Today, an icon in music and film passed away. Tina Turner, known as the Queen of Rock and Roll, was more than a singer and dancer. She was an actress and a storyteller. On screen, she was a force to be reckoned with in roles big and small. Behind the scenes, she told her story, leading to a career-making role for Angela Bassett in a film that showed the fight she had to endure to become the legend that she was and always will be. From her legendary villainess role in Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome to her lesser known role as the Acid Queen in Tommy, Tina Turner set the standard for being a musician and an actor.
The name Tina Turner invokes a sense of awe and empowerment. When one hears her name, the first thought that comes to mind is music. Those of an earlier generation may think of “River Deep, Mountain High” or “Rollin on the River.” Xennials and Millennials may think of the song “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” as well as the movie of the same name starring Bassett. Regardless of the specific things that come to mind, there is a feeling that goes along with them. Strength, courage, and power—these are the words that embody Tina Turner’s name. The name that she fought hard to keep is one that will go down in history as one of the greatest female performers of all time. The key word is performer, of course. She was an incredible actress in addition to being a singer, songwriter, and dancer. She was a woman who could do it all, and she did, most notably in the 1980s post-apocalyptic classic, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
Tina Turner Broke Barriers as Aunty Entity in ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome’
At the time of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome’s release in 1985, it was rare to see a Black woman in a leading role in a blockbuster sci-fi/action film. That in and of itself makes the role of Aunty Entity memorable, but it is Tina Turner’s performance that cements it. Written as a gray-area villainess, Aunty Entity’s role in the movie is meant to be more than just an “evil woman.” There is depth and consideration that went into writing the character.
In a 1985 interview with Ann Billson of Time Out magazine, director George Miller stated, “We didn’t want to fall into a kind of fairly clichéd bad guy. And we have a saying that today’s tyrant is yesterday’s hero. And if you really look at the rhythm of the way things are, that’s often the case.” Miller then went on to say that’s how they decided to cast Tina Turner in the role. Her star power and natural energy brought the rich duality to the character that the creative team was looking for. Her portrayal of Aunty Entity was easily the best part of the film, which would have suffered without Turner’s presence. Her performance falls in line with the other excellent aspect of the movie: the soundtrack’s songs, “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)” and “One of the Living,” both of which became hits shortly after the release.
Tina Turner Paved the Way for Crossover Stardom
Tina Turner’s strength as a performer crossed the boundaries that fans expected from most singers. In fact, prior to her performance in Beyond Thunderdome, there weren’t many Black female singers participating in movies that weren’t musicals or musically focused. Even her own roles prior were in musicals, first in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club as a musical guest, then in her lesser-known (but still iconic) role as the Acid Queen in Tommy. Her performance as Aunty Entity was groundbreaking, even if nobody realized it at the time.
Thanks to Turner, a new generation of Black sci-fi lovers got to see themselves on screen in a leading role. Thanks to her, musical artists can see themselves in movie roles that go beyond music. She is a true trailblazer who is so much more than her dark past. She is, and always will be, an inspiration to millions, and her name will stand forever tall in the annals of music and film.