2002, University of Wyoming, USA
Questioner. . . And I don't know how many people know about it.
In the middle of June, you were up in Minneapolis. . . Filming a documentary for Prince that as far as I've heard . . . is never gonna see the light of day . Can you shed a little light on that?
Kevin Smith:: We were trying to get a Prince song for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. . .
. . . where Shannon Elizabeth's character comes into the restaurant. . .we were trying to get Pricne's "The Most Beautiful Girl In the World ," but we got no response.
Then one day I got a call at the office.
They said , "Prince's office called .He wants to speak to you ."
"Holy shit! Fucking Pr- His Royal Badness?" 'Cause I'm a Prince fan .
So I said ,"I'm gonna call him back."
So I call him up and they answer, and they're like: "Prince isn't available right now, but he does want to speak to you . . .so sit by the phone and we'll call you back."
So I'm like, "All right." Ring.
And I wait and wait and wait. About 15, 20 minutes later.. . .somebody calls. And they're like, "Is Kevin there?"
"This is he."
"Kevin , Hi. I'm calling from Prince's office. He'll call you in 25 minutes."
I said , "Awesome. All right, bye."
25 minutes later, phone rings.
"Is Kevin there? This is Trevor in Prince's office. Prince will be calling you in 19 minutes."
And I said, "This is genius." Because it sounds like they have shit well-scheduled , 19 minutes . . . but then again, this is the third time he called.
So I said, "Hey, man, just a question . When I talk to the guy. . .. can I-? Do you call him Prince? Do I call him Artist? You know, what do you call him? Jack?"
And he said, "He's back to Prince. Call him Prince."
I sit around, I get another phone call: "Prince wants to call you tonight at home. Can we have that number?"
I give it to him. I go home and I'm like: "Prince is calling! Everybody get away from the phone!"
The kid wants to play. . . I'm like, "Go away, Prince is calling."
So I wait and the phone rings and I get Trevor again: "Prince is gonna be calling in five minutes."
"I am so ready for this call."
Phone rings again and I hear his fucking voice.
He's just like, "Kevin?" And I said, "Prince?"
Because that's his name.
And he said , "How you doing?"
I said, "I'm excellent. How are you?" He said , "Very good."
"I just want to tell you I'm a huge fan."
He goes, "Likewise."
"Oh , yeah . Particularly Dogma."
He's like, "Would you like to do something together?"
"Yeah , what do you want to do?"
I'm thinking he wants to do a musical. But it's not the musical that he wants to do, necessarily.
He starts talking about Dogma: "I really enjoyed Dogma. . . I thought it was incredible. I thought the message was great." He went on at great lengths about it. I'm listening to him . . . and it's starting not to sound like the movie I made. A little bit. He's got the character names down . . . but there's things he's talking about that I'm like: "I didn't say that in the movie, did I?" Like, "Hold on." I'm going to rewind the movie.
He starts talking more and more about spirituality, religion, faith.
It becomes very apparent over the course of a half-hour Prince is way into Jesus. Like, really into Jesus. He's always had one foot in the corporeal, one foot in the spiritual.
He sings about "Darling Nikki ,"but he also sings about God .
But it felt like the pendulum swung far away from nookie. . . right into the Son of God .
And I-- You know, I'm thinking I can talk smack to this dude. . . but he doesn't want to hear from language. At one point he says: "I'll put you an example."
He's sitting there ministering to me at a certain point. But I'm not going to say anything 'cause it's Prince.
So he's like, "I'll give you an example. You make movies with cursing in them ."
I said , "Yeah ."
And he said , "Can you make a movie without cursing in it?"
I said , "Yeah , I guess. But why bother?"
And he said , "Do you understand. . . that cursing offends some people? Vulgarity offends people."
I said , "Yeah ."
And he goes," Do you mean to offend people?"
I said , "No, no."
And he's like, "But you still do it anyway?"
He's going , "Okay, we're gonna put you over here."
I was like, "Where?" And I , you know, I can't see him ,but I think he went like this:
And I really want to know what over here is, but he doesn't explain. He gets very cryptic like that.
He's like, "Kevin , if a big snake gives birth to a little snake. . . what is that little snake gonna grow up to be?"
"A big snake?"
He's like, "Right. That snake gives birth to a snake. What's that gonna grow to be?"
And I said , "Big snake."
He said , "Exactly, you gotta know who your father is."
And I'm like-- I don't know what that fucking means. So I'm like, "I hear you . I hear you ."
He's like, "So you wanna do this?" I'm like, "Yeah , what are we doing?"
He said , "I have this thing called 'the Celebration' . . . where I'm gonna debut my new album for a bunch of fans. They come to Paisley Park, we have an event. Then we're gonna have parties where people hear the album . I want to make a movie that we can bring to the Cannes Film Festival."
I said , "Really?"
He said, "Yeah."
"Like a concert film?" I'm saying .
He's like, "Kind of . . . but I want to do bold things. I want to put up the words: 'Jesus Christ is the Son Of God,'and let them deal with it."
And I'm like, "Well, I already made that movie, kind of."
But I didn't say that because it's Prince.
I said, "That's fucking bold!"
He said , "What did I say about cursing?"
I said , "I got you."
He said , "You free to come do this?"
I said , "Yeah, absolutely."
He said , "I'll let you know when we're doing it."
I was like, "Shit, that's fucking great!"
I go and tell everyone.
Mosier goes, "Did you ask about the song for the movie?"
And I was like, "No, fuck, I forgot!"
I was like, "Should I just call him again? Aren't we kind of friends at this point?"
He says, "Find out if we can use the song."
I call him the next day and I was like, "Hey, Prince, it's Kevin. Listen , we talked a lot and I look forward to this thing we're gonna do. . . but we're making Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. . . and it has the dudes who were in Dogma, remember? I need to use 'The Most Beautiful Girl in the World .' I want to put it in this one scene."
And he goes, "No."
I said, "No?"
He said ,"I'm gonna have to pass on that."
He's like, "You can use the Time song ,"which he owns the publishing for.
And I said , "All right. Bye."
You know? I was like, "That's so fucking weird." The dude said , "Come shoot documentary for me." Then I'm like, "Can I have one of your songs?" He's like, "No."
I thought people gave each other things.
But I don't say anything because it's Prince.So it's time to go up there and I'm in the midst of editing the movie. . . we're getting to crunch time. Many things are going on . . . the last thing in the world I should do is go to Minnesota.
But I'm like, "Fuck it. Once in a lifetime chance. It's fucking Prince, I gotta go." I grab the wife. . . jump on the plane. We go to Minnesota. I get out there. . . and I meet with his producer, this great woman named Stephanie.
And Stephanie's like, "He's on-stage talking to a bunch of people. He'll tell you what he wants."
I go in and he's sitting on the stage and he's very small. He looks big on-stage, but he's very small. But he's decked out. He's wearing clothes that look like somebody just sewed them.
Like an outfit, like he's in a play, doing Shakespeare.
Not like nice clothes like this.
And he's in heels, of course.
I'm like, "He's in heels. It's casual time and he's in heels."
I always thought, around the house, he's wearing kicks.
So we start talking . He tells me about his beefs with the music industry. And you can't follow him, he's jumping topic to topic. And I'm like, "Uh-huh. I don't know what he's saying. What?"
And he's talking, at one point, "Anybody can take a song and record it."
I was like, "Really?" He's like, "It happened to Chaka Khan."
He's like, "Whitney Houston recorded, 'I'm Every Woman.'
Chaka didn't want that, Chaka mad.
"I'm like, "Chaka mad?"
He's like, "Chaka real mad."
I'm trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do about Chaka being mad.
He's like, "I want you to shoot people's reaction to the album. Let them listen to it and you have them talk about it. And then I want to talk about religion and lead that into race. . . and lead it into the music biz and radio. At the end of the week, I want to change the world ."
I'm like, "I'm in the middle of making a dick-and-fart-joke movie. I'm not prepared to change my underwear, let alone the world . I don't think I can-- I don't--I don't-- All right."
He's like, "All right, I'll see you tomorrow." And he takes off.
I look at Stephanie, I was like, "Can we go outside?"
I was like, "I can't do this! I don't know what he wants! I can't change the world .I'm not a documentarian. Did you see the movies I make? I don't make documentaries. Documentaries are made by people who come up with the idea. . . and see it through, shoot it themselves and interview people. . . because it's something personal to them. He's very personal and passionate about these issues. I'm not. Chaka mad. I'm sorry, but there's nothing I can do about that."
She's like, "Calm down ."And she's like, "What can you do?"
I said, "If Prince wants a movie about. . . a couple guys hanging around a mall . . . like, I'm your guy, but I can't make a documentary."
She's like, "But he really wants you to do it."
And I was like, "I don't understand. I'm not cut out for this kind of thing. Can you explain it to him? Just go in there and tell him. I'll go back to Los Angeles and tell him no harm, no foul ."
She's like, "Kevin , let me explain something to you about Prince. I've been working with Prince for many years and I can't go tell him that you can't shoot this documentary." She's like, "Prince doesn't comprehend things the way you and I do."
I was like, "What do you mean?" She was like, "Well . . . Prince has been living in Prince World for quite some time now." She's like, "So Prince will come to us periodically and say things like:
'It's 3 in the morning in Minnesota. I really need a camel. Go get it.'
And then we try to explain to Prince, like: 'Prince, it's 3:00 in the morning in Minnesota, it's January ...and you want a camel? That is not physically or psychologically possible.'
And Prince says, 'Why?"'
I'm like, "Is he an asshole?"
She's like, "He's not malicious when he does it. He just doesn't understand why he can't get what he wants. He doesn't understand why someone can't process a request. . . like a camel at 3 in the morning in Minnesota."
I was like, "That's not my problem. I can't do what he wants. I don't know what to do."
She said, "You'd be doing me a huge favor if you tell him that."
I was like, "All right, I'll tell him. Somebody's got to deal with him. He'll understand."
So I go in there and he's on-stage and then he comes back down. He's like, "What's the matter?"
I was like, "How do you want to shoot this?"
He's like, "Whatever you want."
I said , "I don't know if I can shoot this thing. Since it's a documentary, it should come from you.
I'd be kind of a third wheel. It's, like, you've got the crew and you have the idea. . . and I'd basically be there, what, to do what? There's nothing for me to do."
He said, "I need you to be my representation. You have to go and communicate my message."
I said, "If you want me to communicate 'Let's Go Crazy.' Let's get nuts. Like, let's slip on a purple banana . . .till they put us in the truck. I can do that. I've listened to that album. If you want me to start talking about Jesus, I did that. I got a lot of death threats. So I'm not too keen to go in there and do it."
He's like, "You'll do a great job." Walks away.
I'm like, "Oh , my God . I don't know how to make a fucking documentary."
So I go in the next day, and we're shooting in the atrium. Everybody sits down and shit.
They're listening to albums in other rooms in Paisley Park. They bring them into the atrium . . .
with the high ceilings, and there's a cage with doves in it. You're sitting there listening to what it sounds like when fucking doves cry.
'Cause they won't shut up. People are coming in, and I'm standing there . . . with two guys with cameras and their Nagra equipment. And I'd say about 20% of them, as they walk in, are like:
"It's Silent Bob."
I was the last person they expected to see. Like, "What the fuck is Silent Bob doing here? Is he a fan? What's with the cameras? What's going on?"
I'm like, "I don't even know what's going on !" So I'm like, "We'll talk about what you've just heard."
I don't introduce myself.
I said , "We'll talk about what you just listened to and see where the topic takes us."
We start talking. Everybody wants to talk about religion, the album's theme. It's kind of one story throughout the whole album. Heavily steeped in faith and spirituality. So people start getting up in arms. Some people said , "It's his best work. It's the promise he showed on Lovesexy. It's the next level for Prince. I love all the three to four minute hits, but this is tremendous."
Other people were going ,"We know Prince is a Jehovah's Witness."
I'm sitting there going,"Prince is a Jehovah's Witness? Since when? Now? Because he didn't try to sell me a Watchtower once."
So he's going ,"I printed up a bunch of facts. . . about Jehovah's Witness that Prince should read. It's important stuff. He should know that he's being bilked."
I'm like, "What else is everyone thinking?"
I'm trying to lead the discussion , but everyone wants to talk about religion. Some are incensed because it's a literal translation of the Bible . . . which means that the order of things is God, man, women, children, animals. Some women were like, "I don't go in for this man, woman shit.
I don't want to be led by any man ."
I'm trying to control the fires. Somebody comes up behind me and says. . . whispers in my ear, "Prince wants you to stop talking about religion."
I'm like, "What do you mean Prince wants me to stop talking about religion?
That's what they want. Where is he?" They're like, "He's not here."
I said , "How does he know I'm talking about religion?"
She's like, "He'd just--He'd prefer if you stop. He knows."
I said , "How am I supposed to change topic?
Be like, 'Hey, who likes pie?' you know, instead of--
They listened to an album about religion. What can I tell you? If he wants it to not be about-- If he wants it to be something else, he should get his ass here."
She said , "I just told you."
So people are talking , I'm looking around while they're speaking .
There's a sign in the atrium that says: "The atrium : redone in 1 9. . . ." Then there's a piece of factoid about the atrium that says: "Like every room in the building, this room is wired for sound so Prince can record anywhere he likes."
Which means that if Prince is sitting in the shitter and he wants to write "Raspberry Beret" . . .
he can do it and record it while taking a shit without leaving the room.
Every room is wired for sound .
I'm reading that going ,"Now, that's interesting--" No wonder the motherfucker heard me. Every room is wired for sound .
I'm like, "God, did he hear me say' He should get his ass here'?" He might have, because I'm talking to the person talking and I see Prince materialize. Not out of thin air, but suddenly, he's there.
I'm like, "Holy shit, he's coming to yell at me in front of these people."
So I made him part of it."What do you think?"
If you know Prince, he's solitary. He likes to stay apart from people. But he starts joining in, gets real into it. And I start hanging back. I go in the back and watch it. So I'm appreciating Prince talking to these people about spirituality and then about how radio sucks nowadays. Nobody owns the air over his head so why can't they play shit he wants?
He's going everywhere. And I'm like, "This is brilliant. I'd watch this. I'd watch this documentary about how a man falls apart in front of a crowd."
But I don't think that's the documentary he has in mind .
The next day, same thing .We're talking and he shows up. I bring him in. He takes over. He's in his element. He's happy. He's just sitting there, a robe short of being a minister, preaching , playing games with the crowd. Games where people go to the other side of the room like kindergarten.
He says, "Those who believe Jesus is the son of God over to this side of the room. Those who don't, go over there. We rule our lives by this." He pulls a Bible from his back pocket.
I'm like, "I didn't even know he had a back pocket."
The outfits he wears don't really lend to pockets. But not only that, he's got a Bible in it.
I'm like, "This is fucked up."
He says, "We'll lead our lives by this. Over there, you live by what you do. You have no laws. We have laws. We want your women. So we'll take them . There's nothing you can do. Women, come here. Because you don't lead your lives by this."
I'm going, "Is that what it says in the Bible?" Because if it is, I'm going back to church.
He's going through these parlor games and he's real happy. I was pleased to get to see a part of him that I'd never seen before in everything from interviews to any press.
So the next day, he's like, "I'm not gonna be able to do it.
I've got a show to do at the St. Paul Excel Arena. I'm gonna do a night show and my leg hurts, so I won't do the q and a."
I said, "Why does your leg hurt?"
He said, "Something with my knee."
And I was like, "Do you think it's because you always wear heels?"
He said , "What?"
I said , "Maybe your knee wouldn't hurt if you wore sneakers."
He goes, "It's not about sneakers."
I said , "All right, man , I was just checking . We need you, Prince."
I go out and Stephanie said ,"You mentioned sneakers to him?"
I said , "Yeah , was that bad?" She said , "Yeah!"
I said , "Does he wear them?"
She said , "He does. What's the interest with Prince's sneakers?"
I said , "Does he wear them?"
She said , "He wears them for basketball."
I said , "He plays ball in sneakers? Where does he keep them?"
She's like, "Let it go."
I said, "Does he wear the outfits playing basketball?"
Because every outfit looks like he's about to be: "Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio." You know?
She said , "No, he wears warm-up suits."
I said , "He's got warm-up suits?"
She says, "Yes, he's got warm-up pants with the buttons down the side."
I was like, "Where does he keep it? Does he wear it under his clothes?"
She says, "He's got them to the side."
I said , "Well , are they made like his outfits? Designer basketball wear?"
She says, "No, they're from a store."
I said , "He shops at a fucking store?"
She says, "No, we go out and get stuff for him."
I said , "Where do you get his clothes?"
She says, "Nordstrom's."
I said , "They sell stuff his size?"
She's like, "Nordstrom's boys department."
And at this point, I'm like, "That is so fucking cute!"
The documentary should be about that. I'd watch it.
Prince is like, "All right, I'm little. I'm a huge rock god, but I'm little. I get my clothes at Nordstrom's boys department."
But that's not the documentary he wants to make.
So he skips that day.
The next day he's supposed to come. We're having one of the last sessions. We crammed 75 people in this room. It's really hot, really tight, lights boiling. Everyone's sweating.
We're going on for about three hours.
One guy says, "This album's about how Prince hates white people."
I said , "Really? I didn't get that at all. What makes you say that?"
He says, "He's singing about how the devil stole it."
I said , "No, he's not talking about the 'white devil ,' but this devil. I don't think it's a race thing. Really? Race? Do you think so?" And I can't defend it because I don't fucking know.
Finally, they're like, "Prince wants to talk to you in his office."
I'm like, "Break, everyone grab some air. I'll talk to Prince."
I'm pissed now. I'm sweating, fielding questions from a very defensive crowd. The dude was supposed to be here hours ago. So I go into his office.and he's sitting behind his desk playing with a computer. I sit there for a good 20 to 30 seconds.
He says nothing .
Then he says, "These are pictures from the show last night."
I said , "That's great. We needed you about two hours ago. Things got tense."
He says, "Really?"
"Some dude said you hate white people."
He said , "Why did he say that?"
I said , "In the album , you talk about how the devil stole the music. He said you meant the 'white devil. 'I said you meant this."
He said, "He said white people stole music from black people?"
I said , "That was his argument." He goes, "If the bra fits."
And I'm like, "What the fuck does that mean , man?! If the bra fucking fits? I'm sweating for hours fielding questions, defending your Jehovah's Witnessism even though I know nothing about it. Don't talk to me like I'm fucking Apollonia! You want me to jump into the fucking waters of Lake Minnetonka! I'm fucking at wit's end with this man .
This is what it sounds like when Kev's fucking pissed. You know? I'm like, "Go explain that's not what you meant."
He's like, "People are gonna take what they will from it."
I said , "These people have been here for hours. They expect you ."
He's like, "I'll talk to them. You want to shoot it?"
I said , "Okay, and I want to leave early because today is Father's Day." My wife was there all week. Her parents brought Harley so we could spend Father's Day together.
He said , "Okay."
I'm like, "Ladies and gentlemen: Prince."
He sits down , starts talking and we start shooting. And he starts talking and proceeds to talk for four hours. He's getting into his parlor games and having a great time. The guys are like, "Are we still shooting?"
I'm like, "Keep shooting .Something might happen. Maybe somebody will get as pissed as I am and take the guy out."
After the four hours one of the guy comes over to me.
He's like, "We're out."
I'm like, "We ain't out till he says we're out."
He said , "No, we're out of stock."
I said , "Change the tape."
He's like, "We've blown through our entire stock.
It's Sunday. There's no more stock."
I said , "What about the other camera?"
He's like, "He's got three minutes."
I was like, "Shit, we're out of tape? Do we tell him? Or do we just pretend like we're shooting him?"
He's like, "It's your call." I'm like, "Just keep rolling. Just make pretend , go ahead."
They run out of tape. Prince goes on for an hour, not even being recorded . He looks over to me periodically and I'm like:
So it ends and everyone gets up to go and this is the last session .The week is over.
And he kind of goes out a back door and shit so he can avoid autographs. And I collect my stuff and Stephanie. . . who was my chaperone, wasn't even there anymore. And I said to her before she left, I was like: "This is the last day. What are we gonna do? Am I cutting this thing?"
She's like, "They've been cutting it. He used some of the footage at his show last night."
I'm like, "Really?" I feel so useless.
I'm trying to maintain my composure and stuff's being already cut?
I said , "So you'll have a cut of the film next week."
She said , "Don't count on seeing it."
I said , "Why?"
She said , "A lot of this stuff never sees the light of day."
I was like, "What do you mean?"
She's like, "I produced 50 music videos for him ."
I said , "Which ones?"
She said , "You've never seen them.
They're for songs you've never heard ."
I said , "Where are they?"
She's like, "He puts them in a vault." I was like, "For what?"
And she's like, "I don't know."
I was like, "Is it just him on-stage?"
She's like, "No, 50 fully-produced music videos with costumes and sets. Money was spent."
I was like, "And they've never been seen on MTV or anything? BET, VH 1?"
She's like, "No. He just puts them in the vault."
I was like, "Like in case the fucking world goes up.. . .we'll have entertainment?"
She's like, "That's just the way Prince is."
I'm like, "After all this work, nobody may ever see it?"
She's like, "I don't know."
I'm like, "Good Lord ."
So day's over, I say goodbye to this other girl, and she's like: "Do you want to say goodbye to Prince?"
I'm like, "He's busy, I won't bother him."
The wife said , "You should say goodbye."
I said , "You think so?"
She's like, "He'd probably want to say goodbye."
I was like, "You're right."
So I go back in and I'm like, "You know what? I should say goodbye to Prince."
She's like, "I'll find him ."
She goes away and then comes back, and she's like: "He's in there working on some music."
And I was like, "And?"
She was like, "He's working on some music."
I was like, "So I should go?" And she's like, "Yeah."
And I was like, "All right, tell him I said goodbye, I guess."
I walk to the car and I'm like, "I can't fucking believe it. I spent a week shooting a documentary for which I wasn't paid , for which . . . I had really no passion for. It was not my story. And the dude never once said, 'Thanks for taking the time."' Like, I'll do anything as long as somebody says, "Hey, thanks." Gratitude's a big part of my life.
It so was weird that dude didn't have two seconds to be like: "Night, tubby." Or anything like that.
Or just, "I knew there was no film in that camera."
He never once said thank you. I was so fucking cheesed, man.
I was like, "This is why fans turn on people." Somebody disappoints them and they fucking turn on them. But this is one instance where I felt like it was valid.
All he had to do was say, "Hey, man, thanks."
That would've been fine. But the thing pissed me off the most . . . the whole week, not once did the guy ever once play fucking "Batdance."
Related content: Jimmy Fallon's hilarious tribute to Prince. Monologue about becoming a father, a weird invitation, Prince, ping pong ...
" I'm at dinner and I'm like, 'I gotta go. Prince just challenged me to a game of ping pong.' So I show up and I go to this ping pong place and I go down the stairs and I go, 'uh hey,' I don't even know how to ask ... and she goes, 'You're here to see Prince? Right this way, he's behind that curtain."