see him saying that lol

  • KL

    There’s a few things they left out, or changed. They never mentioned the fact of Tina’s relationship with Raymond Hill, the saxophone player in The Kings of Rhythm, who is also the father of her first son. Also Ike used to throw hot coffee and water in Tina’s face, and he hit her with objects such as shoe stretchers, burned her arms with cigarettes, and influenced her to smoke pot once (in her book she stated she hated it) but the film producers felt that was too much to show in the film on top of the abuse they showed. Also Ike claims he never pulled out a gun on Tina in the dressing room before her solo show at the Ritz. He did shot up her house though and no one was injured.

  • RenJennM

    “If you die, I’ll kee ya.” Not KILL YOU, but kee ya! lmao That’s my favorite line in the whole movie. I know it was a crazy moment, but it made me laugh. I quote it all the time! Jokingly, of course.

    • MzMaddox

      lol i didnt see this when I posted but yesss my fav line hands down!  thats some crazy ish to tell someone…anyone lol




    I could see Jenifer Lewis playing Tina but I can’t see Charlie Murphy playing Ike.  Laurence and Angela were Ike and Tina.  Laurence and Angela just have that chemistry between them and it works.  They should have gotten those oscars.

  • Ronilovebug

    I think Charlie Murphy would have played just as good a part as Ike he looks closer in comparison to Ike.  But, seriously I read Tina’s book I Tina the movie didn’t scratch the surface of all the stuff she may have/have not endured with Ike we will never now Ike is gone home to glory and there is 3 sides: Tina/Ike/Truth so……

  • Don’t you die on me now… I’ll kill ya if you die on me…. Ya hear me?  I’ll kill ya if you die on me…

    okay im done…

  • Eat the cake Anna-Mae. 

  • Savagegirl909

    I bet people did not know that her first baby was not with IKE.   It was with the Sax player in the Revue.  Tina wasn’t an angel either.  But I love her…and that movie.


    I gotta admit, Bawsip, this ‘Bet You Didn’t Know’ segment was a good idea on your part.  I enjoy the little revelations brought to light in this and past articles and I look forward to the next installment.

  • Chanda

    I heard that the scene where Ike puts the gun on the table in the dressing room never happened either. He probably would’ve shot her or himself because Tina had finally made it big as a solo artist and he had nothing to do with her solo success.

  • Chanda

    To ME,
    There were 4 sons between Ike and Tina. The 2 sons from Ike’s first wife, the one Tina had with the sax player and then Ike and Tina had one together. They showed Tina’s first son on her Behind the Music and he looks nothing like Ike. Tina Turner’s Behind the Music special explains things that the movie didn’t like Ike’s other outside children because we know he fooled around on Tina.

    • Me

      Right. And he looks JUST like that sax player too. I always tell people to read I, Tina because it gives a much more full portrait of the story. 

  • Bits

    Tina Turner actually moved to be with her mom in EAST ST. LOUIS, IL and not St. Louis, MO. They are right across the bridge from each other but they are two different cities. EAST St. Louis was also where Ike and Tina met on the nightclub circuit. East Saint is much smaller than St. Louis but back in the day it was the main place to be. All of the jobs were in East Saint. Most movies cite St. Louis, MO when in reality the specific events happened in East St. Louis. Like in “The Josephine Baker Story” she was also from East St. Louis, IL but the movie states the contrary. History.

    • Wow. i never knew about the little big flaws in the movie…. they might have been discussed onTina’s Behind the Music but that was so long ago…

    • KJ23

      About time someone said it!!  I’m from East St. and it bugs men when people get the two mixed up.  Nothing against St. Louis, but these are two separate towns in two separate STATES!!

  • CaliGirlED

    I could see Charlie Murphy doing a good Ike, and I can see Regina King doing a good Tina. But I am soooo glad Laurence and Angela did it because they were great!

  • LovelyGal

    Charlie Murphy would have been awesome for that role!! i can see it

  • CaliGirlED

    What Imma do wit two mo kids huh! What Imma do wit two mo kids!…Why she hear Ike, why she heaaarrr!!!…Awww good night fellas!…Ain’t but one sinner in this house, ya hear!…You sorry??? Yeah you sorry alright! You bout da sorriest motherf**ker I done evah seen!…No it’s not okay to let some motherf**ker pound on you! You ain’t gotta hit me but once Ike! I’m outta here! Kiss my a$$!…You tryna help Ike??? You tryna help Ike!!! I ain’t the motherf**ker need help!

    I could on and on! LOL!!!

    Another inaccuracy that I hear was that Tina did drugs too, not just an overdose on prescription drugs to escape Ike. Don’t know if that’s true, but I wouldn’t doubt it.

    • Mls2698

      The two more kids line was one of my favorites, too.

    • IllyPhilly

       SMH and LOL. That’s what I said when I found out I was having twins.

      • CaliGirlED

         *hollers* LMAO!!! I feel you! Never have been attracted to the idea of having twins! Awww…woo woo woo!

        • zeti

          funny that you guys say that, i’m praying for twins!

          • IllyPhilly

             Awww. Good Luck

    • Trisha

      In her book I Tina she admitted to her first child being in the band, using drugs, being involved in a lesbian tryst, Ike burnign cigs on her the list goes on and on they had to shorten it for the movie but the books gives wayyyy more insight.

  • “You tryin’ to help Ike? Ike don’t need no help!” Excellent movie but as one commenter posted, not entirely accurate. Buy my new book Layover by Peaches the Writer on Amazon Kindle.  

  • christielove

    “What’s love got to do with it” is one movie that I can never get tired of watching. Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne played their roles beautifully,Charlie Murphy resembled Ike Turner in looks. People love reciting that catchphrase”Eat the cake,Anna Mae”

  • Me

    One of the most misleading things about that movie is the idea that Ike basically turned her out  the night his wife shot herself lol. That is not true. Tina’s first child was not by Ike – he was by the sax player in the band, a man Tina was involved with before she even got with Ike on that level. For some reason this was not worked into the film and it really did impact the way she came off onscreen. She does make mention of Craig in the movie but it is never pointed out that he isn’t Ike’s. I hardly think Tina was a virginal angel when she got with Ike, but that’s how the movie sort of paints it lol. 

    • IllyPhilly

       It was for melodrama. They did the same thing by cropping out Ray Charles’ 90 wives.

    • Passtheketchup911

      I think part of the reason they do that is because you only have 2-2 1/2 hours and you want to fit in all of the “major” things…in order to do that you have to simplify the characters, so you take key moments and events and group them under a condensed number of people. That way, all the juicy stories get told, but you don’t spend as much time introducing or explaining a character.

      • Eric1183

        thts still bs tht they didnt say she had a kid outside of their relationship… trying to glorify tina and destroy ike is all it wass real talk

        • Usa5168

           She did not have a kid “outside their relationship” in the sense that she did not cheat on Ike…she had the child before she and Ike were a couple. Furthermore, our culture regularly “glorifies” male Rock Stars who have children with multiple partners without giving it a second thought…”realer talk”…

        • Usa5168

           She did not have a kid “outside their relationship” in the sense that she did not cheat on Ike…she had the child before she and Ike were a couple. Furthermore, our culture regularly “glorifies” male Rock Stars who have children with multiple partners without giving it a second thought…”realer talk”…

        • Usa5168

           She did not have a kid “outside their relationship” in the sense that she did not cheat on Ike…she had the child before she and Ike were a couple. Furthermore, our culture regularly “glorifies” male Rock Stars who have children with multiple partners without giving it a second thought…”realer talk”…

        • Da*n Eric do you “men” who visit this site ever take accountability for ish black men do? EVER! What does who fathered her child have to do with Ike being an abusive cokehead with control and envy issues? Can we deal with the ish we KNOW he did? Comment on that please and not the paternity of HER kids. She coulda been octo mom for all we know doesn’t mean she deserved a boot to the face.

    • Trisha

      You are totally correct it states that in her book I Tina.  They left out a WHOLE lot fm the book to the movie.  Kind of made ppl think Tina wanted to make herself look good, and Ike look badder b cuz my Mom and Auntie’s use to talk about them while I was growing up and how Ike did her so it’s alot of truth but alot left out just saying…..

  • Love_Sexy

    Slapping and punching sounds like beating to me…..Totally ignorant man and I am glad Tina finally got away from him.

  • IllyPhilly

     “Sure I slapped Tina. There have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I never beat her.” I guess that’s foreplay?? SMH at dead Ike.

    • Hiveship99

      what was his definition of beating?

      • IllyPhilly

         *shrug* That’s what I’m hoping to never find out in a relationship. HAM

      • Nyob

         I guess if you pass out, that’s a beating; if you can crawl or stagger away its not.  SMH


      Welll, he never used a tire iron, hammer, monkey wrench, or a 2 by 4 so therefore it had to have been foreplay.

  • Mls2698

    “Sing the song the way I said sing it, Anna Mae.” Classic! ” I dun told you, I stopped using that narcotic.”  After all that, she could only move up in the world to become a superstar.

  • akha1784

    “I slapped Tina…punched her to the ground without thinking.” um HELLO, that’s abuse Ike.