Remembering Prince: The Movie Star And Director
As the world mourns the passing of Prince today, we remember him for his singular music. Songs that were chart-toppers while also highly innovative. The multi-talented musician, however, would sometimes dip his toes into other avenues.In an outstanding career that spanned 40 years (and nearly as many albums), Prince occasionally crossed over into the world of both the big- and small-screen. While an incredible presence onstage as a musician, his on-screen ventures—Purple Rain aside—were nowhere near as successful.
The semi-autobiographical, self-mythologizing and prophetic Purple Rain was the first time Prince dipped his toes into Hollywood, and it would go on to be the most enduring moment of his film legacy. While the movie would go on to be a smash hit and a cult classic, at the time the director himself didn't think it would be remembered today.
"Did I think anyone would still be talking about Purple Rain 30 years after it was made?" director Albert Magnoli said in an interview with Biography.com. "From the trenches, honestly, no."
Purple Rain tells the story of an up-and-coming Minneapolis musician simply known as "The Kid," played by Prince himself. The film also introduced the world to Apollonia Kotero, cast as The Kid's love interest. Originally, the role was written for Vanity, but she left Vanity 6 before the movie went into production.
The film highlights are Prince and The Revolution's incredible performances, filmed over the course of a week at the Minneapolis club the First Avenue & 7th Street Entry.
Purple Rain went on to be a hit, getting generally positive reviews (it made Siskel and Ebert's top 10 of 1984) and grossing $68 million at the American box office. Its soundtrack would eventually sell over 22 million copies worldwide.
Prince would go on to win an Oscar for the film's soundtrack, for Best Original Song Score (an award that is not discontinued, but hasn't been given since):
UNDER THE CHERRY MOON
Prince followed up Purple Rain with what might be the first major misstep of his career, directing and acting in 1986's Under The Cherry Moon. Prince stars as a gigolo who attempts to swindle wealthy women of their fortune. The film is also notable as Kristin Scott Thomas' feature film debut.
With a budget of $12 million, the black-and-white screwball comedy made only $10 million at the box office and was trashed by critics. At the Golden Raspberry Awards, Under The Cherry Moon won five awards, including Worst Picture (which it shared with the infamous Howard The Duck) and Worst Director and Worst Actor for Prince.
In an attempt to reevaluate it two decades later, Nathan Rabin writes for the A.V. Club:
A woefully misbegotten would-be concoction, Cherry Moon is like cotton candy with the weight and consistency of a brick. Screwball comedies are all about pacing, speed, momentum, chemistry, wit, and the heedless, exhilarating forward rush of witty banter breathlessly executed. Those are all areas where Cherry Moon is sorely lacking.
At least it had Prince songs, right? Parade, the soundtrack to Under The Cherry Moon, was critically acclaimed and also contains one of his most beloved and best songs, "Kiss." BATMANFor Tim Burton's 1989 adaptation of Batman, Prince recorded an entirely new album for its soundtrack. (Oingo Boingo's Danny Elfman would write a separate score as well.)
While Parade, Sign o' The Times (1987) and Lovesexy (1988) were all critical successes, Prince's album sales since Purple Rain had been relatively modest. Attaching Prince to one of their blockbuster films was Warner Bros.' attempt to revive Prince's stature—and it worked. It was Prince's first No. 1 album in four years, and sold over 11 million copies.
Purple Rain director (and Prince's manager at the time) Albert Magnoli directed the memorable "Batdance" video:
Prince's final foray into feature filmmaking was Graffiti Bridge, the 1990 sequel to Purple Rain. In it, The Kid is once again pitted against his rival Morris (played by Morris Day, of course) and the film culminates in a music battle between the two over the ownership of the Glam Slam club.
In the L.A. Times review (headline: "A Bridge Too Far"), Michael Wilmington writes:
The new Prince movie, "Graffiti Bridge", is a blend of vaulting emotions and sentimental fluff, MTV and ersatz inspirationalism, dry ice and hot flesh, phony angels and searing funk. It's a mixed bag; parts of it are awful. But it has, and needs, only one major defense: It's full of Grade-A rock 'n' roll, rousingly well performed. It moves, it swings, it jumps and vibrates. It's a musical.
Graffiti Bridge was a major flop with both critics and at the box office, and was the last time Prince acted in or directed a feature film.NEW GIRL
Hey, remember that time Prince cameoed on New Girl? That was weird, huh. Turns out, Prince was a huge fan of the show and contacted the show's creators to make a guest appearance. How can you say no to The Purple One?
Looks like he made the most of that guest spot. A few months later, he and New Girl star Zooey Deschanel recorded and released the song "FALLINLOVE2NITE."
Prince was a true gentleman, a king among men. He was as sharp and as talented as they come. I'm so glad I was lucky enough to work with him— zooey deschanel (@ZooeyDeschanel) April 21, 2016