The screenplay was adapted by Kate Lanier from the book I, Tina written by Tina Turner and Kurt Loder. The film paints a dark picture of Tina's relationship with her then mentor and husband Ike Turner. The film's soundtrack featured the hit song "I Don't Wanna Fight." The movie grossed almost $50 million USD in the US alone and produced around $20 million USD in US rentals. The film also grossed nearly 10 million dollars in the UK.
What's Love Got to Do With It is the filmed biography of rock singer Tina Turner (Angela Bassett), documenting her efforts to break away from her abusive husband Ike (Laurence Fishburne). After a few scenes detailing Tina's life as a young singer in Nutbush, Tennessee, she's discovered by Ike Turner, an already established songwriter, guitarist, and record producer. Ike takes Tina under his wing and makes her a star, but her fame makes him jealous and abusive, and she has to struggle to break free of his domination.
Eventually, Tina frees herself from Ike and tries to create a solo career. She meets mega-famous manager Roger Davies (who worked with Olivia Newton-John at the time). The movie ends with a final confrontation between Ike and Tina before Tina's major show at the Ritz, where Ike pulls a gun on Tina, but ultimately doesn't harm her. Tina proceeds to the stage to sing her new song "What's Love Got To Do With It" that historically went on to be a huge hit and established Tina Turner as one of the most successful acts in the world and an entertainment icon for the ages.
The film won an American Choreography Award for one of its dance sequences.
Nearly all of the Ike & Tina Turner songs used in the film were newly re-recorded versions featuring Tina Turner covering her own songs. On "Proud Mary", Laurence Fishburne sings Ike Turner's parts. For Tina Turner's solo recordings, the original masters were used. The only Ike & Tina Turner song not re-recorded was the Phil Spector-produced epic "River Deep - Mountain High".
In his autobiography Taking Back My Name, Ike Turner denies beating and raping Tina in their home recording studio, and confronting her with a pistol back stage, scenes depicted in the film.
Actress Vanessa Bell Calloway, who plays the fictional character of "Jackie", (the friend and former Ikette who shares Buddhism with Tina) was wary of actually chanting the Buddhist words because of her strong Christian faith. So, director Brian Gibson allowed her to form the words with her lips silently during taping and added the words with a voice double in post-production.
The song "Proud Mary" was written in late 1968 and recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival for the album Bayou Country, which was released in early 1969. The Ike and Tina Turner version of the song was recorded in late 1970 and became a top ten hit in early 1971. The couple did not sing that song in 1968, although the film shows the couple singing the song in three different outfits, makeup, hairstyle, and years (1968, 1971, and 1974).
The births of Tina's two children were inaccurate in the movie. She is depicted having two children by Ike, when in reality her first child was by Raymond Hill (a musician in Ike's band) in 1958. In the movie her first child was born in 1960 and shows Ike as the father.