‘Tremendously powerful presence’: George Miller, Jimmy Barnes pay tributes to Tina Turner

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Filmmaker George Miller called Tina Turner “one of those people you thought was indestructible”.

The Oscar-winner directed her as Aunt Entity, the ruler of a desert outpost called Bartertown, in the 1985 film Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. It showed her screen charisma and delivered a hit song, We Don’t Need Another Hero, which ran over the end credits.

Tina Turner stars in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.Credit: Warner Bros

Turner, who died in Zurich at the age of 83, had a close relationship with Australia, through the film, her music, and her promotion of the National Rugby League.

“She was a tremendously powerful presence,” Miller said. “It was one of the great privileges of my life to be working with her – not only as an actor but as a human being. She was incredibly wise, probably one of the wisest people I’ve ever met.”

Miller said that while writing the script for the third Mad Max film, they talked about casting “someone like Tina Turner”. When it came time to cast, they thought “why not ask Tina Turner to see if she’s interested?”.

After an approach to her Australian manager Roger Davies, Turner was in. “She said ‘I’d been wanting to do something like this’,” Miller said.

The director, who is working on post-production for a fifth Mad Max film, Furiosa, in Sydney, remembered being at her 50th birthday party in London and seeing Turner “holding court, like some great queen” at table with Mick Jagger and other rock stars.

“It was like some scene out of a movie about Catherine the Great,” he said.

Her personal qualities included patience, discipline – “she was a meditator, a Buddhist” – and the hard-won wisdom from her earlier trauma and abuse from former husband Ike Turner that allowed her to mentor other people going through tough times.

“I remember being in a house one time and she had to take a call from one of the Jackson brothers,” Miller said. “She was a mentor to the Jacksons – and Michael Jackson – during that time. I realised that happened to everybody, including the likes of the Rolling Stones. She was adored like a queen by all of them.”

Jimmy Barnes wrote on social media that he was “so sad to hear that Tina Turner has left us”, posting images of the two of them in a recording studio.

“It was such an honour to work with someone so talented, strong and giving,” the great Australian singer wrote. “It was certainly a highlight of my career to have sung and shared the stage with such a wonderful human being. Thank you and R.I.P.”

Tina Turner and Jimmy Barnes in 1992. Barnes paid tribute to “a wonderful human being” on Thursday.Credit: Fairfax Media

One of the highlights for Australian fans of Turner was when she sang Simply The Best in a legendary marketing campaign for the NSW Rugby League in 1990 then blasting out the song at the 1993 grand final. It was a cover of a song, The Best, previously recorded by Bonnie Tyler.

Barnes recorded another memorable version as a duet with Turner in 1992, calling it (Simply) The Best, with Johnny Diesel on guitar.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called Turner “a legend who overcame trauma and domestic violence to provide a soundtrack to our lives”. Expressing his condolences on Twitter, he added “Tina was Simply the Best. Vale.”

Country music star Keith Urban also took to social media to pay tribute.

In 2021, Urban and H.E.R. performed It’s Only Love – a duet that Turner originally recorded with Bryan Adams in 1994 – to celebrate her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame.

“I just heard about Tina Turner’s passing, and it hit my heart,” Urban wrote on Twitter.

“I’m immediately hearing THAT VOICE, I’m seeing THAT ENERGY, and I’m feeling that strength, sensuality, determination, and passion. That LIFE FORCE. I’m grateful that we have the music and the performances — the source for SO much of what you hear and see in countless other artists to this day. A matchless imprint. Thank you for everything you gave Tina.”

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