I didn’t work on Purple Rain, but in 1982 I did work on the unreleased film that preceeded it. This was originally just going to be a simple concert film and Chuck Statler was hired as the director. I had worked as a grip/gopher on a few of Chuck’s shoots so I got this gig too.
We were filming Prince at (I think) the St Paul Civic Center. They were using multiple cameras and real film, not video, so that meant that every 10-15 minutes a fresh film magazine was needed for each camera. My job was to ferry an exposed magazine from a camera on the floor in the middle of the crowd, all the way to backstage. There a couple of guys did nothing but remove the exposed film from the magazines inside black bags, and put fresh film in. Then I would bring a fresh magazine back to the camera in the crowd. Fortunately one of the bouncers kind of adopted me, and blazed a trail thru the crowd each time.
So, then the concert’s over and we’re done, right? Wrong! A few weeks later, I hear from Chuck that Prince has now decided to film some scenes to “frame” the concert sequences. For one scene, he wants a roomfull of dolls. So Chuck and I go to this nutty old doll collector’s house to rent a roomfull of dolls. She’s got a lot of 'em, all right, although she also has a wildly inflated idea of what they’re worth. I don’t collect dolls, but I do collect other stuff, and these were mostly pretty cheesy dolls. But anyway, Chuck worked out a deal with her and we scored the dolls.
Then a couple of days later, the film crew heads out to Prince’s house in Chanhassen, where the filming was going to take place. The house wasn’t purple yet, it was just a fairly ordinary large suburban house, kind of sparsely furnished really – but there was a grand piano in the living room in front of a mirrored wall.
So we spend a few hours getting the props and equipment set up. The gaffer (electrician) decides to tap into Prince’s power line ahead of the meter and get some free power. Then we took a break to eat before we started filming. In the early evening we’re just getting started, about 8000 watts of lights get fired up, and then all of a sudden, pweeeenngg! All the lights go out. The power load was too much for Prince’s transformer and completely fried it.
We’re way out in the sticks and it takes forever just to figure out who to contact, and by now it’s getting a little late. We finally get a hold of the right guy and he says he’ll send somebody out.
So we’ve got time to kill, and for a while we sit around in the living room while Prince plays that grand piano. Finally the power guys get there, and luckily the gaffer remembered to remove his line tap so they didn’t see what he was up to. They replace the transformer and leave. It’s kind of late, but we decide to keep going and get at least something done.
So we get started again, get stuff set up again, get those 8000 watts of lights fired up again, and then all of a sudden, pweeeenngg! All the lights go out AGAIN! The new transformer was fried too! So we have to go thru the whole mess again, and of course this time it’s even later and the power company guys are not at all happy – especially when they get to the house. This time the gaffer forgot to remove his line tap so they realized what he was doing. Boy were they pissed! Everything finally gets straightened out without too much bloodshed, but this time it’s so late that we decide to bag it for the night and pull an all-nighter the next evening instead.
Prince - test shot to check light meter readings during the filming
After the disastrous first night of filming (or trying to), we all went home and slept thru the day and then regrouped again in the late afternoon and made another trek out to Prince’s house in Chanhassen. This time the gaffer brought along a portable generator so we could avoid burning out Prince’s transformer a 3rd time. Good idea!
And I should say that, although his patience was sorely tested by other people’s screw-ups, director Chuck Statler never lost his cool. He was always totally professional, even under the most trying conditions. It was a privilege to work with him.
Anyway, we got out to the house and this time we actually did get some filming done! The main scene involved the aforementioned roomful of dolls and (surprise!) two women in lingerie. One of them, named Susan, shortly thereafter turned up in Vanity 6. I always thought this scene was the germ of Prince’s whole Vanity 6 idea. I don’t know who the other woman was – as far as I know, she didn’t show up in subsequent Prince projects, but I could be wrong about that.
Oddly enough, Prince never discussed his concept of the film with me, but here’s what I was able to glean from working on the scene: two women clad in lingerie spend most of their time in a roomful of dolls, pining for their lover (Prince, duh!) and awaiting his return from his far-flung wanderings. When he does finally show, he’s cloaked in fog and an aura of mystery. After that, I have no specific knowledge… but presumably there was sex.
So we’re going to film the scene of Prince’s return. Susan is supposed to crawl on her hands and knees over to the door, which then mysteriously opens as if by itself. An eerie fog wafts into the room and Prince is revealed standing in the doorway.
To create the effect, a wall of paper was put up about 2 or 3 feet back from the door. Then a huge bank of lights was set up on the other side of the paper. (The paper was to diffuse the light.) In effect, this created a small closet with one paper wall, which had the proverbial 8000 watts of light on the other side. The picture of Prince shows him standing in the doorway, with light shining thru the paper wall behind him.
They wanted smoke drifting around when Prince walked in, and even curling out from under the closed door before it opened, so somebody had to get into that little closet and pump it full of smoke with a smoke machine. Now, even though it was supposed to be Prince on the other side of the door, for some reason he didn’t care to get into this hot stuffy closet full of smoke. Guess what? I got the job.
So I’m standing in this blindingly bright and blazing hot little room, pumping it full of smoke. And all I can think of is, “Wow! I’m really making movies now!”
I pump the closet full of smoke, Susan crawls over, the door slowly opens, and cut. We do that a half-dozen times or so, and finally Susan complains a little about having to crawl over to the door again and again. “Hey, baby, it’s rock and roll,” Prince says. I was really tempted to retort, “Well, why aren’t YOU in here then?” – but I restrained myself.
And really, that was one of the few times that Prince made any sort of audible comment. Usually, if he had anything to say he would just speak quietly to Chuck. And most of the time he just observed what was going on. Even when the whole electrical disaster of the first night was going on, I never heard him complain. (Not to say he never did, but if he did he was discreet about it.) Prince was aloof, but not in an arrogant or mean-spirited way. He just seemed kind of self-involved and removed from the mundane details of what we were doing. He was no glad-hander, for sure, but I certainly didn’t come away from the experience thinking he was a prick, either. (Unlike some others – Steve Nieve comes immediately to mind).
We finally finished filming in the early morning, packed up, and headed home. Some time later, I was told that Warner Brothers had pulled the plug on the whole project – supposedly because the concert footage wasn’t that good. I heard that one problem was that Prince hadn’t allowed the cameras out onstage, which limited the shots the camera operators could get. I also heard that supposedly one camera operator’s footage was out of focus, but I don’t know if that’s true. In any case, the film was shelved.
But then, a year or two later, Prince gave the world “Purple Rain.” And then he gave it “Under the Cherry Moon.” Oh, well…
Who was the one to propose: I…have a very specific answer to this, but I’m planning to answer it in fic form one day, so. Rain check? ;-)
Who stressed more over wedding planning: Their self-appointed wedding planner, Clyde. Craig and Tweek were fine with a courthouse wedding, and Clyde’s like ??? You are DECLARING YOUR LOVE TO THE WORLD, you can’t just go to a courthouse!! So, actually, this stresses Tweek out more than Craig, Tweek is stressed.
Who decorated the house: Their apartment is a joint effort, using “effort” in the absolute loosest sense of the word. Every surface is covered in Tweek’s mugs and knick knacks, and every wall is covered in Craig’s pictures. Stripe’s little corner of the apartment where his cage and everything is set up is the most put-together.
Who is more organized: To quote @edenfire‘s delightful headcanon: “
tweek is a huge mess and craig is a neat freak. this is a struggle”
Who suggested kids first: Craig. He talks about it in the very distant future, but that’s still talking about it. Tweek is hyper-aware of the fact that it came up in conversation at all.
Who’s the cuddler: Craig, but he’d never admit it. Tweek knows and doesn’t say anything about it, but if Craig is having a bad day, Tweek casually snuggles up to him. This solves all problems.
Who’s the big spoon/little spoon: Craig is usually the big spoon by virtue of being hella tall, but not always. I actually imagine them facing each other more often than spooning.
What’s their favorite non-sexual activity: Everything they do together is a non-sexual activity, tbph. Craig likes taking pictures of Tweek, which Tweek gets super embarrassed about (but also it makes him very happy).
Who cooks: Both. Tweek is a pro at cafe food like pastries and sandwiches, and Craig is a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. Tweek makes a regular effort to get more fruits and veggies into the rotation, which is an ongoing process.
Who comes home drunk at 3am: I don’t see either of them as drinkers. Tweek hates the idea of not being in control of himself, and he doesn’t like nausea, so he avoids alcohol at all costs; Craig is a born designated driver. Though they’ve probably gone out to pick up friends at 3am before.
Who kills the spiders: Craig kills them, like, with his bare hands. Tweek runs around trying to scoop them into newspapers or magazines to ferry them out of the apartment before they meet this gruesome fate. More than once Tweek has been startled into flinging spiders out the window, though.
Who falls asleep first: Craig, and he usually sleeps like the dead, but if Tweek pokes him or makes even the smallest sound of distress, he’s awake.
A head canon: They’re not really physical, like. At all. I’ve written them as a couple in a bunch of different fic ‘verses, and, to be honest, it doesn’t feel right having them do anything beyond holding hands and The Forehead Touch. And maybe one smooch. I’m going to go back and revise the fics where I strayed from this path.
Do they have any “rituals”? Their whole lives are rituals, tbh. Craig is boring and likes his routines, and Tweek is also a lot happier when he knows what he’s doing, where he’s going, and what to expect. Rituals range from the planned, like having a chore chart, to the unspoken, like brushing their teeth at the same time and alternating who spits into the sink.
Who has the most patience? Craig. Tweek’s temper is surprisingly quick.