Prince didn’t have many IMDB acting credits that weren’t for his own projects, but he was nearly a major part of a sci-fi cult classic. Though the role eventually went to (a brilliant) Chris Tucker, the Purple Performer was originally supposed to portray Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element.
The story behind the near casting was revealed during an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum focused on the costume design work of Jean Paul Gaultier. Featured in the show was his original sketches for what would have been Prince’s costume, alongside a story about how Gaultier’s French accent caused a hilarious misunderstanding between the two. (It also revealed that Mel Gibson was originally cast as Korben Dallas with Julia Roberts as Leeloo. Different. Movie. Entirely.)
“I showed him my drawings, but he didn’t say a word,” Gaultier’s tale goes. “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: “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.”
At this point, Prince gave the costume designer a blank stare Gaultier described as a “Charlie Chaplin kind of look.” Though he didn’t know what had happened, he knew Prince had signaled his body guard that it was time to leave. Later, director Luc Besson told Gaultier that the “Purple Rain” singer had found the costume “too effeminate” (gasp) — but that wasn’t the worst part. “And, most importantly, he had thought he heard, ‘Fuck you, fuck you!’ when I was saying in my terrible English accent, ‘faux cul, faux cul,’ [fake ass]!”
Still, Prince was apparently amused by the Frenchman’s presentation, and the misunderstanding didn’t screw up the casting. As Besson himself recently tweeted, a touring conflict got in the way.
Below, take a look at what Gaultier had designed for Prince to wear, followed by his complete story of meeting and embarrassing himself in front of the late musician.
“One of the thousand costumes in The Fifth Element, I took my inspiration for many of them from my own collections. Filming was originally planned for 1992, with Julia Roberts, Mel Gibson and Prince in the leading roles but due to a lack of financing the project was put on hold. At that time, the role of Ruby Rhod, the outrageous media personality finally played by Chris Tucker, had been given to Prince.
When the singer was giving a series of concerts in Paris, Luc Besson wanted us both to meet with him to show him my sketches. Prince had already attended my runway shows, but he came and went very quickly every time, so we had never been formally introduced. While I was waiting for Luc in his office, I saw this huge bodyguard appear, with Prince trailing behind him. As Luc hasn’t yet arrived, I thought he must have wanted me to meet with Prince alone, so we could get to know each other a little bit. In broken English, and with my strong French accent, I tried my best to make conversation, something like ‘Hell-O Prin-ze, welcome to Par-isse! So for ze role I sink…’
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: ‘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.
Still not saying anything, Prince gave me this Charlie Chaplin kind of look. I could see that something had just happened, but I didn’t know what, only that he had indicated to his body guard that he wanted to leave right then and there. I thought he was going to go and see Luc. Later, Luc told me that Prince had been very surprised and amused — by my presentation, but that he found the costumes a bit too effeminate. And, most importantly, he had thought he heard ‘Fuck you, fuck you!’ when I was saying in my terrible English accent ‘faux cul, faux cul’ [fake ass]!
—Jean Paul Gaultier”