From his self-titled 1979 debut album through his two-volume HITnRun collection in 2015, Prince ruled magnificently as a one-of-a-kind musical genius. In addition, even Prince’s most casual fans tend to be aware that he also uniquely contributed to cinema, most notably by conceiving, starring in, and performing the multiplatinum soundtrack for the landmark 1984 big-screen sensation, Purple Rain.
As dominant as Purple Rain is when discussing Prince on film—as it rightly should be—there remains more to the mighty Minneapolis visionary’s movie work than just one huge hit.
Join us now for a look at facts, figures, and other intriguing aspects of interest regarding Prince in Hollywood—and in the hearts of film fans forever.
Catch Purple Rain and other classics during VH1’s Throwback Thanksgiving movie marathon!
Purple Rain Proved to Be Warner Bros’ Most Important Hit of 1984
Purple Rain not only opened to rave reviews, it earned $68.4 million at the box office on a budget of $7 million. The movie then proved to be a blockbuster on VHS, solidifying Warners’ home video division. In addition, the soundtrack album sold in huge numbers for Warner Music and its accompanying promo clips that ran in heavy rotation on MTV fired up the company’s music video wing.
The Purple Rain Soundtrack Stayed at #1 for 24 Weeks
In the course of its nearly six-month run atop the Billboard album rankings, Purple Rain generated the #1 singles “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy.” The title track hit #2, while “I Would Die 4 U” reached #8. To date, the Purple Rain LP has sold more than 15 million copies.
Rumor Had It Purple Rain Would Be Rated X
Just before Purple Rain hit theaters, rumors cropped up that a sex scene between Prince and Apollonia Kotero got so explicit that the MPAA slapped the film with an X rating. Director Albert Magnoli says he shot three versions of the stars’ romantic encounter—one that could pass for a G rating, one that was PG, and the final R-rated take—but he denies he ever filmed anything that would have even flirted with being branded X-caliber.
Jennifer Beals Turned Down Purple Rain
Prince’s real-life romantic partner and protégé Vanity initially signed on to portray his fictionalized romantic partner and protégé in Purple Rain. After the pair split in real life, Warner Bros. offered the role to Jennifer Beals to be her follow-up to starring in the 1983 blockbuster, Flashdance. Beals turned it down, opting instead to go back to college.
Prince Directed Three Theatrical Feature Films
Prince added Hollywood filmmaker to his credits in 1986 when he helmed his cult black-and-white musical romance Under the Cherry Moon. Later, he directed two of his own concert films that played theaters: Sign O’ the Times (1987) and Graffiti Bridge (1990).
Batman Director Tim Burton Insisted Prince Do the Movie’s Music
As part of his conditions for agreeing to direct Warner Bros.’ 1989 superhero epic Batman, director Tim Burton said he’d only do it if the studio could get Prince to provide songs for the soundtrack. Prince, who was his very own kind of superhero, agreed and contributed six numbers, as well as the wacky spin-off single, “Batdance,” which went all the way to #1 on the pop charts.
Spike Lee’s Girl 6 Contains 20 Different Prince Songs
Director Spike Lee’s phone sex operator drama Girl 6 may have flopped with many critics, but its soundtrack is a goldmine for Prince fans. The songs in the film represent the entire span of Prince’s output up to that point, including three previously unreleased numbers: “She Spoke 2 Me,” “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” and the title track, “Girl 6.”
“Kiss” Appears in Five Different Movies
Aside from Under the Cherry Moon, for which it was composed, and a couple of concert films, Prince’s 1986 #1 smash “Kiss” turns up in My Stepmother Is an Alien (1988), Pretty Woman (1990), Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (1996), and Gulliver’s Travels (2010). Most charmingly, cartoon penguins sing it to one another during the opening of Happy Feet (2006)
Prince Loved Showgirls
Ever the lover of ladies, Prince contributed two tracks to the notorious 1995 cult favorite Showgirls: “319,” and “Ripopgodezippa.” Elizabeth Berkley, who stars in the film as pole-dancing predator Nomi Malone, says she passed by Prince in Tower Records one afternoon before the movie even came out, and he nonchalantly said to her, “Hi, Nomi.”
Summer Lovers Was the First Movie to Feature Prince on Its Soundtrack
“Sexy Dancer” and “Sexuality” turn up on the soundtrack of this enjoyably trashy tale of a young couple’s Greek island getaway turning into a ménage-a-trois. Daryl Hannah and Peter Gallagher co-star. Randall Kleiser, who made Grease (1978) and The Blue Lagoon (1980) directs.
There’s a Big Budget Prince Movie Musical That No One Has Ever Seen
I’ll Do Anything (1994) is a romantic comedy-drama about Hollywood industry types from acclaimed director James L. Brooks starring Nick Nolte, Albert Brooks, Tracy Ullman, and Joely Richardson. It was shot with full-blown song and dance numbers featuring the stars (and a cast of thousands!) and previewed in theaters as an upcoming musical sensation. Prince wrote much of the music. Just a few weeks before its unbreakable release date, Brooks edited out all the production pieces. The movie bombed anyway, and, worse, the Prince song sequences have never surfaced.