MINNEAPOLIS - "Purple Rain" is the iconic movie that influenced the Minneapolis music scene and catapulted the career of its star and inspiration.
For Prince, it was a home movie gone Hollywood, the likes of which this town had never experienced. Thirty years later, there's still a mystique behind how and why "Purple Rain" was made.
So, we organized a reunion of some of the original cast and crew to talk with Julie Nelson about that momentous time.
Included in the interview from the "Purple Rain" crew were Craig Rice, production associate, Kirk Hokanson, locations manager, and Sheryl Mousley, production associate. We also chatted with Matt Fink, keyboardist for The Revolution, Paul Peterson, keyboardist for The Time and Alan Leeds, former Prince manager.
"Do you remember the feeling you had at the time? Obviously you hoped it would be big."
"I came in three weeks before the shoot and it was a lot of new people, new producers, people who had never produced before. On the first day of shooting, one of the three producers is on set reading a book on how to make a movie (laugh). I thought , Oh my God, go back to New York now! This is not going to go well."
"Of course there was the skepticism in the back of your mind that it would actually happen. But, ah, knowing Prince, and how hard he works at those kind of things, I thought he would get it done. If anybody could pull it off, he could."
"How did Prince take direction?"
"Nobody bothered to give him any. (laugh) He had this vision, that he eventually convinced his managers, who eventually along with Prince convinced us and Warner records, who then convinced Warner films that it was at least worth a crap shoot. But I don't think anybody in the film industry took the idea seriously until it started to test as a finished movie."
"What do you think it meant for Minneapolis?"
"I think it put us on the map in a lot of ways. A lot of people wanted to move here to get into the music industry after that movie, as well.
"The scenes in the club reflected a cultural mix that was very unique to this city at that time. Minneapolis was kind of on the cutting edge of how various people mix together in nightclubs."
"Any memorable behind the scenes moments?"
"I remember being in dance class down at the ballet company and that was the funniest thing I've ever seen in my life. All these knuckleheads trying to do all these Broadway dance numbers the guy was teaching us, nobody had ever done that before. We would start with the Jane Fonda workout."
"We were looking for the rehearsal space for Apollonia, and they all looked the same. At the risk of getting fired, I took the production designer to this abandoned warehouse, the train place. And I said, Morris wouldn't pay somebody to rent a dance hall, he's going to have some junk heap someplace that he got for free, and boom we shot there and it was great."
"I don't know Prince well and one of the things I loved was watching the dailies with the group. To watch his reaction to what was on the screen and hear him decide whether or not you had to reshoot, was fascinating. He was quiet and thoughtful and to me seemed to be innocent in a way."
"What else would you want people to know about the film?"
"You know it was an unique way to shoot music, kind of forging new ground having the performers and the extras be so close to each other, like there's one scene where Prince is laying down on the stage and singing and some of the people are just touching his shoulder , it's so intimate, so close it's not the band over here and the people over here, it was really tight and I think people really liked that."
"It was a multi-cultural, multi- ethnic, which is Minnesota, and it didn't exclude any group of people. Everybody could express themselves and I think it was funny, too. Everybody forgets that it was actually a funny movie. Morris and Jerome with their antics, it was real schtick and good stuff."
"The things I recall about Prince at that time; how brilliant he was, where he was at in his career and what it took for him to have people believe in him to the point of doing records and movies. As someone who works with young people, I use him as example to show that it's all possible."
"The thing that endures for those that don't share in the sociological part of it, is simply the fact that there are those amazing songs performed in this amazing way. and shot so amazingly. And at the end of the day, that's really the legacy of the film."
We'll continue to share excerpts from our interview, along with new interviews and materials that we collect as we get closer to the "Purple Rain" 30th Anniversary of the movie release in July. Look for Bobby Z's third annual Benefit 2 Celebrate Life concert at First Avenue on June 28th. Apollonia is participating and there's sure to be other "Purple Rain" connections.