Prince quietly dominated during the third act of his phenomenal career, but the continued outpouring of sorrow following his death has been resounding. Those early fans who somehow forgot the impact he made upon their youth are rediscovering him by finally examining his late-era works. And people are exploring what may have been, including the movie roles he passed up.
Prince’s cinematic record wasn’t the greatest (although it was very Princely), but he had the chance to star in The Fifth Element, which boasts a substantial cult following. Director Luc Besson originally hoped to cast the Purple One alongside Mel Gibson (in Bruce Willis’ role) and Julia Roberts (as Milla Jovovich’s iconic Leeloo) for a 1992 release, but funding issues delayed production. Prince was to play the flamboyant Ruby Rhod, who was embodied by fast-talking Chris Tucker when the film hit theaters in 1997.
Costume designer Jean Paul Gaultier reveals (in a letter obtained by Gizmodo) how Prince’s attitude towards the role chilled when presented with his character’s attire. The meeting between Prince and Gaultier did not go well, as the singer wasn’t a fan of the elaborate bodysuit originally envisioned for the role. He found it far too “too effeminate,” and he especially didn’t appreciate Gaultier had to say during the costume pitch:
“I showed him my drawings, but he didn’t say a word. I had had an idea for a really funny costume with netting which quite long body hair would pass through, and I had done front and back versions of it. So then I explained to Prince [in my broken English and French accent]: ‘Eet eel fake ‘air, you know, and eet eel beaucoup, beaucoup, airy, vraiment fun, and ze back is made of sat, and on ze back were eez ze faux cul, you know, a very big faux cul.’ and I slapped my buttocks to show him how the back of the costume would be designed.”
This sounds like something Prince might actually dig, given his often-androgynous personal style. However, Prince thought Gaultier was actually saying something different while talking about the costume’s butt area:
“He found the costumes a bit too effeminate. And, most importantly, he had thought he heard “Fc*k you, fc*k you!” when I was saying in my terrible English accent “faux cul, faux cul” [fake ass]!”
How rude. No one says that to Prince, and Gaultier didn’t either, but it was fate that Prince would turn down this role. In all likelihood, he would have outshone every other star, and even if he’d starred in the 1997 production, Prince would outweighed all. We may never have noticed the wonders of Jovovich saying “multipass,” so everything worked out for the best. You can see the god-awful bodysuit that Prince rejected right here.