Laurence Fishburne’s first ever acting role was in 1973 for the ABC soap opera ‘One Life to Live’ as Joshua Hall. His most memorable early role came in ‘Cornbread, Earl and Me’ in which he played a young boy who witnesses the police shooting of a popular high school basketball star.
In 1976, Fishburne earned a supporting role in the film ‘Apocalypse Now’ playing the character of Tyrone Miller. The film released only in 1979.
Throughout the 1980s, Fishburne made periodic appearances in television and stage shows. He had a recurring role as Cowboy Curtis on Paul Reubens’ CBS children's television show ‘Pee-wee's Playhouse’, and guest roles in ‘M*A*S*H’ and ‘Spenser: For Hire’. His stage shows of this time include ‘Short Eyes’ and ‘and Loose Ends.’
Among the numerous film projects that he did in the 1980s, the most important were his roles in the critically acclaimed Steven Spielberg film ‘The Color Purple’, and Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Cotton Club’ and ‘Gardens of Stone.’ Towards the end of the decade, he featured in ‘Red Heat’ and Spike Lee’s ‘School Daze’.
The dull and somewhat lean phase of the 1980s was quickly taken over by the starry decade of the 1990s which gave Fishburne’s career the much needed boost. His lead role in John Singleton's urban tale ‘Boyz n the Hood’ earned him extensive appreciation and gained him the stardom that he eyed for.
In 1992, he gave a powerful and captivating stage performance in August Wilson’s play, ‘Two Trains Running’ for which he won nearly every prestigious theatre award including the Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, Theatre World and Outer Critics circle.
After the phenomenal success on stage, he gave an award-winning performance in the pilot episode of the short-lived anthology series television drama, ‘TriBeCa’. The performance earned him an Emmy award.
In 1993, Fishburne gave a first-class performance in his role of Ike Turner in ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’. He gave yet another memorable performance as West Indian Professor Maurice Phipps in the 1995 American drama ensemble film, ‘Higher Learning’ for which he won an Image Award.
In the 1990s, he also played the title role in ‘Othello’ and later starred in the science fiction horror ‘Event Horizon’ as a spaceship rescue team leader. Furthermore, he was nominated for his fine work in the television-movies ‘The Tuskegee Airmen’ and ‘Miss Evers' Boys’.
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In the year 1999 came the magnum opus of Fishburne’s career with the blockbuster science fiction film ‘The Matrix’. In it, he played the role of Morpheus, the hacker-mentor of Neo. The film was a major hit and was critically and commercially acclaimed. Such was the positive reception of the film that its sequels came in eventually titled ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ and ‘The Matrix Revolutions’ wherein Fishburne reprised his role.
Fishburne later appeared with Tom Cruise in ‘Mission: Impossible III’ wherein he capped the role of Theodore Brassell, the IMF superior of Cruise's character.
He tried his hand at screenwriting and direction with the self-starrer film ‘Once in the Life’. Based on the critically acclaimed play ‘Riff Raff’, the film was well received.
Beginning from 2000, Laurence Fishburne appeared in a lot of films. He played a dogged police sergeant in Clint Eastwood's ‘Mystic River’ and a spelling bee coach in ‘Akeelah and the Bee’. He gave his voice to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film ‘TMNT’ and later the ‘Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer’.
In 2008, he returned to theatre for the one-man show ‘Thurgood’ playing Thurgood Marshall. The performance earned him a Drama Desk Award as well. The same year, Fishburne replaced William Petersen as the male lead investigator on the popular CBS drama ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’.
In 2013, Fishburne essayed the role of Daily Planet chief Perry White in the Zack Snyder-directed Superman reboot film ‘Man of Steel’. The same year, he joined the cast of ‘Hannibal’ as Dr. Jack Crawford, head of Behavioral Sciences at the FBI. In 2015, he had a recurring role in the ABC sitcom ‘Black-ish’.
Three years after he played Perry White in the Superman reboot ‘Man of Steel’, Fishburne reprised his role in the sequel ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ in 2016. The same year, he appeared in the science fiction film ‘Passengers’.
Laurence Fishburne’s latest appearance has been in the 2017 neo-noir action thriller film ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ as the Bowery King. His upcoming releases include the American comedy-drama ‘Last Flag Flying’ as Mulhall.
Awards & Achievements
In 1992, Laurence Fishburne won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in ‘Two Trains Running.’
He was bestowed with the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role for ‘Higher Learning’ in 1995.
He won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in Television Movie or Mini-Series for ‘The Tuskegee Airmen’ in 1996.
In 2006, he won the Black Movie Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for ‘Akeelah and the Bee’.
In 2007, Fishburne was honored with the Harvard Foundation's Artist of the Year award for his achievements as an actor and entertainer and also for his humanitarian pursuits.
In 2015, Fishburne won the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor on Television for the ‘Hannibal’
Personal Life & Legacy
Laurence Fishburne tied the nuptial knot in 1985 with actress Hajna O. Moss in New York. They have two children, son Langston born in 1987 and daughter Montana Fishburne born in 1991. However, things did not go well between the two and they headed for a split in the 1990s.
Fishburne first met Gina Torres in February 2001. The wedding bells for the two rang in September 2002 in New York City. Five years later, in June 2007 they welcomed their first child, a daughter, Delilah.
Fishburne is an active UNICEF ambassador.
The mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Kenneth Reeves, awarded Fishburne the key to the city and declared February 24 as ‘Laurence Fishburne’ day in the city.