Jack Nicholson's Joker went nuts to a Prince song in Tim Burton's 1989 "Batman."|Warner Bros. Pictures1/3
Jack Nicholson's Joker went nuts to a Prince song in Tim Burton's 1989 "Batman."|Warner Bros. Pictures
Julia Roberts treated viewers to her rendition of Prince's "Kiss" in "Pretty Woman|Provided2/3
Julia Roberts treated viewers to her rendition of Prince's "Kiss" in "Pretty Woman|Provided
George Miller's singing-dancing penguins movie "Happy Feet" scored two Prince song|Provided3/3
George Miller's singing-dancing penguins movie "Happy Feet" scored two Prince song|Provided
Like any great artist, Prince Rogers Nelson dabbled in movies. But he was picky. His songs were used in dozens and dozens of movies, but they weren’t always the biggest hits. Sometimes he preferred a hands-on approach rather than casually signing over his work to be used by others. He even directed three features, including the 1987 concert movie “Sign ‘o’ the Times.”
In honor of Prince, who passed away at 57, here are six films in which Prince had a hand, sometimes more.
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‘Summer Lovers’ (1982)
The first film to use the Sexy MF was seriously sexy. It was the tale of two Americans (Darryl Hannah and Peter Gallagher) and a French woman (Valerie Quennessen) who start a menage a trois — pretty much the perfect way for Prince to enter the movies. It only used two of his songs — “Sexy Dancer,” from his self-titled second album, and “Sexuality,” off of “Controversy” — amidst a soundtrack including The Pointer Sisters, Chicago, Depeche Mode and Tina Turner. But you gotta start somewhere, and a movie about naked pretty people is a good place to plant his seed.
‘Purple Rain’ (1984)
Enough ink has been spilled about Prince’s bid for movie superstardom, which became one of the year’s biggest hits —and inevitably caused the prophetic taste-makers at the Razzies to name him 1984’s “Worst New Star.” It’s long been de rigueur to crap on his two follow-ups, both of which he directed, in addition to headlining. But you’ve got to love that he chased a monster moneymaker with 1986’s “Under the Cherry Moon,” a black-and-white ode to the French New Wave co-starring no less than a young Kristin Scott Thomas. Once seen as a vanity ego stroke, it’s slowly started to be reclaimed. Maybe one day the same will happen to 1990’s “Graffiti Bridge.”
Can you imagine the latest superhero romp fitted with several new songs by Kanye? 1989 was a different time, and the film that really kicked off the neverending cinematic comic book era in earnest boasted both a traditional orchestral score (by Danny Elfman) and a pile of new Prince tunes. Originally it was to be a tag team effort with Michael Jackson, but Prince wound up doing it all, gifting the world with the sight of Jack Nicholson, in Joker regalia, mucking about a museum to the strains of “Party Man.” Tim Burton hated the inclusion, forced upon him by producers worried the Caped Crusader wouldn’t be enough of a draw on his own. But safe to say no superhero movie has ever been cool enough to birth “Batdance.”
‘Pretty Woman’ (1990)
OK, it’s actually just Julia Roberts cheerfully screeching “Kiss” while the song is piped into her ears through headphones. But it’s an iconic moment — and this, in a movie directed by Garry Marshall, the guy about to give us “Mother’s Day.”
‘Girl 6’ (1996)
Back in “Do the Right Thing,” Spike Lee’s Mookie unsuccessfully tried to lobby John Turturro’s character to say he preferred Prince to Springsteen. Seven years later Spike wound up working with the by then-Artist Formerly Known as Prince, who supplied the soundtrack to his 1996 comedy. (Fittingly, the film concerned a sex worker, played by Theresa Randle.) Prince mostly gave him unreleased tracks, plus the catchy title song. But no complaints.
‘Happy Feet’ (2006)
So here’s a nice story: For his movie about dancing, singing penguins, director George Miller — yes, the maker of the “Mad Max” franchise, who also helped create the “Babe” films — wanted to have his critters croon “Kiss.” But first he had to clear it through Prince. Prince was reluctant, but Miller was adamant. Miller decided to show it to him first, then see if he’d change his mind. Prince loved “Happy Feet” — because, however insane it sounds, it’s very, very watchable — and he was so passionate he not only allowed him to use it, he recorded an entirely new song for it, “Song of the Heart.” Prince was awesome that way.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge