Graffiti Bridge is a 1990 American rock musical drama film directed and written by Prince, filmed at Paisley Park Studios and on location in and around Minneapolis. It is Prince’s last large-scale film.
Even though the movie isn’t a sequel per se to Purple Rain, it revives key characters from that movie: Prince plays the character of "The Kid" and Morris Day plays his own character. The story revolves around the characters' rivalry over the ownership of the "Glam Slam" nightclub.
From mid September 1987 onward, Prince started to record songs and gather material for a musical film project called "Graffiti Bridge". A first script was finished on 22 September 1987 in which Prince would play "Camille Blue", Madonna a character named "Ruthie Washington" and Cat Glover a character called "Vienna".
Other characters would be played by band members: "Angel" by Sheila E., "Almost" by Dr Fink, "Big Sister" by Boni Boyer, "Joshua" by Atlanta Bliss, "Sax" by Eric Leeds, "Gruff" by Greg Brooks, "Puff" by Wally Safford and "The Brothers" by Miko Weaver and Levi Seacer, Jr..
Songs for this first script included: Ruthie Washington Jet Blues, Graffiti Bridge, Camille, Everything Could Be So Fine, The Question Of U, XYZ, Crucial, Power Fantastic, Beatown, Melody Cool, Big Tall Wall, The Grand Progression. Most of these songs were recorded between July and September 1987, although three of them were leftovers from 1986 projects, and The Question Of U was originally tracked in 1985. A script from October 1987 included an additional song called Born Free and U.
After Madonna turned down the project on in mid-October 1987 and a revised draft in December, the film was put on hold, and it wouldn’t be before late 1989 that Prince would be able to focus again on the project.
A New Script
By early July 1989, Prince struck up a friendship with actress Kim Basinger and together they started working with on a new script for the "Graffiti Bridge" film project.
In mid-September 1989, Prince started recording sessions for the film, with two new songs, Round And Round and New Power Generation. He also reworked already-existing songs from various projects, including some from the defunct first script. Mavis Staples traveled to Minneapolis to record vocals for Melody Cool, while Tevin Campbell recorded his vocals for Round And Round; both were now part of the film cast.
In late October 1989, Prince met Robin Herron, a rapper and former dancer on US Television show "Soul Train". After being invited to Minneapolis to work on a rap album project, Prince, rechristening her Robin Power, offered her a role in the cast of "Graffiti Bridge". Of the two songs they cut together, Undercover Lover and Number 1, only the latter was finally included in the film, although it was not included on the soundtrack album and remains unreleased in audio form.
When in November 1989, Prince and Albert Magnoli, who had together created the joint venture Paisley Park Films, decided to part ways a new production team, formed by Arnold Stiefel and Randy Phillips were hired to secure a deal for the film with Warner Bros. Film Division, which had showed very little interest in the project. Their strategy to sell the film to WB as a sequel to Purple Rain paid off and they were given a go-ahead.
On 19 December 1989, a third draft of "Graffiti Bridge" was completed, featuring Kim Basinger and Jill Jones in the leading roles.
In late January 1990, after Prince and Kim Basinger parted ways, a fourth draft of Graffiti Bridge was completed. It combined the former character 'Angel' played by Kim Basinger and "Aura" planned for Jill Jones into one, again named "Aura" but now to be played by Ingrid Chavez. Jill Jones was given a new, less prominent role in the film, as "The Kid’s" girlfriend.
A fourth slightly revised draft was ready on 7 February 1990. This version which was used as the shooting script.
Thieves In The Temple was the last song recorded for the project, on 11 February 1990. Performances of Can’t Stop This Feeling I Got and The Latest Fashion were shot but not included in the final cut, although the songs appear in the soundtrack.
Premiere and Release
The premiere and party took place on 1 November 1990 at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City, and was attended by the film co-stars Morris Day, Jerome Benton, Ingrid Chavez, Robin Power and Tevin Campbell. Prince attended the screening, but didn’t appear at the party.
The film was initially intended to open in 1,400 US cinemas on 7 August 1990, but it was ultimately only released in 688 US cinemas on 2 November 1990.
The reviews for Graffiti Bridge were negative, and the film was a commercial flop, grossing only $4.5 million at the box office, before being removed from most screens within a month. Allowed an original budget of $8 million, the film had cost $10 million to make, reported Jon Bream in Star Tribune; it was estimated, however, that Warner Bros. should have grossed $14 million in tickets sales to recover all costs.
Prince won an ASCAP Award for Thieves In The Temple in the category 'Most Performed Songs from Motion Pictures'.