Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
The Matrix Trilogu, Apocalypse Now, What's Love Got to Do With It
Currently Known For:
Actor, Producer, Playwright, Screenwriter and Film Director
1970s - Present
July 30, 1961
The Matrix Trilogu, Apocalypse Now, What's Love Got to Do With It
“I didn’t want to be a big star. I wanted to be a really good actor.” Laurence Fishburne is an actor, producer, playwright, screenwriter, and film director who made his acting debut at the age of 18 as Tyrone “Mr. Clean” Miller in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979). In the years following, he turned heads for his performance as Jason “Furious” Styles in the 1991 drama Boyz n the Hood and further proved his talents as a dramatic actor in King of New York (1990), Two Trains Running (1992), Deep Cover (1992), What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993), and Tribeca (1993).
With his Oscar-nominated performance as Ike Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It putting him on the road to stardom, Fishburne was unstoppable in the new millennium as he made his way to television and starred as Dr. Raymond Langston in the crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation from 2008 to 2011. From 2013 to 2015, he starred as Special Agent Jack Crawford in Hannibal and ventured into the superhero realm as Perry White in Man of Steel (2013). He reprised his role as White in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Bill Foster in Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018). What’s next for the 57-year-old star? Let’s find out!Early Life and Career Beginnings: From Georgia to New York and California
“Acting is a childlike thing. To act well, you have to be childlike in order to free yourself.” Laurence John Fishburne III came into this world on July 30, 1961, in Augusta, Georgia where his father was a juvenile corrections officer while his mother was a middle school science and math teacher. Fishburne’s parents divorced when he was young, so he went to live with his mother in Brooklyn, New York where his father visited monthly.
“I was raised by my Mom. My dad and Mom were never really together, so I never really lived with my dad,” Fishburne said of his childhood. “But he was a good guy and he loved me. He wasn’t perfect but he gave me what he could give me. He gave me a great name first and foremost! I’ve been able to honor him in little ways both in the work and outside the work. He passed away in 2013 and I basically took care of him in the last five years of his life. That’s just human stuff. That’s what you do.”
Fishburne took a lot from his father in terms of character and ethics, but his mother was the one who introduced him to show business at an early age. “My mother was someone who wanted to be in show business and she recognized I had a gift for the dramatic arts,” Fishburne said of his early career. “When I was eight or nine she was like, ‘Do you want to audition for X, Y, or Z?’ but I said no. She was persistent and finally, she said that if I’d auditioned for a certain part and had gotten it, I’d have made $300 a week. And I was like, ‘Why didn’t you tell me that then?’ So, the next time I auditioned, I got the job and I fell in love with acting.”
Fishburne got his first acting break in 1973 when he won the part of Joshua Hall on the popular soap opera, One Life to Live. Two years later, he made his debut on the silver screen in Cornbread, Earl and Me (1975). He then caught the attention of Francis Ford Coppola who cast him as Tyrone “Mr. Clean” Miller in Apocalypse Now (1979). At the time of filming, Fishburne was only 14 years old but lied and told Coppola he was 17. Fortunately, the film took three years to complete and pushed Fishburne’s career as an actor in the right direction.
“The movie was really the beginning of me thinking of myself as an artist,” Fishburne said of Apocalypse Now. “It was the beginning of my understanding of cinema. It was the beginning of my understanding of the world because I was suddenly taken out of Brooklyn and I was in the Philippines in the middle of Asia. I was in a place where most of the people looked like me, so it opened up a whole world of possibilities. My work with Francis on Apocalypse and all the films I did afterward with him (The Cotton Club, Rumble Fish, Gardens of Stone), really shaped me and formed me as an artist.”
While Apocalypse Now was huge for Fishburne’s career, it didn’t have the staying power he needed. Throughout the 1980s, things were slow for Fishburne who only snagged bit parts on stage and in television and film. To support himself, he worked as a bouncer at punk rock clubs throughout the city and spent the rest of his time going to every audition he could find. Some of his minor acting credits from this decade include Death Wish 2 (1982), Rumble Fish (1983), The Cotton Club (1984), The Color Purple (1985), Quicksilver (1986), Band of the Hand (1986), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), and Gardens of Stone (1987). On television, he made guest appearances in A Rumor of War (1980), Trapper John, M.D. (1981), and M*A*S*H (1982) in addition to snagging a recurring role as Cowboy Curtis in Pee-wee’s Playhouse from 1986 to 1987. However, Fishburne’s role as a cowboy on the popular children’s television program wasn’t exactly what he had in mind in terms of his glamorous Hollywood career. “I always wanted to play a cowboy,” Fishburne said. “I just didn’t get to do it the way I thought I would.”Making It Big: Film’s Notorious Bad Guy
“I have two times in my life where I wanted to give up everything I worked for, but God gave me a job.” By the end of the 1980s, Fishburne’s luck improved when he joined Jim Belushi and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Red Heat (1988). Director Spike Lee then cast him as a professor in the historically black college flick, School Daze (1988). These two films marked the beginning of a trend that followed Fishburne into the 1990s when he starred as Jason “Furious” Styles in Boyz n the Hood in 1991. The following year, he took home a Tony Award for his performance in Two Trains Running and earned an Emmy Award for his performance in the television drama TriBeCa (1992). “I play characters. I don’t think I really have a persona per se,” Fishburne said of his performance and his passion for dramatic roles. “I don’t play the same guy every time. I show up, you don’t know what I’m going to do. I like it that way.”
Going on to star in Deep Cover (1992), Fishburne earned his first Oscar nomination for his performance as Ike Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993) and followed up with stellar performances in Higher Learning (1995) and Event Horizon (1997) before he tackled the biggest role of his career—Morpheus in The Matrix (1999) starring Keanu Reeves. Fishburne reprised his role as Morpheus in The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and the Matrix Revolutions (2003) and returned to the stage alongside Angela Bassett in the 2006 production of Fences at the Pasadena Playhouse. “An electrifying thing happens when the two of us work together,” Fishburne said of his friend and costar. “I haven’t experienced it with anyone else. A freedom happens when we work together.”
Fishburne narrated TMNT (2007) and voiced the Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007). He then returned to Broadway in Thurgood (2008) and confirmed his next move to television as Dr. Raymond Langston on the hit CBS crime drama, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Fishburne spent three seasons in the role from 2008 to 2011 and expanded his reach beyond television with credits in films like Predators (2010) and Contagion (2011). After he wrapped up CSI, he turned his attention to film and was cast as Perry White in Man of Steel (2013).
“I read them all, I was a DC guy and I was a Marvel guy,” Fishburne said of his love of comic books and his excitement at joining the franchise. “The books cost 10 cents when I started reading them and I couldn’t afford them when they went up to 12 cents. So, I took matters into my own hands—I started stealing them. That’s how serious I was about it. I would say between 1967 and 1975 I was an avid reader… It was great because it encouraged you to read. They used big words sometimes… Like with Reed Richards and The Fantastic Four there was scientific jargon involved and there was scientific jargon involved with the X-Men and Doctor Bruce Banner and even in Spider-Man. You learned about things like journalism from Superman.”
Fishburne’s passion for comic books didn’t stop with Man of Steel (2013) but was briefly put on hold as he joined the cast of Hannibal as Dr. Jack Crawford in 2014. The following year, he joined the cast of Black-ish (2015) on the ABC network and stepped in as executive producer on the show, a role he continues to hold today as the series expanded to include the spinoff series, Grown-ish. In 2016, he reprised his role as White in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.Life Today
“I really don’t know that I’m iconic. I don’t even know that people think I’m cool.” While Fishburne may not think he’s iconic, his fans say otherwise especially since he was invited to join Keanu Reeves as The Bowery King in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017). The film marks the first time Fishburne and Reeves have worked together since The Matrix trilogy and was just as much fun as Fishburne imagined. “It’s like playing cops and robbers,” he said. “It’s so much fun. It’s impossible but it’s the kind of place you really wish you could run around in because everybody’s a bada— mother—r. Who doesn’t want to feel like that?”
Following his performance in John Wick: Chapter 2, Fishburne joined Steve Carell and Bryan Cranston in Last Flag Flying (2017). He then joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Bill Foster in Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) and joined Clint Eastwood as DEA Special Agent in Charge in The Mule (2018). In 2019, he’ll reprise his role as The Bowery King in John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum in addition to making appearances in Where’d You Go, Bernadette (2019) and Space Jam 2 (2019). On television, he continues to star in and executive produce Black-ish and its spinoff, Grown-ish (2018—present).
While these projects are certainly exciting for the 57-year-old Fishburne, he’s most excited about directing, producing, and starring in The Alchemist, which is based on Paulo Coelho’s book of the same name. Fishburne has been working on the project for the last 15 years and can’t wait to see it all come together. “Paulo gave me his blessing 20 years at the outset. He was like, ‘You’re the guy for this,’” Fishburne said. “The Alchemist is about the spiritual journey that human beings undertake, the lessons any young people learn. It’s about pursuing your dreams and not giving up. It’s also about the cultural exchange of a young man who is coming from a Christian world into an Islamic world and recognizing the beauty of both cultures and both spiritual systems… There’s so much in the book that speaks to people all over the world and that’s the thing that makes me so passionate about wanting to bring it to the screen.”
With the film set to release in 2019 or 2020, Fishburne certainly has plenty to keep him busy both on and off the set especially since he has three children at home (two from his first marriage to actress Hajna O. Moss and one from his marriage to actress Gina Torres). “I’m very lucky to get to do what I do. People enjoy what I do and that’s the goal at the end of the day,” Fishburne says. “The star stuff is that. It’s star stuff. I’m a human being first and I’m an artist and I’m a dad. All those things are equally as important if not more so.”