Why Tina Turner Stopped Starring in Steven Spielberg's 'The Color Purple' But Loved George Miller's 'Mad Max' Sequel

Why Tina Turner Stopped Starring in Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Color Purple’ But Loved George Miller’s ‘Mad Max’ Sequel

Tina Turner, Queen of Rock and Roll and eight-time Grammy winner, has spent most of her career on the music stage. But the industry legend — who died Wednesday at 83 — had serious acting aspirations that she said were limited not only by the number of roles there were for Black women in Hollywood at the time, but also by the type of parts that were offered to her.

That includes the lead role in Steven Spielberg The Color Purple, which ultimately went to Whoopi Goldberg and saw the actress-comedian earn an Oscar nomination. (The Tony-winning stage musical of Alice Walker’s popular book, about a black woman living in the South in the 1900s, is releasing a her-it-all film this December starring Fantasia Barrino and Halle Bailey.)

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In a resurfaced 1986 interview with Cinecitta lightTurner opens up about why she turned down the role, telling Italian interviewer and TV host Serena Dandini that she reflected “too far back in my life with my ex-husband,” Ike Turner.

“I mean, I always talk to the press about my life and now I have to make a movie? I’m just dragging myself down. I’m trying to forget the past because it’s over. It’s over. I’m done with that part of my life and I’m not going to do a part that’s going to remind me of what I’ve already been through,” she said at the time. “I think Steve realized I couldn’t do it because of that, finally, after I really expressed what it was.”

Turner also turned down other parts in Hollywood after her memorable role as The Acid Queen in Ken Russell’s 1975 film Tommy. Turner said she and David Bowie were ultimately ready for the part of her, and that it would go to her. But when she took it, she didn’t know that she would be playing a character who uses sex work to lure her victims to her. However, she said, it was her “first feeling of representing something else and also taking on the load.”

“I took the part because I had the opportunity to be a crazy woman and do all these things, and when they gave me the needle, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m promoting drugs!’” she laughed. “Then I said, ‘Oh, well, but this is acting,’ because when you’re acting, you’re just playing the life of anything or anyone.”

Turner, who said Russell initially had reservations about her before seeing her play, said he was so excited to play the role, it took about a week to shoot. She would also star in George Miller Crazy Maximus Continuation, Beyond Thunderdome, a role she loved because it allowed her to be physical.

“She was a female warrior before,” Turner, who said she was looking for female roles like those in Terminator AND Alien. “It’s the female warrior parts I want. I want physical parts. I want to drive cars, fight. I want to be physical. I still need that excitement.

Instead, Turner said that although she’s “always” wanted to act since she was a child, “no one asked” her then or before Tommy. “There were no black women’s parties,” she told the interviewer. “Today there are because movies… you just have to be a good actress. But in the early 60s and 70s, there were no parties for women, for black women.

And even when the scripts started coming in, she said she was repeatedly offered roles as a “prostitute.”

“Really street, really prostitute. No crazy, no cars, nothing but straight hookers. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to just be on the screen just for the sake of being up there. I wanted to do something that made people remember me. Something I would love and be proud of,” she explained. “Now I think back to Acid Queen and gasp when I see how awful it was. However, people liked it and remembered it. came nothing that was right until Crazy Maximus.