“I’ve played a lot of bad guys, ‘cause that was the only work I could get. People saw my face and went ‘oooh.’” Laurence Fishburne
African-American actor/producer/director Laurence Fishburne gathered worldwide fame and recognition for his portrayal of tough, mysterious, leather-clad Morpheus in the blockbuster, stylish, sci-fi action The Matrix (1999), and its continuations, The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003). The role garnered him a Blockbuster Entertainment Award, a MTV Movie Award, as well as nominations at the Saturn, the Image and the MTV Movie Awards. Starting his film career in the mid 1970s, excellent and underused actor Fishburne eventually gained notice in the early 1990s after playing vice Lord Jimmy Jump in Abel Ferrara’s King of New York (1990). He continued making an impression with his starring role of the father Jason ‘Furious’ Styles in Boyz N the Hood (1991), achieved leading-man status as a covertly drug agent in Bill Duke’s Deep Cover (1992), in which he received an Independent Spirit nomination, was nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars for his good portrayal of selfish soul singer Ike Turner in the Tina Turner biopic, What's Love Got to Do with It (1993) and earned a nomination at the Image Awards after having the title character in Shakespeare’s Othello (1995). In 1995, Fishburne took home an Image Award for playing supporting role Professor Maurice Phipps in Singleton’s drama Higher Learning.
On the small screen, Fishburne has established a reputation for himself as a TV superstar. He starred and executive produced the television movie Miss Evers' Boys (1997), in which his dazzling work handed him several awards like an Image Award, a Cable ACE Award, an Emmy Award and a PGA Golden Laurel Award. His bright acting also received a nomination at the Emmy Awards. In 1995, the actor won an Image for his magnificent portrayal of Hannibal ‘Iowa’ Lee, Jr. in the acclaimed television film The Tuskegee Airmen (1995). Moreover, the role brought him an Emmy, a Golden Globe and SAG nominations. Two years before, Fishburne nabbed an Emmy Award for his significant performance in the pilot episode of Fox’s short-lived series “Tribeca” (1993). On stage, he nabbed a Tony Award for his spectacular performance in August Wilson’s acclaimed Broadway “Two Trains Running” (1992).
Fans can catch the actor in the recent and upcoming drama-thrillers Five Fingers (2005), Assault on Precinct 13 (2005), Akeelah and the Bee (2006), J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III (2006), The Death and Life of Bobby Z (2006) and A Landlord's Tale (2007).
Childhood and Family:
Born to a correction officer father, Laurence Fishburne Sr., and a school teacher mother, Hattie Fishburne, on July 30, 1961, in Augusta, Georgia, Lawrence Fishburne III grew up in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, New York, under the care of his single mother following his parents’ divorce. He has one brother named Lamuel Fishburne, who also pursued a career in acting. Laurence attended the New York High School for the Performing Arts and later took acting lessons at New York‘s Lincoln Square Academy.
Laurence Fishburne, who carried the nicknames Fish or Larry, found a knack for acting at an early age. With his natural gift, young Laurence landed his first acting exposure in second grade playing Peter Pan. At age 10, he made his professional stage debut by portraying a young baseball enthusiast in Charles Fuller’s “My Many Names and Faces” at NYC’s New Federal Theatre. Laurence received his first television role by the time he was 12 and began his film career two years later.
24 year-old Laurence married casting director Hanja O. Moss in 1985, but they later divorced during the 1990s. With Moss, Laurence shares two children, a son named Langston Fishburne (born in 1987) and a daughter named Montana Fishburne (born in 1991). The failure led to a new relationship with actress Gina Torres (born in 1969). After their engagement in February 2001, the couple married at the Cloisters museum in New York, on September 22, 2002.
Miss Evers’ Boys
A kid with a natural gift for acting, 10-year-old Laurence Fishburne kicked off his stage career in NYC's New Federal Theatre as a youthful baseball fan in Charles Fuller’s play titled “My Many Names and Faces” and got his first taste in front of the camera as Dr. Joshua West Hall, the adopted son of a police captain, in the daytime soap opera “One Life to Live” two years after his professional stage debut. By the time he was 14, Fishburne had made his film debut as Wilford Robinson in the 1975 drama Cornbread, Earl and Me, for director Joseph Manduki. His film career began to take off when Francis Ford Coppola cast Fishburne as young Navy gunner Tyrone ‘Clean’ Miller in his adventure film Apocalypse Now (1979), starring deceased actor Marlon Brando, and Martin Sheen.
Back in Hollywood in the late 1970s, after an 18-month shoot in the Philippines for Apocalypse Now, Fishburne went on to take small roles in movies and in television, including roles in the TV series “The Six O’ Clock Follies” (1980), the drama/comedy Willie and Phil (1980), A Rumor of War (1980, TV), Death Wish II (1982), For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story (1983, TV) and I Take These Men (1983, TV). He then rejoined Coppola for the drama Rumble Fish (1983, starring Matt Dillon) and The Cotton Club (1984), in which he was featured alongside an all-star cast of Richard Gere, Diane Lane and Fred Gwynne. In Steven Spielberg's film adaptation of Alice Walker's The Color Purple (1985), he found himself acting opposite Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover. From 1986-1988, Fishburne added seven films to his resume, namely Quicksilver (1986), Band of the Hand (1986), A Nightmare On Elm Street Part III (1987), Coppola’s Gardens of Stone (1987), Cherry 2000 (1987), Spike Lee's School Daze (1986, costarring opposite Giancarlo Esposito and Tisha Campbel) and Red Heat (1988, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger). He was also seen on TV with his continuing role of pleasant Cowboy Curtis with Paul Reubens on the absurd CBS children's series Pee-Wee's Playhouse (1986).
By the early ‘90s, Fishburne had not only begun to flee the stereotypical roles of brutes and young hoodlums, but he also started making an impact on audiences. In 1990, he was perfectly cast as psychotic hit man Jimmy Jump in Abel Ferrara’s King of New York (1990, with Christopher Walken) and his breakthrough movie arrived a year later when he teamed up with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ice Cube for director John Singleton urban drama Boyz N the Hood (1991), in which the actor won praise for a fine performance as the father Jason ‘Furious’ Styles. In 1992, he finally reached leading-man status as undercover narcotics agent Russell Stevens in Bill Duke’s Deep Cover, a role which brought him an Independent Spirit nomination.
In 1992, Fishburne debuted on Broadway as a former con romancing a waitress in August Wilson’s acclaimed drama “Two Trains Running.” His bright acting handed him a prestigious Tony for Best Actor in 1992. He combined the success on screen with his Oscar-nominated performance of egotistic soul singer Ike Turner in the critically panned Tina Turner biopic, What's Love Got to Do with It (1993, opposite Angela Bassett). Additionally, Fishburne took home a 1993 Emmy for Best Guest Actor for his performance in the pilot episode of Fox’s short-lived series “Tribeca” (1993).
Now one of Hollywood’s most productive actors, Fishburne supported Joan Allen and Ben Kingsley in the chess drama Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993), where he played chess-playing hustler Vinnie. After taking a two-year hiatus, Fishburne returned to film by rejoining Singleton for his drama Higher Learning. Due to his impressive, scene-stealing Professor Maurice Phipps, the actor won an Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture. That was followed by Bad Company (1995, starring opposite Ellen Barkin) and Just Cause (1995). He earned an Image nomination for his title role in Shakespeare’s Othello (1995), costarring Irene Jacob and Kenneth Branaugh.
The same year, Fishburne attracted the attention of TV audiences when he played Hannibal ‘Iowa’ Lee, Jr. in the acclaimed HBO movie The Tuskegee Airmen (1995). His bravura performance handed him an Image for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series, as well as earned an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a SAG nomination. Two years later, Fishburne cemented his position as a television star with his starring role of Caleb Humphries, opposite Alfre Woodard, in the made-for-TV movie Miss Evers' Boys (1997, also served as an executive producer). His brilliant work garnered him an Image for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Television Movie or Mini-Series, a Cable ACE, an Emmy for Outstanding Made for Television Movie and a PGA Golden Laurel for Producer of the Year. He also received an Emmy nomination in the category of Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Special.
Following Event Horizon (1997), Fishburne worked again with Bill Duke to star as Ellsworth ‘Bumpy’ Johnson in his crime/drama Hoodlum (1997). His good turn as a 1930s Harlem swindler who locks horns with Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth) and Lucky Luciano (Andy Garcia) won critical raves and earned him nominations at the Image Awards and the Acapulco Black Film Festival Black Film Awards. In the following year, he executive produced and starred as Socrates Fortlow in the HBO movie Always Outnumbered (1998), where he received Image and Golden Satellite nominations.
Fishburne stepped into the blockbuster realm in 1999 when he was cast as tough, baffling, leather-clad Morpheus, the hacker-mentor of Neo (Keanu Reeves), in the box office science fiction hit The Matrix (1999). In 2000, he picked up a Blockbuster Entertainment for Favorite Supporting Actor in Action/Science-Fiction, a MTV Movie for Best Fight Sequence, and received nominations at the Saturn, the Image and the MTV Movie Awards for his outstanding work in the film. Moreover, Fishburne was honored with a Career Achievement Award at the Chicago International Film Festival in 2000.
In the new millennium, the actor tried his hand in directing by making his debut in Once in the Life (2000), in which he also played 20/20 Mike. Starring Eamonn Walker and Gregory Hines, the crime-drama film was adapted from his play titled “Riff Raff.” He next provided the voice for Thrax in the animated film Osmosis Jones (2001) before taking another hiatus in 2002. Fishburne was back the following year to star with Derek Luke in the fast and furious motorcycle flick Biker Boyz (2003). The same year, he was back in the Hollywood mainstream when he reprised Morpheus for the second sequel smash The Matrix Reloaded (2003). After working in Clint Eastwood‘s mystery Mystic River (2003), he returned to his role Morpheus for the third installment, The Matrix Revolutions (2003).
44-year-old Fishburne recently played a lead role, alongside Touriya Haoud, in the drama-thriller Five Fingers (2005) and was featured as Marion Bishop in the Jean-François Richet-directed Assault on Precinct 13 (2005). The crime film starred Ja Rule, Maria Bello, Peter Bryant and Gabriel Byrne. Additionally, from 2006-2007, Fishburne has three films in production and an announced project on the way. He first will costar with Angela Bassett and Keke Palmer in the Doug Atchison-scripted drama Akeelah and the Bee (2006). He will then join the cast of J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III (2006), which includes Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames and Kerry Russell, and team up with Paul Walker in the crime movie The Death and Life of Bobby Z (2006). In 2007, he can add a big screen version of Gammy Singer’s A Landlord's Tale (2007) to his acting resume.
MTV Movie: Best Fight Sequence, The Matrix, 2000
Blockbuster Entertainment: Favorite Supporting Actor - Action/Science-Fiction, The Matrix, 2000
Chicago International Film Festival: Career Achievement Award, 2000
Image: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Television Movie or Mini-Series, Miss Evers’ Boys, 1998
PGA Golden Laurel: Television Producer of the Year, Miss Evers' Boys, 1998
Emmy: Outstanding Made for Television Movie, Miss Evers’ Boys, 1997
Cable ACE: Miss Evers’ Boys, 1997
Image: Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series, The Tuskegee Airmen, 1996
Image: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, Higher Learning, 1996
Emmy: Best Guest Actor, Tribeca, 1993
Tony: Best Actor, “Two Trains Running,” 1992