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Fishburne, Laurence 1961–

Laurence Fishburne 1961

Actor

At a Glance

Grew up on Apocalypse Set

Took Diverse Film Roles

Gained Recognition With Boyz

Won Awards for Stage Role

Played a Deep Character in Deep Cover

Gives Multi-Layered Performances

Plays First Black Othello on Screen

Takes Stage Roles

Returns to Film with Fled

Violent Movies Take Critical Hit

Plays Positive African American Roles

Sources

Since his stage debut at age ten, Laurence Fishburne has spent his life acting. Hes the kind of actor you cant wait to say action on-- because you cant wait to see how hes gonna take it and deal with it, director Abel Ferrara said of Laurence Fishburne in a Film Comment interview. The roles Fishburne have chosen have been equally unpredictable, from psychopaths to activist lawyers, from the solid, hands-on father he played in Boyz N the Hood to the troubled cop of Deep Cover. For every thug, for every nut, I try and do somebody whos a reasonable person, whos an educated person, the actor told Tom Perew of Black Elegance. Perew quoted a casting agent who praised Fishburnes selectivity and dedication: I get the feeling hes more interested in the quality behind the work than the money.

Fishburne was born in 1961, in Augusta, Georgia. His father, a corrections officer, frequently took him to the movies, but it was his mother, a schoolteacher, who introduced him to the stage. The family moved to a middle-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, when Laurence was young, and soon he was auditioning for parts in local plays. Ive always been an actor, he remarked to James Ryan of Premiere; he informed New York magazine that his first role was in the second grade: I was Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up. I still am-I play make-believe for a living. At age ten he appeared in the play In My Many Names and Days at the New Federal Theater. I played a little 10-year-old baseball freak from Brooklyn who used to dig going to Ebbitts Field and watching Jackie Robinson, Fishburne recalled to Washington Post correspondent David Mills.

Fishburne next landed a role in the 1972 television film If You Give a Dance, You Got to Pay the Band, which led to a part on the soap opera One Life to Live when he was 11 years old that lasted three years. One year after joining the daytime series, he appeared in the dramatic film Cornbread, Earl and Me. Fishburne told Patrick Pacheco of the Los Angeles Times that after Cornbreads release, My father took all the guys at this juvenile correction facility in the Bronx to see it. Afterward, we got together and they told me that I was doing good, that I had something really fine going on for myself and that if I ever [messed] up, theyd be waiting. That kept me in line. The actor earned a part in a Negro Ensemble Theater production and was accepted into the prestigious High School of Performing Arts in New York City. Then, at 15, Fishburne

At a Glance

Born Lawrence Fishburne III, in July 30, 1961, in Augusta, GA; son of Larry (a corrections officer) and Hattie (a teacher) Fishburne, Jr.; married Hajna Moss (casting agent and producer), c 1987; divorced; two children.

Career: Actor appearing in motion pictures, including, Cornbread, Earl and Me, 1974, Apocalypse Now, 1979, Death Wish 2, 1982, Rumble Fish, 1983, The Cotton Club, 1984, The Color Purple, 1985 Red Heat, 1985, Gardens of Stone, 1987, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 ; Dream Warnors, 1987, Red Heat, 1988, School Daze, 1988, Cadence, 1989, King of New York, 1990, Boyz N the Hood, 1991, Class Action, 1991, Deep Cover, 1992, Searching for Bobby Fischer, 1993, Whats love Cot to Do With It, 1993, Higher Learning, 1995, Bad Company, 1995, Just Cause, 1995, Othello, 1995, Fled, 1996, Event Horizon, 1997, Hoodlum, 1997, The Matrix, 1999; in stage productions, including Two Trams Running, 1992, The Tuslcegee Airmen, 1995, Miss Evers Soys, 1997, Always Outnumbered, 7998; and on television, including If You Give a Dance, You Cot to Pay the Band, 1972, One Life to Live, 197376, A Rumor of War, 1980, For Us the Living, PBS American Playhouse production, 1988, Riff Raff, 1995, The Lion in Winter, 1999, Fee-Wees Playhouse, Decoration Day, and episodes of Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice.

Selected awards: Tony Award for best featured actor in a play, Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, and Theater World Award, all 1992, all for Two Trains Running.

Addresses: Agent Michelle Marx, Inc., 8756 Holloway Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90069.

embarked on the acting experience that would utterly transform him: a role as a member of the boat crew in Francis Ford Coppolas Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now.

Grew up on Apocalypse Set

Pacheco quoted Fishburne as saying that shooting Apocalypse was the most formative event of his life. He had a chance to observe several luminaries of American film actingMarlon Brando, Robert DuVall, Martin Sheen, and othersand to consult them for advice. Coppola taught Fishburne that acting could be taken seriously, as art, with potential for educating, entertaining and touching people. And in the drenching rain and chaos of the filming in the Philippines, Fishburne lived a sporadically unsupervised fantasy of adolescence: I was smoking reefer like everybody else, he told Pacheco. My mother was there with me, but she couldnt control me so she called in the big guns, my father. Everybody in the company referred to him as the jailer, but all he had to do was say, OK, thats enough of that, and Id come around.

Recalling his return to the United States, Fishburne recounted to Ryan, I figured I was one of the baddest motherfers on the planet. And I came to L.A. and nobody gave a shit. I was really pissed off about that. I couldnt get work. I think a lot of people thought I was crazy, and I probably was. Fishburne made the second of what would be a series of appearances in Coppola films, portraying Midget in Rumble Fish, before playing a heavy in Death Wish II I was only getting work playing bad guys, and I wanted to be an actor and didnt want to wait tables, he said to Perew. But I would have [done so, if necessary]. In what Mills called Fishburnes least dignified professional moment, the actors Death Wish character shielded his head with a boom box while fleeing vigilante Charles Bronson.

Fishburne was concerned with balancing the roles he portrayed and combating Hollywood stereotypes. He succeeded by appearing in two more Coppola films, Gardens of Stone and The Cotton Club, as well as in Steven Spielbergs Color Purple. He also participated in the PBS drama For Us the Living, based on the story of Medgar Evers, a crucial figure in the civil rights movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Fishburne explained in the Los Angeles Times that this is a gig where I had to put myself up and pay my own transportation, but to be involved with Roscoe Lee Browne, Howard Rollins, Dick Anthony Williams, Irene Cara. Well, that was my ancestors saying to me, OK, heres some work we can do. He further confided that I work with somebody on what is called ancestral memory, and I find it a source of spiritual strength, since the struggles of the past are not something to be embarrassed by, but a resource to be valued and respected.

Took Diverse Film Roles

In the meantime, an ambitious young director had been keeping an eye on Fishburne. One day in the mid-1980s, reported Mills, Fishburne was watching a street performance when someone tapped him on the shoulder. I dont know who this guy is. He says, Youre Larry Fishburne. Youre a good actor. So he introduced himself and said he was from Brooklyn and he was making movies. The Brooklyn filmmaker was Spike Lee, who wanted Fishburne to appear in a film called Messenger. The movie was never made, but Lee utilized Fishburne in School Daze; the actor played the campus activist Dap in that collegiate musical comedy.

Fishburne later passed up the role of Radio Raheem in Lees 1988 smash Do the Right Thing, criticizing the films plot for straying from reality. Im from Brooklyn too, he told Mills. And I didnt grow up in that kind of Brooklyn. Though Fishburne experienced some friction with Lee, the actors refusal of roles in subsequent Lee films has evidently had more to do with Fishburnes desire for a starring part than any lingering hard feelings.

While working on School Daze, Fishburne met Hajna Moss, a casting agent and producer. The two eventually married and had two children, settling in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Fishburne accepted the role of an orderly in the horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 in order to make the down payment on a house. My wife likes horror movies, we wanted to buy a house, and they offered me a gig, he explained to Ryan. [The films supernatural villain Freddy Krueger] and I never met. He and Hajna have since divorced. Fishburne also played a cop in the thriller Red Heat, and, starting in the late 1980s, had the recurring role of the lovable Cowboy Curtis on the Saturday morning television series Pee-Wees Playhouse. Among his other television projects were the film A Rumor of War and guest appearances on episodes of Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice.

In 1990 Fishburne landed an important role playing New Jack Gangster Jimmy Jump in Ferraras King of New York, co-starring Christopher Walken and Wesley Snipes. Though the part was originally written for an Italian-American, Fishburne lobbied for it. This cat was funny, enjoyed what he did, he said of the character in his interview with Smith, he didnt deal drugs, he just killed peoplethe kind of lovable badman any actor would love to do. I talked to them for about four hours and I said, Look, young black people who saw School Daze in particular recognize me; theres at least two million of them living in New York, and if you put me in this role, a million of them will go see it, guaranteed, and theyll tell the other million. His extravagant performance was evidently as much fun for him to perform as it was for his audience to watch. I took some liberty, he admitted to Smith. For some people it may seem exaggerated, overblown, like Im going way over the top with it. But thats real stuff. Fishburne also began working with playwright Lanford Wilson in 1990, to develop the character of Sterling in Wilsons Two Trains Running.

True to his commitment to balance the cinematic nuts with responsible characters, Fishburne played an attorney working for activist lawyer Gene Hackman in Michael Apteds 1991 film Class Action. People correspondent Ralph Novak felt that Fishburne and the rest of the supporting cast were first teamers. Sight and Sound praised a perfectly formed performance from Larry Fishburne, a great black actor spoiling for a part in something really big. Fishburne also appeared in Martin Sheens Cadence, a military drama co-starring Sheen and his son Charlie. Fishburne, as leader of the black stockade residents, has a sly Jack Nicholson-like way of ingratiating himself, opined Novak.

Gained Recognition With Boyz

Fishburnes next big project was Boyz N The Hood, a film directed by then-23-year-old John Singleton, who had been a production assistant on Pee-Wees Playhouse. As Furious Styles, the entrepreneur-activist father who guides his son out of trouble and into responsibility, Fishburne earned rave reviews. Sight and Sound declared, Larry Fishburne continues to be a matchless screen presence in the central role of Furious, while Stanley Kauffmann of the New Republic wrote that the actor brings an even-tempered, unforced authority to the role.

Even critics who disliked the films tone admired Fishburnes work. Novak noted that Fishburne acts his way through most of Singletons verbiage, conveying the determination of a father trying to give his son a chance. Edmond Grant of Films in Review lamented that the finest actor in the film gets the corniest role. While admitting that Fishburne does bring some depth to the role, Grant was disturbed that Furious functioned primarily as an obvious mouthpiece for Singletons concerns. Christine Dolen of the Detroit Free Press observed that with Boyz Fishburne seemed to leap, like a major movie star at the height of his power, from the screen into our startled and appreciative consciousness. Yet Fishburne is quoted in the same piece as saying that Boyz N The Hood did take my career to a different level. But I did what Ive been doing for the last 20 years. I think it was the power of the whole film. I give the credit to the writing and the execution of that film.

Won Awards for Stage Role

In his next role in Lanford Wilsons stage play Two Trains Running, which opened on Broadway in 1992, Fishburne won a Tony Award for best featured actor in a play and also picked up Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Theater World awards. As Sterling, an ex-convict espousing the black empowerment philosophy of civil rights activist Malcolm X, Fishburne once again stunned the critics. Frank Rich of the New York Times wrote that the actor greets each of Sterlings defeats with pride and heroic optimism and called Fishburne and his co-star Roscoe Lee Browne the jewels of the production.

Perew claimed that Fishburnes work in Two Trains Running should convince any doubters that Larry Fishburne will forever play lead roles and added, watching the play, you get black history the way Sterling has seen it. Fishburne is quirky, insightful, often humorous and, finally, a profound Sterling. Of the role, the actor himself stated in his interview with Pacheco that Sterlings a man with an idea, and thats what makes him dangerous, and that the character has just got out of jail, hes got no money and hes got no job. When a brothers got to get himself a hustle, that makes him dangerous. He told Dolen that working with Browne, Wilson, and director Lloyd Richards was a bigger thrill than winning a Tony: This is the longest time Ive worked in the theater. Its the most exciting it requires real discipline and develops your concentration to a level that I know when I come off this, no matter what the part is in what movie, Ill be able to do it. Because I feel like a bona fide actor now.

Played a Deep Character in Deep Cover

Returning to film in 1992, Fishburne portrayed a genuinely challenging character in Deep Cover: Russell Stevens, Jr., an undercover cop who gets drawn into the world of drug-dealing and begins to lose his moral bearings. Director Bill Duke found Fishburnes subtlety and range perfect for the part: Larry can show a side of himself that will do whatever is necessary to get what he wants. He becomes as ferocious a bad guy as [he does] a cop. Looking in Larrys eyes, you dont see a lie, and thats what you want in an actor, Duke observed to Ryan, adding that he found Fishburne confident but not egotistical. Commenting on Dukes improvisational, actor-centered approach, Fishburne observed in an Entertainment Weekly profile, Its collaborative here. Everyone throws in his two cents. Duke contended in the same article that Fishburne was at first uneasy with the directors approach: Larry hated working with me in the beginning. Hes used to rehearsing a scene the way its going to be shot. I said, Larry, thats not how I work. It always made him nervous, but he started to trust me and we had a good collaboration.

Fishburne himself found playing Stevens a rich opportunity. What makes Stevens special for me, he told Ryan, is hes a cop and hes a criminal at the same time. He has to do bad in order to do good. White actors get to play this type of stuff a lot, and we dont. Its an opportunity to show up and be a man on the screennot a black man, not a white man, not a superman, just a man. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly pointed to Fishburnes performance as one of the strengths of a film he judged inconsistent: Fishburne, with his hair-trigger line readings and deadly reptilian gaze, conveys the controlled desperation of someone watching his faith unravel.

Gives Multi-Layered Performances

In 1993, Fishburne again played a character with a dark side when he starred opposite Angela Bassett in the movie version of singer Tina Turners autobiography, Whats Love Got to Do With It. Although he initially turned down the role of Turners abusive husband, Ike, because it was too one-sidedly evil to be realistic, the opportunity to work with Bassett again (they acted opposite each other in Boyz N the Hood) proved to be too much of a draw. But rather than accept the flat character, Fishburne reworked his portrayal of Ike to demonstrate the humanizing charm which made Ike so attractive prior to his descent into drug abuse and violence. Rita Kempleyofthe Washington Post said, Fishburnes performance is astounding for the humanity he brings to the thinly-drawn Ike. That same year he stepped down from star billing in order to play a streetsmart chess player in Searching for Bobby Fischer. Fishburnes character mentors a young chess prodigy who resists outside pressure to play chess competitively.

The year 1995 was a full one for the actor as six of his projects came to life. In a career move not unlike his decision to act in For Us the Living, Fishburne took a pay cut in order to lend the weight of his celebrity to the HBO movie The Tuskegee Airmen. He played Hannibal Lee, a pilot who endures racial prejudice in the course of his flying career with the all-black 99th Squadron of the 332d Fighter Group of the U.S. Air Force during World War II. Fishburne earned an Emmy nomination for his performance in this dramatization of the real-life elite fighting unit.

For the movie Higher Learning, Fishburne once again teamed up with director John Singleton to play a West Indian professor at an American university that is a racial and ideological war zone. Although the role of Professor Phipps is a smaller one in the film, critic Roger Ebert remarked that Fishburnes portrayal is all the more effective because it is so subtle. While some critics found Singletons characterizations rigidly stereotypical and the plot overblown, Fishburne was singled out in reviews time and again as outstanding.

Neither did critics fault Fishburne for the flaws of two 1995 thrillers Bad Company and Just Cause, in which he plays men immersed in illegal activities. In Bad Company, also starring Ellen Barkin, he is the newest recruit in an underworld company that specializes in industrial spying. The betrayals come fast and furious, but critics were largely unimpressed with the complicated plot and the emphasis on sex and violence. While commenting that the film is a bore, a brute, a dullard, Washington Post critic Hal Hinson also noted, with his panther glide and lounge-lizard eyes, Fishburne has become one of films most mesmerizing stars. Just Cause, a suspense thriller about a law professors investigation of a murder conviction in a Southern backwater town, was likewise criticized for being all plot and no substance. However, Fishburnes performance as the sadistic police chief who beats a confession out of the suspect, inspired Mike LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle to write, Fishburne is scary enough in his own right. His performance, the most complex and fascinating in the film, never stops revealing layers of a character who on first glance seems a standard villain.

Plays First Black Othello on Screen

Fishburne generated a cinematic first when he became the first African American to play Shakespeares Othello on the silver screen. Following in the footsteps of such legendary actors as Sir Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles, Fishburne brought the Moor Othello to life in the 1995 production which also starred Kenneth Branagh as Iago and Irene Jacob as Desdemona. While critics debated the merits of this version which cut the play by a third, Fishburne received good reviews for a role he admitted scared him initially. Its definitely scary before you start. And harder to shake off afterwards. After all, Othello has been around for almost 400 years, he remarked in an interview with Insight on the News. Even though some critics faulted his inexperience with Elizabethan English for the diminished impact of his lines, the sheer charisma of Fishbumes screen presence won over audiences. Janet Matlin of the New York Times wrote, With no previous Shakespearean experience, he at first displays an improbable loftiness, sounding very much the rarified thespian beside Mr. Branaghs deceptively regular Joe. But Mr. Fishburnes performance has a dangerous edge that ultimately works to its advantage, and he smolders movingly through the most anguished parts of the role.

Takes Stage Roles

But not content with film and television, Fishburne expanded his acting credits to include thestage when his own play, Riff Raff, appeared at the Off-Broadway Circle Repertory Theater. Fishburne wrote the script about two half-brothers hiding from the law in a friends apartment in just eight days while filming Just Cause, and earned praise for its sharp dialogue and compelling story. In an enthusiastic review, New York Times critic Ben Brantley wrote It is a relief to learn that Mr. Fishburne doesnt need a big screen or someone elses script to tell a story compellingly. Fishburne also directed and starred in the production. In 1999, he returned to the stage when he starred in the play The Lion in Winter at the Roundabout Theater Company in New York City.

Returns to Film with Fled

In 1996, Fishburnes participation in the buddy movie, Fled, was universally acknowledged as a step down in the quality of films the actor typically chose as critics lambasted the movie as brainless, cliched, and violent. Fishburne played the convict Piper, who escapes from a chain gang while manacled to fellow convict, Dodge. Together, they must elude the pursuing authorities and underworld figures in order to retrieve millions of dollars Dodge stole from the Cuban-American Mafia. Once again critics distanced the actor from the faults of the movie; after dwelling on improbable plot developments and poor dialogue, Roger Ebert commented that Laurence Fishburne brings an authority to his role that the screenplay doesnt really deserve.

In 1997, Fishburne became involved with another HBO movie based on historical facts when he starred with Alfre Woodard in Miss Evers Boys. The story is based on an actual medical experiment conducted by the government between 1932 and 1972, in which African American men suffering from syphilis were left untreated so that the effects of the disease could be studied. Woodard played the nurse, Miss Evers, who acts as friend and confidante to the men while, at the same time, she is aware of the deception her participation in the experiment necessitates. Fishburne played one of the victims of the experiment who becomes Miss Evers romantic interest.

Violent Movies Take Critical Hit

Two graphically violent movies finished off 1997 for Fishburne: EventHorizon and Hoodlum. Neither movie was a darling of the critics who complained about the poor plots and gratuitous bloodletting. Event Horizon, a science fiction-horror movie about a space ship which disappears and mysteriously returns seven years later with the presence of pure evil on board, received special attention for its extreme gore, chaotic plot, and breathtaking special effects. In the movie, Fishburne played the commander of the crew sent to investigate the mysterious spacecraft. Variety critic Joe Leydon noted that the actor perform[s] far beyond the call of duty, but to little avail, finding that [the] initial promise of the offbeat premise is rapidly dissipated by routine execution and risible dialogue. Hoodlum suffered much the same critical fate. The plot to that movie revolved around a Harlem gangsters attempt to thwart awhite gangsters coup of the lucrative Harlem numbers game during the Depression. Fishburne, playing gangster Bumpy Johnson, lent an instrinsic appeal to a film which was described by Mike LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle as an overlong gangster movie, a bloated and often laughable attempt at an epic.

Plays Positive African American Roles

Fishburne returned to the medium of some of his most lauded work when he played a compassionate ex-convict in the HBO movie Always Outnumbered. Based on stories by acclaimed African American author Walter Mosely, the story follows Socrates Fortlow-Fishbumes character-as he attempts to help his community after serving nearly thirty years in jail. The positive portrayal of African American men is particularly important to Fishburne who acknowledged in a Jet article the scarcity of such images in movies. Socrates is a character who reminds people that not all [African American men] are ignorant, not all of us beat up women, not all of us are what you would think we are. Most of us are decent human beings.

Fishburne closed out the century in the reality-bending science-fiction thriller, The Matrix. Also starring Keanu Reeves, the cerebral action movie concerns a group of rebels who are trying to expose the matrix, a virtual reality which has been imposed on humanity by a machine to fool them into believing that they are free. Fishburne is Morpheus, the leader of this collection of renegades, who recruits Reevess character to spearhead the rebellion. While the movie raised many philosophical issues, critics complained that it retreated from deeper explorations of the subjects of identity and reality in favor of high-gloss action sequences.

Fishburne has emerged in the 1990s as an African American actor of considerable talent whose name and reputation are worthy of top billing in whatever project he chooses. Unlike the black actors of yesteryear, Fishburne has proven that he does not need the support of a better-known white actor to draw in audiences, and, even when handicapped with less-than-average scripts, he manages to bowl over critics with his range and intelligence. As an advocate for positive African American images, Fishburne has successfully brought to life stories of significance to the African American community while breaking into roles not originally earmarked for black actors. With his versatility and depth, Fishburne will likely continue finding success as one of Hollywoods leading men.

Sources

Books

Current Biography Yearbook, 1996.

Periodicals

Back Stage, March 26, 1999.

Black Elegance, June/July 1992.

Chicago Sun-Times, January 11, 1995; December 29, 1995.

Detroit Free Press, June 2, 1992.

Entertainment Weekly, April 24, 1992.

Film Comment, July/August 1990.

Films in Review, February 1992.

Insight on the News, January 15, 1996.

Jet, July 15, 1991; February 24, 1997; March 23, 1998..

Los Angeles Times, January 12, 1992.

New Republic, September 2, 1991.

Newsweek, July 15, 1991.

New York, July 22, 1991.

New York Times, April 14, 1992.

Parade, June 28, 1992.

People, March 25, 1991; April 1, 1991; July 22, 1991.

Premiere, May 1992.

San Francisco Chronicle, August 4, 1995; August 27, 1997.

Sight and Sound, July 1991; August 1991; November 1991.

Time, May 11, 1992.

Variety, August 18, 1997.

Video Review, March 1992.

Washington Post, July 7, 1991; June 11, 1993; January 20, 1995; December 29, 1995.

Other

Additional information obtained from a press biography on Fishburne.

Simon Glickman and Rebecca Parks

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Fishburne, Laurence

Laurence Fishburne

1961—

Actor

After working steadily in films, television, and plays for more than twenty-five years, Laurence Fishburne played what would arguably become his best-known role, as Morpheus, in the 1999 science fiction movie The Matrix; he reprised the role in two subsequent films, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions (both 2003). After winning further acclaim on the stage in productions of August Wilson's Fences and in the one-man Broadway play Thurgood, based on the life of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Fishburne announced in 2008 that he would be joining the cast of the hit television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation the following year.

Fishburne was born in Augusta, Georgia, in 1961. His father, a corrections officer, frequently took him to the movies, but it was his mother, a schoolteacher, who introduced him to the stage. The family moved to a middle-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, when Laurence was young, and soon he was auditioning for parts in local plays. "I've always been an actor," he remarked to James Ryan in Premiere; he informed New York magazine that his first role was in the second grade: "I was Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up. I still am—I play make-believe for a living." At age ten he appeared in the play In My Many Names and Days at the New Federal Theater. "I played a little 10-year-old baseball freak from Brooklyn who used to dig going to Ebbitts Field and watching Jackie Robinson," Fishburne recalled to David Mills in the Washington Post.

Fishburne next landed a role in the 1972 television film If You Give a Dance, You Got to Pay the Band, which led to a part on the soap opera One Life to Live when he was eleven years old that lasted three years. One year after joining the daytime series, he appeared in the dramatic film Cornbread, Earl and Me. Fishburne told Patrick Pacheco in the Los Angeles Times that after Cornbread's release, "My father took all the guys at this juvenile correction facility in the Bronx to see it. Afterward, we got together and they told me that I was doing good, that I had something really fine going on for myself and that if I ever [messed] up, they'd be waiting. That kept me in line." The actor earned a part in a Negro Ensemble Theater production and was accepted into the prestigious High School of Perform- ing Arts in New York City. Then, at age fifteen, Fishburne embarked on the acting experience that would utterly transform him: a role as a member of the boat crew in Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now.

Grew Up on Apocalypse Set

Pacheco quoted Fishburne as saying that shooting Apocalypse was "the most formative event" of his life. He had a chance to observe several luminaries of American film acting—Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, and others—and to consult them for advice. Coppola taught Fishburne that acting "could be taken seriously, as art, with potential for educating, entertaining, and touching people." And in the drenching rain and chaos of filming in the Philippines, Fishburne lived a sporadically unsupervised fantasy of adolescence: "I was smoking reefer like everybody else," he told Pacheco. "My mother was there with me, but she couldn't control me so she called in the big guns, my father. Everybody in the company referred to him as ‘the jailer,’ but all he had to do was say, ‘OK, that's enough of that,’ and I'd come around."

Recalling his return to the United States, Fishburne recounted to Ryan, "I figured I was one of the baddest motherf—ers on the planet. And I came to L.A. and nobody gave a s—. I was really pissed off about that. I couldn't get work. I think a lot of people thought I was crazy, and I probably was." Fishburne made the second of what would be a series of appearances in Coppola films, portraying Midget in Rumble Fish, before playing a heavy in Death Wish II. "I was only getting work playing bad guys, and I wanted to be an actor and didn't want to wait tables," he said to Tom Perew in Black Elegance. "But I would have [done so, if necessary]." In what Mills called Fishburne's "least dignified professional moment," the actor's Death Wish character "shielded his head with a boom box while fleeing vigilante Charles Bronson."

Fishburne was concerned with balancing the roles he portrayed and combating Hollywood stereotypes. He succeeded by appearing in two more Coppola films, Gardens of Stone and The Cotton Club, as well as in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple. He also participated in the PBS drama For Us, the Living, based on the story of Medgar Evers, a crucial figure in the civil rights movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Fishburne explained in the Los Angeles Times that "this is a gig where I had to put myself up and pay my own transportation, but to be involved with Roscoe Lee Browne, Howard Rollins, Dick Anthony Williams, Irene Cara. Well, that was my ancestors saying to me, ‘OK, here's some work we can do.’" He further confided that "I work with somebody on what is called ‘ancestral memory,’ and I find it a source of spiritual strength," because the struggles of the past "are not something to be embarrassed by, but a resource to be valued and respected."

At a Glance …

Born Lawrence Fishburne III on July 30, 1961, in Augusta, GA; son of Larry Jr. (a corrections officer) and Hattie (a teacher) Fishburne; married Hajna Moss (a casting agent and producer), 1987(?) (divorced); married Gina Torres (an actress), 2002; children: three.

Career: Actor appearing on stage, 1971(?)—, on television, 1972—, and in motion pictures, 1975—; television and motion picture film producer, 1997—; UNICEF ambassador, 1997—; motion picture director, 2000; screenplay writer, 2000.

Awards: Tony Award, Outer Critic's Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, and Theater World Award, all 1992, for Two Trains Running; Image Award for outstanding lead actor in a television movie or miniseries, 1996, for The Tuskegee Airmen; Emmy Award for outstanding guest actor in a drama series, 1997, for Tribeca; Cable ACE Award and Emmy Award for outstanding made for television movie, both 1997, and Image Award for outstanding lead actor in a television movie or miniseries and Television Producer of the Year Award in Longform, PGA Awards, both 1998, all for Miss Evers' Boys; Blockbuster Entertainment Award for favorite supporting actor, action/science fiction, and MTV Movie Award for best fight, both 2000, for The Matrix; Chicago International Film Festival Career Achievement Award, 2000; BSFC Award for best ensemble cast, 2003, for Mystic River; Black Movie Award for outstanding performance by an actor in a supporting role, 2006, for Akeelah and the Bee; Hollywood Film Award for ensemble of the year, 2006, for Bobby; Special Award for best ensemble, ShoWest Convention USA, 2008, for 21.

Addresses: Office—c/o CBS Television, 51 W. 52nd St., New York, NY 10019. Web—http://www.laurence-fishburne.com.

Took Diverse Film Roles

In the meantime, an ambitious young director had been keeping an eye on Fishburne. One day in the mid- 1980s, reported Mills, Fishburne was watching a street performance when someone tapped him on the shoulder. "I don't know who this guy is. He says, ‘You're Larry Fishburne…. You're a good actor.’ So he introduced himself and said he was from Brooklyn and he was making movies." The Brooklyn filmmaker was Spike Lee, who wanted Fishburne to appear in a film called Messenger. The movie was never made, but Lee used Fishburne in School Daze; the actor played the campus activist Dap in that collegiate musical comedy.

Fishburne later passed up the role of Radio Raheem in Lee's 1988 smash Do the Right Thing, criticizing the film's plot for straying from reality. "I'm from Brooklyn too," he told Mills. "And I didn't grow up in that kind of Brooklyn." Though Fishburne experienced some friction with Lee, the actor's refusal of roles in subsequent Lee films has evidently had more to do with Fishburne's desire for a starring part than any lingering hard feelings.

While working on School Daze, Fishburne met Hajna Moss, a casting agent and producer. The two eventually married and had two children, settling in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Fishburne accepted the role of an orderly in the horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street III in order to make the down payment on a house. "My wife likes horror movies, we wanted to buy a house, and they offered me a gig," he explained to Ryan. "[The film's supernatural villain Freddy Krueger] and I never met." He and Moss divorced in the 1990s. Fishburne also played a cop in the thriller Red Heat, and, starting in the late 1980s, had the recurring role of the lovable Cowboy Curtis on the Saturday morning television series Pee-Wee's Playhouse. Among his other television projects were the film A Rumor of War and guest appearances on episodes of Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice.

Took on More Prominent Roles

In 1990 Fishburne landed an important role playing "New Jack Gangster" Jimmy Jump in Abel Ferrara's King of New York, costarring Christopher Walken and Wesley Snipes. Though the part was originally written for an Italian-American, Fishburne lobbied for it. His extravagant and overblown performance portraying what he called a "lovable badman" was lauded by critics. Fishburne also began working with playwright August Wilson in 1990 to develop the character of Sterling in the play Two Trains Running.

True to his commitment to balance the cinematic "nuts" with responsible characters, Fishburne played an attorney working for activist lawyer Gene Hackman in Michael Apted's 1991 film Class Action. Sight and Sound praised "a perfectly formed performance from Larry Fishburne, a great black actor spoiling for a part in something really big." Fishburne also appeared in Martin Sheen's Cadence, a military drama costarring Sheen and his son Charlie.

Fishburne's next big project was Boyz n the Hood, a film directed by then-twenty-three-year-old John Singleton, who had been a production assistant on Pee-Wee's Playhouse. As Furious Styles, the entrepreneur-activist father who guides his son out of trouble, Fishburne earned rave reviews. Sight and Sound declared, "Larry Fishburne continues to be a matchless screen presence in the central role of Furious," while Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic wrote that the actor "brings an even-tempered, unforced authority to the role."

Even critics who disliked the film's tone admired Fishburne's work. Ralph Novak in People noted that Fishburne "acts his way through most of Singleton's verbiage, conveying the determination of a father trying to give his son a chance." Edmond Grant in Films in Review lamented that "the finest actor in the film … gets the corniest role." Christine Dolen of the Detroit Free Press observed that with Boyz Fishburne "seemed to leap, like a major movie star at the height of his power, from the screen into our startled and appreciative consciousness." Fishburne is quoted in the same piece as saying that "Boyz n The Hood did take my career to a different level. But I did what I've been doing for the last 20 years. I think it was the power of the whole film. I give the credit to the writing and the execution of that film."

Won Awards for Stage Role

For his next role, in Wilson's stage play Two Trains Running, which opened on Broadway in 1992, Fishburne won a Tony Award for best featured actor in a play and also picked up Outer Critic's Circle, Drama Desk, and Theater World awards. As Sterling, an ex-convict espousing the black empowerment philosophy of civil rights activist Malcolm X, Fishburne once again stunned the critics. Frank Rich in the New York Times wrote that the actor "greets each of Sterling's defeats with pride and heroic optimism" and called Fishburne and his costar Roscoe Lee Browne "the jewels of the production."

Perew claimed that Fishburne's work in Two Trains Running "should convince any doubters that Larry Fishburne will forever play lead roles" and added: "Watching the play, you get black history the way Sterling has seen it. Fishburne is quirky, insightful, often humorous and, finally, a profound Sterling." Of the role, the actor himself stated in his interview with Pacheco that "Sterling's a man with an idea, and that's what makes him dangerous," and that the character has "just got out of jail, he's got no money and he's got no job. When a brother's got to get himself a hustle, that makes him dangerous." He told Dolen that working with Browne, Wilson, and director Lloyd Richards was a bigger thrill than winning a Tony: "This is the longest time I've worked in the theater. It's the most exciting; it requires real discipline and develops your concentration to a level that I know when I come off this, no matter what the part is in what movie, I'll be able to do it. Because I feel like a bona fide actor now."

Returning to film in 1992, Fishburne portrayed a genuinely challenging character in Deep Cover: Russell Stevens Jr., an undercover cop who gets drawn into the world of drug dealing and begins to lose his moral bearings. Director Bill Duke found Fishburne's subtlety and range perfect for the part: "Larry can show a side of himself that will do whatever is necessary to get what he wants. He becomes as ferocious a bad guy as [he does] a cop. Looking in Larry's eyes, you don't see a lie, and that's what you want in an actor," Duke observed to Ryan, adding that he found Fishburne "confident but not egotistical." Commenting on Duke's improvisational, actor-centered approach, Fishburne observed in an Entertainment Weekly profile, "It's collaborative here. Everyone throws in his two cents." Duke contended in the same article that Fishburne was at first uneasy with the director's approach: "Larry hated working with me in the beginning. He's used to rehearsing a scene the way it's going to be shot. I said, ‘Larry, that's not how I work.’ It always made him nervous, but he started to trust me and we had a good collaboration."

Fishburne himself found playing Stevens a rich opportunity. "What makes Stevens special for me," he told Ryan, "is he's a cop and he's a criminal at the same time. He has to do bad in order to do good. White actors get to play this type of stuff a lot, and we don't. It's an opportunity to show up and be a man on the screen—not a black man, not a white man, not a superman, just a man." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly pointed to Fishburne's performance as one of the strengths of a film he judged inconsistent: "Fishburne, with his hair-trigger line readings and deadly reptilian gaze, conveys the controlled desperation of someone watching his faith unravel."

Performed More Multilayered Roles

In 1993 Fishburne again played a character with a dark side when he starred opposite Angela Bassett in the movie version of singer Tina Turner's autobiography, What's Love Got to Do with It. Although he initially turned down the role of Turner's abusive husband, Ike Turner, because he thought it was too one-sidedly evil to be realistic, the opportunity to work with Bassett again (they acted opposite each other in Boyz n the Hood) proved to be too much of a draw. But rather than accept the flat character, Fishburne reworked his portrayal of Ike to demonstrate the humanizing charm that made Ike so attractive prior to his descent into drug abuse and violence. Rita Kempley in the Washington Post said, "Fishburne's performance is astounding for the humanity he brings to the thinly-drawn Ike." That same year he stepped down from star billing in order to play a street-smart chess player in Searching for Bobby Fischer. Fishburne's character mentors a young chess prodigy who resists outside pressure to play chess competitively.

The year 1995 was a full one for the actor as six of his projects came to life. In a career move not unlike his decision to act in For Us, the Living, Fishburne took a pay cut in order to lend the weight of his celebrity to the HBO movie The Tuskegee Airmen. He played Hannibal Lee, a pilot who endures racial prejudice in the course of his flying career with the all-black 99th Squadron of the 332d Fighter Group of the U.S. Air Force during World War II. Fishburne earned an Emmy nomination for his performance in this dramatization of the real-life elite fighting unit.

For the movie Higher Learning Fishburne once again teamed up with director John Singleton, this time to play a West Indian professor at an American university that is a racial and ideological war zone. Although the role of Professor Phipps is a smaller one in the film, critic Roger Ebert remarked that Fishburne's portrayal is "all the more effective because it is so subtle." While some critics found Singleton's characterizations rigidly stereotypical and the plot overblown, Fishburne was singled out in reviews time and again as outstanding.

Earned Accolades Playing Othello

In 1995 Fishburne became the first African American to play Shakespeare's Othello on the silver screen. Following in the footsteps of such legendary actors as Sir Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles, Fishburne brought the Moor Othello to life in the 1995 production, which also starred Kenneth Branagh as Iago and Irene Jacob as Desdemona. While critics debated the merits of this version, which cut the play by a third, Fishburne received good reviews for a role he admitted scared him initially. "It's definitely scary before you start. And harder to shake off afterwards. After all, Othello has been around for almost 400 years," he remarked in an interview with Insight on the News. Even though some critics faulted his inexperience with Elizabethan English for the diminished impact of his lines, the sheer charisma of Fishburne's screen presence won over audiences. Janet Matlin in the New York Times wrote, "With no previous Shakespearean experience, he at first displays an improbable loftiness, sounding very much the rarified thespian beside Mr. Branagh's deceptively regular Joe. But Mr. Fishburne's performance has a dangerous edge that ultimately works to its advantage, and he smolders movingly through the most anguished parts of the role."

In 1997 Fishburne became involved with another HBO movie based on historical facts when he starred with Alfre Woodard in Miss Evers' Boys. The story is based on an actual medical experiment conducted by the United States government between 1932 and 1972, in which African-American men suffering from syphilis were left untreated so that the effects of the disease could be studied. Woodard played a nurse, Miss Evers, who acts as friend and confidante to the men while, at the same time, she is aware of the deception her participation in the experiment necessitates. Fishburne played one of the victims of the experiment who becomes Miss Evers' romantic interest. Fishburne was also a producer of the movie, which won numerous awards and honors, including an Emmy.

In 1998 Fishburne played a compassionate ex-convict in the HBO movie Always Outnumbered. Based on stories by acclaimed African-American author Walter Mosely, the story follows Socrates Fortlow—Fishburne's character—as he attempts to help his community after serving nearly thirty years in jail. The positive portrayal of African-American men is particularly important to Fishburne, who acknowledged in a Jet article the scarcity of such images in movies. "Socrates is a character who reminds people that not all [African-American men] are ignorant, not all of us beat up women, not all of us are what you would think we are. Most of us are decent human beings."

Faced Unreality in The Matrix

Fishburne closed out the century in the reality-bending science-fiction thriller The Matrix. Also starring Keanu Reeves, the cerebral action movie concerns a group of rebels who are trying to expose the matrix, a virtual reality that has been imposed on humanity by a machine to fool them into believing that they are free. Fishburne played Morpheus, the leader of this collection of renegades, who recruits Reeves's character to spearhead the rebellion. The movie raised many philosophical issues, including those related to Eastern religions, Gnostic Christianity, cyberpunk, and the mind-body connection, and visually it paid homage to Japanese anime and the martial arts film genre. A critical and box office triumph, winning four Academy Awards and earning nearly half a billion dollars worldwide, The Matrix also became a pop-culture tour-de-force, inspiring video games, fan sites and blogs, and academic probing into its meaning. Peter Travers summed up the Matrix effect in Rolling Stone: "Not since 2001: A Space Odyssey and the first Star Wars trilogy has the youth audience latched onto a cinematic vision of a future generation and mined it so vigorously for truth about its own."

In May of 2003 the second film in the Matrix trilogy was released. The Matrix Reloaded picked up the story of the last human city of Zion, with Fishburne reprising his role as Morpheus, captain of the hovercraft Nebuchadnezzar. Although Reloaded was one of the most anticipated sequels in film history, critics were less than enthusiastic, and fans, in many cases, left the theatre more confused than satisfied. Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times noted, "Good intentions and great effects notwithstanding, in dramatic terms this is basically an expensive place holder, a rest stop where the narrative can catch its breath before moving on." In November of 2003 the Matrix story did move on, to its conclusion, with the release of The Matrix Revolutions. While Matrix diehards—and they number in the millions—continued to find meaning and relevance in the final film, critics failed to see the draw. Travers in Rolling Stone wrote succinctly, "At the risk of overstatement, The Matrix Revolutions sucks." Nevertheless, fascination with The Matrix continued, and Fishburne lent his vocal talents to two Matrix video games, in 2003 and 2005.

Fishburne's next two projects teamed him again with What's Love Got to Do with It costar Bassett. In Akeelah and the Bee Fishburne played an English professor who supports a young girl's dream of winning a national spelling bee, with Bassett playing the girl's mother. In their reviews critics simultaneously lambasted the film for its stereotypical characters and formulaic plot and cheered its good intentions and fine performances, particularly that of Fishburne, who, as some reviewers noted, brought much-needed gravity to an otherwise light movie. Similarly, Fishburne was praised for his role as a former Negro League baseball player in a 2006 Pasadena Playhouse production of Wilson's Fences, in which he starred with Bassett. Critics noted that the two actors revived the sexual tension and relationship nuances they had created so successfully as Ike and Tina Turner.

Played Animated Characters and Supreme Court Judge

In late 2006 Fishburne was part of a large ensemble cast in Emilio Estevez's directorial debut, Bobby, which explored seemingly unrelated events surrounding the assassination of Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. For his next two films, Fishburne chose much lighter material, and in fact never actually appeared on screen. In 2007 he narrated a computer-generated animation version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and provided the voice of the Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. In 2008 Fishburne switched gears once more, playing a casino enforcer in the card-counting movie 21. None of these films did well at the box office or with critics.

In mid-2008, however, Fishburne returned to the stage in a Broadway production of Thurgood, a one-man show based on the life and career of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice. Presented as a lecture given by Marshall to a class of students at Howard University, Marshall's alma mater, the play features Fishburne gradually becoming younger as he recounts the events that led to his rise from civil rights activist and NAACP attorney to Supreme Court justice. Written by first-time playwright George Stevens Jr., Thurgood received mixed reviews for what some critics considered an overly long, plodding storyline. Fishburne's performance, however, was widely admired. Reviewer Brian Scott Lipton wrote on the TheaterMania Web site that Fishburne "instantly commands the stage with consummate ease, wringing enormous humor, pathos, and, above all, inspiration from his subject's life and Stevens' words…. In fact, he is now a serious contender to earn his second Tony Award."

Selected works

Films, as actor

Cornbread, Earl and Me (as Laurence Fishburne III), 1975.

Fast Break (as Laurence Fishburne III), 1979.

Apocalypse Now (as Larry Fishburne), 1979.

Willie and Phil (as Laurence Fishburne III), 1980.

Death Wish II (as Laurence Fishburne III), 1982.

Rumble Fish (as Larry Fishburne), 1983.

The Cotton Club (as Larry Fishburne), 1984.

The Color Purple (as Larry Fishburne), 1985.

Quicksilver (as Larry Fishburne), 1986.

Band of the Hand, 1986.

A Nightmare on Elm Street III: Dream Warriors (as Larry Fishburne), 1987.

Gardens of Stone (as Larry Fishburne), 1987.

Cherry 2000 (as Larry Fishburne), 1987.

School Daze, 1988.

Red Heat (as Larry Fishburne), 1988.

King of New York (as Larry Fishburne), 1990.

Cadence (as Larry Fishburne), 1990.

Class Action (as Larry Fishburne), 1991.

Boyz n the Hood (as Larry Fishburne), 1991.

Deep Cover (as Larry Fishburne), 1992.

What's Love Got to Do with It, 1993.

Searching for Bobby Fischer, 1993.

Higher Learning, 1995.

Bad Company, 1995.

Just Cause, 1995.

Othello, 1995.

Fled, 1996.

Event Horizon, 1997.

(And executive producer) Hoodlum, 1997.

The Matrix, 1999.

(And producer and screenwriter) Once in the Life, 2000.

Osmosis Jones, 2001.

Biker Boyz, 2003.

The Matrix Reloaded, 2003.

Mystic River, 2003.

The Matrix Revolutions, 2003.

Assault on Precinct 13, 2005.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (uncredited), 2005.

(And producer) Akeelah and the Bee, 2006.

Mission: Impossible III, 2006.

(And producer) Five Fingers, 2006.

Bobby, 2006.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 2007.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, 2007.

The Death and Life of Bobby Z, 2007.

Tortured, 2008.

21, 2008.

Television, as actor

If You Give a Dance, You Gotta Pay the Band (movie), 1972.

One Life to Live (series), 1973-76.

The Six O'Clock Follies (series), 1980.

A Rumor of War (movie), 1980.

Trapper John, MD (series), 1981.

MASH (series), 1982.

Strike Force (series), 1982.

I Take These Men (movie), 1983.

For Us, the Living: The Medgar Evers Story (movie), 1983.

Hill Street Blues (series), 1986.

Miami Vice (series; as Larry Fishburne), 1986.

Pee-Wee's Playhouse (series; as Larry Fishburne), 1986-87.

Spenser: For Hire (series), 1987.

The Equalizer (series), 1989.

Decoration Day (movie), 1990.

The American Experience (series), 1991.

Tribeca (series), 1993.

The Tuskegee Airmen (movie), 1995.

(And executive producer) Miss Evers' Boys (movie), 1997.

(And executive producer) Always Outnumbered (movie), 1998.

Decoded: The Making of "The Matrix Reloaded" (documentary), 2003.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (series), beginning 2009.

Plays, as actor

In My Many Names and Days, New Federal Theater, New York City, 1971(?).

Eden, St. Mark's Playhouse, New York City, 1976.

Short Eyes, McGinn-Cazale Theatre, New York City, 1985.

Loose Ends, McGinn-Cazale Theatre, New York City, 1988.

Two Trains Running, Walter Kerr Theatre, New York City, 1992.

The Lion in Winter, Criterion Center Stage Right, New York City, 1999.

Fences, Pasadena Playhouse, Pasadena, CA, 2006.

Thurgood, Broadway production, 2008.

Video Games

Enter the Matrix, 2003.

The Matrix Online, 2005.

True Crime: New York City, 2005.

Sources

Periodicals

Back Stage, March 26, 1999.

Black Elegance, June/July 1992.

Chicago Sun-Times, January 11, 1995; December 29, 1995.

Detroit Free Press, June 2, 1992.

Entertainment Weekly, April 24, 1992.

Film Comment, July/August 1990.

Films in Review, February 1992.

Insight on the News, January 15, 1996.

Jet, July 15, 1991; February 24, 1997; March 23, 1998.

Los Angeles Times, January 12, 1992; May 14, 2003.

New Republic, September 2, 1991.

New York, July 22, 1991.

New York Times, April 14, 1992.

Newsweek, July 15, 1991.

Parade, June 28, 1992.

People, March 25, 1991; April 1, 1991; July 22, 1991.

Premiere, May 1992.

Rolling Stone, May 14, 2003; November 3, 2003.

San Francisco Chronicle, August 4, 1995; August 27, 1997.

Sight and Sound, July 1991; August 1991; November 1991.

Time, May 11, 1992.

Variety, August 18, 1997.

Video Review, March 1992.

Washington Post, July 7, 1991; June 11, 1993; January 20, 1995; December 29, 1995.

Online

Laurence Fishburne Official Web Site, http://www.laurence-fishburne.com.

Lipton, Brian Scott, "Thurgood," TheaterMania, May 1, 2008, http://www.theatermania.com/content/news.cfm/story/13713 (accessed September 30, 2008).

Other

Additional information for this profile was obtained from a press biography on Fishburne.

—Simon Glickman, Rebecca Parks,
and Nancy Dziedzic

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Fishburne, Larry 1962–

Larry Fishburne 1962

Actor

At a Glance

Grew Up on Apocalypse Set

Took Diverse Film Roles

Gained Recognition With Boyz

Won Awards for Stage Role

Played a Deep Character in Deep Cover

Sources

Since his stage debut at age ten, Larry Fishburne has spent his life acting. Hes the kind of actor you cant wait to say action onbecause you cant wait to see how hes gonna take it and deal with it, director Abel Ferrara said of Larry Fishburne in a Film Comment interview. The roles Fishburne has chosen have been equally unpredictable, from psychopaths to activist lawyers, from the solid, hands-on father he played in Boyz N the Hood to the troubled cop of Deep Cover. For every thug, for every nut, I try and do somebody whos a reasonable person, whos an educated person, the actor told Tom Perew of Black Elegance. Perew quoted a casting agent who praised Fishburnes selectivity and dedication: I get the feeling hes more interested in the quality behind the work than the money.

Fishburne was born in 1962, in Augusta, Georgia. His father, a corrections officer, frequently took him to the movies, but it was his mother, a schoolteacher, who introduced him to the stage. The family moved to a middle-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, when Larry was young, and soon he was auditioning for parts in local plays. Ive always been an actor, he remarked to James Ryan of Premiere; he informed New York magazine that his first role was in the second grade: I was Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up. I still amI play make-believe for a living. At age ten he appeared in the play In My Many Names and Days at the New Federal Theater. I played a little 10-year-old baseball freak from Brooklyn who used to dig going to Ebbitts Field and watching Jackie Robinson, Fishburne recalled to Washington Post correspondent David Mills.

Fishburne next landed a role in the 1972 television film If You Give a Dance, You Got to Pay the Band, which led to a part on the soap opera One Life to Live when he was 11 years old that lasted three years. After joining the daytime series, he appeared in the dramatic film Cornbread, Earl and Me. Fishburne told Patrick Pacheco of the Los Angeles Times that after Cornbreads release, My father took all the guys at this juvenile correction facility in the Bronx to see it. Afterward, we got together and they told me that I was doing good, that I had something really fine going on for myself and that if I ever [messed] up, theyd be waiting. That kept me in line. The actor earned a part in a Negro Ensemble Theater production and was accepted into the prestigious High School of Performing Arts in New York City. Then, at 15, Fishburne embarked

At a Glance

Born Lawrence Fishburne III in July of 1962 in Augusta, GA; son of Larry (a corrections officer) and Hattie (a teacher) Fishburne, Jr.; married Hajna Moss (casting agent and producer), c. 1987; two children.

Actor appearing in motion pictures, including, Cornbread, Earl and Me, 1975, Apocalypse Now, 1979, Death Wish II 1982, Rumble Fish, 1983, The Cotton Club, 1984, The Color Purple, 1985, Gardens of Stone, 1987, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, 1987, Red Heat, 1988, School Daze, 1988, King of New York, 1990, Class Action, 1991, Cadence, 1991, Boyz N the Hood, 1991, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse, 1991, and Deep Cover, 1992; in stage productions, including Two Trains Running, 1992; and on television, including If You Give a Dance, You Got to Pay the Band, 1972, One Life to Live, 1973-76, A Rumor of War, 1980, For Us the Living, PBS American Playhouse production, 1988, Pee-Wees playhouse, Decoration Day, and episodes of Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice. Also host of Who Killed Martin Luther King?, broadcast on FOX, 1993.

Selected awards: Tony Award for best featured actor in a play, Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, and Theater World Award, all 1992, all for Two Trains Running.

Addresses: Agent Michelle Marx, Inc., 8756 Holloway Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90069.

on the acting experience that would utterly transform him: a role as a member of the boat crew in Francis Ford Coppolas Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now.

Grew Up on Apocalypse Set

The Los Angeles Times quoted Fishburne as saying that shooting Apocalypse was the most formative event of his life. He had a chance to observe several luminaries of American film actingMarlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, and othersand to consult them for advice. Coppola taught Fishburne that acting could be taken seriously, as art, with potential for educating, entertaining and touching people. And in the drenching rain and chaos of the filming in the Philippines, Fishburne lived a sporadically unsupervised fantasy of adolescence: I was smoking reefer like everybody else, he told Pacheco. My mother was there with me, but she couldnt control me so she called in the big guns, my father. Everybody in the company referred to him as the jailer, but all he had to do was say, OK, thats enough of that, and Id come around.

Recalling his return to the United States, Fishburne recounted to Ryan, I figured I was one of the baddest motherfers on the planet. And I came to L.A. and nobody gave a shit. I was really pissed off about that. I couldnt get work. I think a lot of people thought I was crazy, and I probably was. Fishburne made the second of what would be a series of appearances in Coppola films, portraying Midget in Rumble Fish, after playing a heavy in Death Wish II. I was only getting work playing bad guys, and I wanted to be an actor and didnt want to wait tables, he told Perew in Black Elegance. But I would have [done so, if necessary]. In what Mills called Fishburnes least dignified professional moment, the actors Death Wish character shielded his head with a boom box while fleeing vigilante Charles Bronson.

Fishburne was concerned with balancing the roles he portrayed and combating Hollywood stereotypes. He succeeded by appearing in two more Coppola films, The Cotton Club and Gardens of Stone, as well as in Steven Spielbergs Color Purple. He also participated in the PBS drama For Us the Living, based on the story of Medgar Evers, a crucial figure in the American school desegregation movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Fishburne explained in the Los Angeles Times that this is a gig where I had to put myself up and pay my own transportation, but to be involved with Roscoe Lee Browne, Howard Rollins, Dick Anthony Williams, Irene Cara. Well, that was my ancestors saying to me, OK, heres some work we can do. He further confided that I work with somebody on what is called ancestral memory, and I find it a source of spiritual strength, since the struggles of the past are not something to be embarrassed by, but a resource to be valued and respected.

Took Diverse Film Roles

In the meantime, an ambitious young director had been keeping an eye on Fishburne. One day in the mid-1980s, reported Mills in the Washington Post, Fishburne was watching a street performance when someone tapped him on the shoulder. I dont know who this guy is. He says, Youre Larry Fishburne.... Youre a good actor. So he introduced himself and said he was from Brooklyn and he was making movies. The Brooklyn filmmaker was Spike Lee, who wanted Fishburne to appear in a film called Messenger. The movie was never made, but Lee utilized Fishburne in School Daze; the actor played the campus activist Dap in that collegiate musical comedy.

Fishburne later passed up the role of Radio Raheem in Lees 1989 smash Do the Right Thing, criticizing the films plot for straying from reality. Im from Brooklyn too, he told Mills. And I didnt grow up in that kind of Brooklyn. Though Fishburne experienced some friction with Lee, the actors refusal of roles in subsequent Lee films has evidently had more to do with Fishburnes desire for a starring part than any lingering hard feelings.

While working on School Daze, Fishburne met Hajna Moss, a casting agent and producer. The two eventually married and had two children, settling in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Fishburne accepted the role of an orderly in the 1987 horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 in order to make the down payment on a house. My wife likes horror movies, we wanted to buy a house, and they offered me a gig, he explained to Ryan. [The films supernatural villain Freddy Krueger] and I never met. Fishburne also played a cop in the thriller Red Heat, and starting in the late 1980s had the continuing role of the lovable Cowboy Curtis on Pee-Wee Hermans Saturday morning television series Pee-Wees Playhouse. Among his other television projects were the film A Rumor of War and guest appearances on episodes of Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice.

In 1990 Fishburne landed an important role playing New Jack Gangster Jimmy Jump in Ferraras King of New York, costarring Christopher Walken and Wesley Snipes. Though the part was originally written for an Italian-American, Fishburne lobbied for it. This cat was funny, enjoyed what he did, he said of the character in his interview with Gavin Smith for Film Comment. He didnt deal drugs, he just killed peoplethe kind of lovable badman any actor would love to do. I talked to them for about four hours and I said, Look, young black people who saw School Daze in particular recognize me; theres at least two million of them living in New York, and if you put me in this role, a million of them will go see it, guaranteed, and theyll tell the other million. His extravagant performance was evidently as much fun for him to perform as it was for his audience to watch. I took some liberty, he admitted to Smith. For some people it may seem exaggerated, overblown, like Im going way over the top with it. But thats real stuff. Fishburne also began working with playwright Lanford Wilson in 1990 to develop the character of Sterling in Wilsons Two Trains Running.

True to his commitment to balance the cinematic nuts with responsible characters, Fishburne played an attorney working for activist lawyer Gene Hackman in Michael Apteds 1991 Class Action. People correspondent Ralph Novak felt that Fishburne and the rest of the supporting cast were first teamers. Sight and Sound praised a perfectly formed performance from Larry Fishburne, a great black actor spoiling for a part in something really big. Fishburne also appeared in Martin Sheens Cadence, a military drama costarring Sheen and his son Charlie. Fishburne, as leader of the black stockade residents, has a sly Jack Nicholson-like way of ingratiating himself, opined Novak.

Gained Recognition With Boyz

Fishburnes next big project was Boyz N the Hood, a film directed by then-23-year-old John Singleton, who had been a production assistant on Pee-Wees Playhouse. As Furious Styles, the entrepreneur-activist father who guides his son out of trouble and into responsibility, Fishburne earned rave reviews. Sight and Sound declared, Larry Fishburne continues to be a matchless screen presence in the central role of Furious, while Stanley Kauffmann of the New Republic wrote that the actor brings an even-tempered, unforced authority to the role.

Even critics who disliked the films tone admired Fishburnes work. Novak noted that Fishburne acts his way through most of Singletons verbiage, conveying the determination of a father trying to give his son a chance. Edmond Grant of Films in Review lamented that the finest actor in the film... gets the corniest role. While admitting that Fishburne does bring some depth to the role, Grant was disturbed that Furious functioned primarily as an obvious mouthpiece for Singletons concerns. Christine Dolen of the Detroit Free Press observed that with Boyz Fishburne seemed to leap, like a major movie star at the height of his power, from the screen into our startled and appreciative consciousness. Yet Fishburne is quoted in the same piece as saying that Boyz N the Hood did take my career to a different level. But I did what Ive been doing for the last 20 years. I think it was the power of the whole film. I give the credit to the writing and the execution of that film.

Won Awards for Stage Role

In his next role in Lanford Wilsons stage play Two Trains Running, which opened on Broadway in 1992, Fishburne won a Tony Award for best featured actor in a play and also picked up Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Theater World awards. As Sterling, an ex-convict espousing the black empowerment philosophy of civil rights activist Malcolm X, Fishburne once again stunned the critics. Frank Rich of the New York Times wrote that the actor greets each of Sterlings defeats with pride and heroic optimism and called Fishburne and his costar Roscoe Lee Browne the jewels of the production.

Perew claimed that Fishburnes work in Two Trains Running should convince any doubters that Larry Fishburne will forever play lead roles and added, watching the play, you get black history the way Sterling has seen it. Fishburne is quirky, insightful, often humorous and, finally, a profound Sterling. Of the role, the actor himself stated in the Los Angeles Times interview with Pacheco that Sterlings a man with an idea, and thats what makes him dangerous, and that the character has just got out of jail, hes got no money and hes got no job. When a brothers got to get himself a hustle, that makes him dangerous. He told Dolen that working with Browne, Wilson and director Lloyd Richards was a bigger thrill than winning a Tony: This is the longest time Ive worked in the theater. Its the most exciting; it requires real discipline and develops your concentration to a level that I know when I come off this, no matter what the part is in what movie, Ill be able to do it. Because I feel like a bona fide actor now.

Played a Deep Character in Deep Cover

Returning to film in 1992, Fishburne portrayed a genuinely challenging character in Deep Cover: Russell Stevens, Jr., an undercover cop who gets drawn into the world of drug-dealing and begins to lose his moral bearings. Director Bill Duke found Fishburnes subtlety and range perfect for the part: Larry can show a side of himself that will do whatever is necessary to get what he wants. He becomes as ferocious a bad guy as [he does] a cop. Looking in Larrys eyes, you dont see a lie, and thats what you want in an actor, Duke explained to Ryan, adding that he found Fishburne confident but not egotistical. Commenting on Dukes improvisational, actor-centered approach, Fishburne observed in an Entertainment Weekly profile, Its collaborative here. Everyone throws in his two cents. Duke contended in the same article that Fishburne was at first uneasy with the directors approach: Larry hated working with me in the beginning. Hes used to rehearsing a scene the way its going to be shot. I said, Larry, thats not how I work. It always made him nervous, but he started to trust me and we had a good collaboration.

Fishburne himself found playing Stevens a rich opportunity. What makes Stevens special for me, he told Ryan, is hes a cop and hes a criminal at the same time. He has to do bad in order to do good. White actors get to play this type of stuff a lot, and we dont. Its an opportunity to show up and be a man on the screennot a black man, not a white man, not a superman, just a man. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly pointed to Fishburnes performance as one of the strengths of a film he judged inconsistent: Fishburne, with his hair-trigger line readings and deadly reptilian gaze, conveys the controlled desperation of someone watching his faith unravel.

With the big-screen exposure of Boyz N the Hood and Deep Cover and his Tony Award for Two Trains Running, Fishburne moved to the first rank of American actors, retaining and strengthening his reputation for integrity and depth. Yet, he claimed in his discussion with Ryan, he has never been in a hurry to achieve fame. Im glad it took this long. I probably wouldnt have been able to deal with it when I was frustrated about it. I dont know what would have happened. [I might have] pushed my self-destruct button. Fishbournes next project is a starring role in a film biography of Tina Turner titled Whats Love Got to Do With It?

Sources

Black Elegance, June/July 1992.

Detroit Free Press, June 2, 1992.

Entertainment Weekly, April 24, 1992.

Film Comment, July/August 1990.

Films in Review, February 1992.

Jet, July 15, 1991.

Los Angeles Times, January 12, 1992.

New Republic, September 2, 1991.

Newsweek, July 15, 1991.

New York, July 22, 1991.

New York Times, April 14, 1992.

Parade, June 28, 1992.

People, March 25, 1991; April 1, 1991; July 22, 1991.

Premiere, May 1992.

Sight and Sound, July 1991; August 1991; November 1991.

Time, May 11, 1992.

Video Review, March 1992.

Washington Post, July 7, 1991.

Additional information obtained from a press biography on Fishburne.

Simon Glickman

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Fishburne, Laurence (Larry)

FISHBURNE, Laurence (Larry)



Nationality: American. Born: Laurence Fishburne III in Augusta, Georgia, 30 July 1961. Family: Married Hajna Moss, 1985 (divorced); children: Langston Issa, Montana Isis. Career: Acted on the daytime soap opera One Life to Live while not yet in his teens, early 1970s; made screen debut in Cornbread, Earl and Me, 1975; lied about his age in order to be cast in Apocalypse Now, 1976; played the role of Cowboy Curtis on the TV show Pee-wee's Playhouse, and made guest appearances on the TV series M*A*S*H, Trapper John, M.D., and others, 1980s; altered his billing from Larry to Laurence, and appeared in the TV mini-series The Wild West, 1993. Awards: Tony Award for Two Trains Running, 1992; Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Emmy Award, for Tribeca, 1993; Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Image Award, for Higher Learning, 1995; Outstanding Made for Television Movie Emmy Award (earned as co-executive producer), Outstanding Lead Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Drama Special Image Award, for Miss Evers' Boys, 1997. Agent: Paradigm Talent Agency, 10100 Santa Monica Boulevard, 25th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90067, U.S.A.


Films as Actor:


(as Laurence Fishburne III)

1975

Cornbread, Earl and Me (Manduke) (as Wilford Robinson)

1979

Fast Break (Smight) (as street kid)


(as Larry Fishburne)

1979

Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola) (as Clean)

1980

A Rumor of War (Heffron—for TV) (as Lightbulb); Willie and Phil (Mazursky) (as Wilson)

1982

Death Wish II (Winner) (as Cutter)

1983

I Take These Men (Peerce—for TV) (as Hank Johnson); Rumble Fish (Francis Ford Coppola) (as Midget); For Us, the Living (Schultz—for TV)

1984

The Cotton Club (Francis Ford Coppola) (as Bumpy Rhodes)

1985

The Color Purple (Spielberg) (as Swain)

1986

Quicksilver (Donnelly) (as Voodoo); Band of the Hand (Glaser) (as Cream)

1987

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (Chuck Russell) (as Max); Gardens of Stone (Francis Ford Coppola) (as Cpl. Flanagan)

1988

School Daze (Spike Lee) (as Vaughn "Dap" Dunlap); Red Heat (Walter Hill) (as Lt. Stobbs); Cherry 2000 (De Jarnatt) (as Glu Glu Lawyer)

1989

Cadence (Stockade) (Sheen) (as Stokes)

1990

King of New York (Ferrara) (as Jimmy Jump); Decoration Day (Markowitz—for TV) (as Michael Waring)

1991

Class Action (Apted) (as Nick Holbrook); Boyz N the Hood (Singleton) (as Furious Styles); Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (Bahr and Hickenlooper—doc) (appearance)

1992

Deep Cover (Duke) (as Russell Stevens Jr./John Q. Hull)

(as Laurence Fishburne)

1993

What's Love Got to Do with It? (Gibson) (as Ike Turner); Searching for Bobby Fischer (Innocent Moves) (Zaillian) (as Vinnie)

1995

Higher Learning (Singleton) (as Professor Maurice Phipps); Bad Company (Harris) (as Nelson Crowe); Just Cause (Glimcher) (as Tanny Brown); The Tuskegee Airmen (Markowitz—for TV) (as Hannibal Lee)

1996

Othello (Alan Parker) (title role); Fled (Kevin Hooks) (as Piper)

1997

Miss Evers' Boys (Sargent—for TV) (as Caleb Humphries) (+ co-exec pr); Event Horizon (Anderson III) (as Captain Miller); Hoodlum (Duke) (as Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson) (+ co-exec pr)

1998

Welcome to Hollywood (Rifkin) (as Himself); Always Out-numbered (Apted—for TV) (as Socrates Fortlow) (+ co-exec pr)

1999

The Matrix (Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski) (as Morpheus)

2000

Michael Jordan to the Max (Kempf and Stern—doc) (as Narrator)



Films as Director:

1999

Once in the Life (+ sc, pr, ro as Riff Raff)



Publications


By FISHBURNE: articles—

"Getting Serious," interview with B. Coleman, in Village Voice (New York), 19 May 1992.

Interview in Playboy (Chicago), April 1994.

"Laurence Fishburne: The Actor Who Puts Risk before Reputation—and Proves Why That Matters So Much," interview with Sheila Benson, in Interview (New York), January 1995.

"Catching Fishburne," interview with Leslie Bennetts, in Vanity Fair (New York), December 1995.

"Moor to the Point," interview with Steve Grant, in Time Out (London), 20 December-3 January 1995–1996.


On FISHBURNE: articles—

Smith, Gavin, "Nobody Rides for Free," in Film Comment (New York), July/August 1990.

Smith, C., "Men and Boyz," in New York, 22 July 1991.

Weinraub, Bernard, "Teetering on the Brink of Stardom," in New York Times, 18 November 1991.

Ryan, J., "Deep Actor," in Premiere (New York), May 1992.

Giles, Jeff, "Searching for Larry Fishburne," in Newsweek (New York), 26 July 1993.

Edwards, Audrey, "A Man Called Fish," in Essence (New York), November 1994.

Smith, Chris, "Home Again," in New York, 6 November 1995.

Chutkow, "Flying Fish," in Cigar Aficionado (New York), February 2000.


* * *

Laurence Fishburne is a quietly powerful actor with a commanding screen presence who brings an earnestness and deep intensity to his roles. Essentially, he has played two character-types on screen. The first is analogous to a brutally psychotic time bomb ticking down and waiting to explode. Fishburne is an expert in such parts: witness his Oscar-nominated work as the physically and psychologically abusive Ike Turner opposite Angela Bassett's Tina in What's Love Got to Do with It? Fishburne's scenes with Bassett are nothing short of electrifying as he controls her like a puppeteer manipulating a puppet, shrewdly exploiting her personality flaws while transforming her into his virtual prisoner.

One example of a variation on this character is in Just Cause, in which Fishburne is cast as Tanny Brown, a character who first comes off as a black redneck: a cocksure, chillingly ruthless small-town cop in the New South, where blacks in power can be as corrupt as whites. Brown has brutalized a young black man, accused of raping and murdering a child, into confessing to the crime. As the scenario unfolds, Brown is softened somewhat as he is proven to have been correct in his instincts. Still, this cop's methods can in no way be condoned, and Fishburne's performance is far more interesting at the beginning of the film, when he is menacing.

When playing such roles Fishburne beautifully acts out his characters' intimidating nature, delivering threats in a soft, low voice. The characters he is browbeating—and the viewer—know he is deadly serious, know he is a dangerous man. And given his ability to convincingly portray menace, he was a natural for the title role in Hoodlum: Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, the 1930s mobster who tangles with white rivals Lucky Luciano and Dutch Schultz. Here, Fishburne transcends his often-pedestrian material, creating a solid portrait of an icily merciless thug.

The other Fishburne screen persona is the streetwise good guy, a thoughtful, soulful sort who has seen too much of the ugly side of life (most usually in urban America). His consummate performance in this role has been in Boyz N the Hood, the first feature directed by 23-year-old John Singleton. Fishburne plays Furious Styles, a black man desperately attempting to be a positive role model for his son Tre (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) in violence-laden South Central Los Angeles. Furious lectures Tre on living a responsible life, and not allowing himself to be seduced by the seamier aspects of the streets. The actor's performance in Boyz N the Hood is every bit as impressive, and as equally award-worthy, as his Ike Turner.

Fishburne rehashes Furious Styles in Steven Zaillian's Searching for Bobby Fischer, in which he also plays an adult who acts as role model to a boy. His Vinnie is a chess hustler who hangs out in New York's Washington Square Park and becomes the mentor of a seven-year-old chess genius. Vinnie prefers that the boy play the game using his instinct, his gut, and his heart—exactly the qualities Fishburne brings to his roles. Yet another "good guy" character is the nononsense political science professor in Higher Learning, also directed by John Singleton, in which he is thoroughly believable as a teacher who attempts to motivate his students by massaging their minds and getting them to think for themselves. He plays a variation of this character in an altogether different kind of film: The Matrix, a science fiction epic in which he is cast as the philosophical leader of a band of cyber-rebels. Fishburne manages to registers strongly amid all the eye-popping, state-of-the-art special effects.

In Deep Cover, Fishburne plays variations on both "good" and "bad" characters. He starts out the contemplative good guy: Russell Stevens, Jr., a cop who agrees to go undercover to ferret out some major-league drug dealers. Stevens, who as a child had seen his father shot to death while committing a robbery, has become a cop because of his desire to "make a difference." Here, too, he plays role model to a boy, a next-door-neighbor whose mother is an irresponsible parent. But as the story develops and Stevens sees he is being lied to by his superiors, he goes over the edge, becoming a renegade—and in essence, becoming the other Fishburne character.

One of Fishburne's first roles was in Francis Coppola's Apocalypse Now, in which he was cast as Clean, a young GI serving in Vietnam. The actor was not of legal age when hired for the film; reportedly, he lied about his age so that he could win the role and go on location in the Philippines. Additionally, he has won parts that, scant years earlier, a black actor never could have played in Hollywood movies: the lover of a white woman (Ellen Barkin) in Bad Company, for example, and the Southern sheriff in Just Cause. Also in this category is Othello, with Fishburne in the title role opposite a white Desdemona (Irene Jacob). Old Shakespearean hand Kenneth Branagh co-stars as Iago, and he and Fishburne match each other scene-by-scene. The latter's performance is at once tender and smoldering, and appropriately intense during his character's more tormented moments.

At the same time, some of Fishburne's more personal projects spotlight African-American history; they are fact-based stories featuring black characters as victims and heroes. These include the high-prestige made-for-TV movies Miss Evers' Boys, detailing a U.S. government medical experiment that resulted in the withholding of medicine to black men afflicted with syphilis; and The Tuskegee Airman, an ode to the "Fighting 99th," the initial squadron of black fighter pilots in World War II.

—Rob Edelman

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"Fishburne, Laurence (Larry)." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fishburne-laurence-larry