'I learned from her': A look at Tina Turner in 'Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome' as director George Miller remembers late singer
ZURICH, SWITZERLAND: Late legendary musician Tina Turner, who died on May 24 at the age of 83, was rightfully dubbed the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” for her decorated singing career and contribution to the world of rock and roll music. However, her plethora of talent extended beyond the stage and entered the silver screen. While Turner only appeared on screen a handful of times, her acting prowess became largely visible to the world after she starred in ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome'.
As Turner took upon the role of the ruthless and determined Aunty Entity in the third installment of the ‘Mad Max’ franchise in 1985, her performance soon became one of the focal points of the film. In the wake of the legend’s death, ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome’ director George Miller recalled how the character of Aunty was written with Turner in mind. “Every time we talked about Aunty Entity as we were writing, we’d say: ‘Oh, someone like Tina Turner.’ She was the only person we could think of. And sure enough, she was the only person we ever asked,” Miller wrote in The Guardian.
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A look at Tina Turner as Aunty Entity
In ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome', Turner’s Aunty Entity presents herself as the self-made, ruler of a post-apocalyptic Bartertown. Although she is known for being brutal and despicable, Aunty is also an intelligent and civilized woman, who dreams of restoring the former glory of her society. When Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) arrives empty-handed in Bartertown after being robbed at the beginning of the film, Aunty is quick to recognize the strength of Max’s character and plans to use his physical power to bring her rival, Master (Angelo Rossitto), under control.
She eventually manipulates Max to take part in a gladiatorial battle, known as the “Thunderdome,” against Master’s protector Blaster (Paul Larsson) and orders him to kill the latter. While Max manages to defeat the duo of Master-Blaster, he refuses to kill the latter after realizing he is disabled. This enrages Aunty who executes Blaster and sends Max into exile. The latter crosses path with Aunty once again after he returns to the outskirts of Bartertown with a group of children, who has been living in an oasis since a plane crash that claimed the life of their parents.
Max, together with the children, attempts to free Master, who has been reduced to a slave by Aunty after Blaster’s death. In a final battle with Max, Aunty accepts her defeat and reveals her true self by choosing to let the former go. While Turner brilliantly portrays the amalgamation of good and evil in her character throughout the course of the film, she leaves an imprint in viewers’ minds with Aunty’s final hearty laugh when she tells Max, “Well, ain't we a pair, raggedy man?” in the end.
Speaking to Jet Magazine about Turner’s character in 1985, director Miller said, “We needed someone whose vitality and intelligence would make her control over Bartertown credible. She had to be a positive character rather than a conventional evil ‘bad guy.’ We had worked on the script with [Turner] in mind. But we had no idea if she'd be interested.”
Meanwhile, Turner addressed her inexperience in acting and said she only decided to listen to the director while portraying the complex character. “There was some problems, because, you can't get too excited because they don't know yet, because it lends itself to an actress, and y'know I'm a singer, I don't have any skill as an actress other than what I've learned from stage... Well, [Miller] was right there, and I knew that he was right there for me, and I wanted it, so I just simply gave myself to him, I just listened,” Turner said during a 1985 interview.
The rock legend’s hard work surely paid off as her character stood out in a film that is otherwise considered to be a lesser entry as compared to the other movies of the ‘Mad Max’ franchise. However, Turner’s Aunty Entity undoubtedly stands proudly among the likes of other ‘Mad Max’ antagonists like the Toecutter, the Humungus, and Immortan Joe as well as antiheroes like Furiosa and Max himself.
‘I learned from her’
In the wake of Turner’s death, Miller recalled his time working with the musician for 'Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome'. “She was the opposite of a diva,” Miller wrote in The Guardian. “I had the privilege of working with her and getting to see just what made her so magnificent,” he added. “She was so sharp, mentally. She was acutely aware of the dynamics of every situation. She was very funny and playful, she loved to laugh a lot. She was a person of real substance. It wasn’t just the surface. I think that rises out of someone who endures so much in early life and uses it to become incredibly wise,” Mille continued before adding, “And I learned from her.”
“When we worked together, I could tell she got something out of learning about acting. But I was learning from her too – first of all, just doing the hard work. And second of all, how to inspire those around you to work together for a common goal,” he shared. “I think she knew it too; she once told me: ‘You’d learn a lot if you came on tour with us for a week or two.’ I was so tempted to do it, but I was caught up with finishing the film. I have always regretted not going with her,” Miller mentioned.