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

- By
5 of 7

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?

More on Madame Noire!

Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. XOXO-MN