Prince's greatest talent? Self-confidence, says the manager who landed 'Purple Rain'

Jon Bream, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Entertainment News

The singer would get apprehensive when it came time to hit the road. During rehearsals for the Purple Rain Tour, he was performing a song in a bathtub and it was shaky. He jumped from the stage onto a table where his managers and production staff were sitting.

Cavallo tried to reassure him: "You're nervous. I've done a million of these. ... Four days before you leave, everything looks like it can't possibly come together. But that's the way it is. I know we're on time."

On making 'Cherry Moon':

Prince had a three-picture deal. For the second movie, Cavallo wanted to make a "Purple Rain" sequel with Morris Day and the Time. He said the superstar felt "insulted" and got "angry with me."

Prince had his own ideas for what became "Under the Cherry Moon," and they didn't include music. Madonna was interested in the part Kristin Scott Thomas wound up playing, but Cavallo thought the black-and-white film's story line -- with Prince playing a 1930s-era gigolo -- was "reactionary" and didn't think the star should die at the end.

Prince told him: "That's a nice story for somebody else. I'm gonna make my movie."

In retrospect, Cavallo sees the 1986 film as a turning point in his relationship with Prince. "He started to not believe in anyone but himself."

Cavallo had to beg Prince to write a hit song for the movie.

"When you said 'Write a hit,' he wrote a hit. This time it was 'Kiss.'"

On Prince and money:

The 1988 album "Lovesexy" -- a commercial disappointment -- was Prince's last with Cavallo. On that tour, the singer made his entrance in a Ford Thunderbird, but when he looked at a video playback during rehearsals, he decided the car made him look too small.

"So I was told to get a three-quarters version of the car. Only Prince could do that," Cavallo said.

"He totally, totally did not care a whit about budgets, money, etc. Before we finally parted ways, he was spending, I'd say, over $100,000 a week making videos at Paisley Park that meant nothing. (For) girls he met. He'd fly cameramen in. He was unstoppable."

Prince canceled a concert at London's Wembley Stadium simply because rain was forecast and scrapped the rest of his European tour.

"Prince said: 'We're going back to Paisley Park and I'm going to make a film.'"

On their falling-out:

At a meeting with Prince and their respective lawyers, Cavallo said he told the star he had to be more realistic. Then Prince gave him a handwritten, 20-page treatment for a movie. "Get me the money to make this," he commanded.


Cavallo read it and proposed getting a hip young writer.

Prince responded: "I don't want any writers. This is the screenplay. The movie's in my head. I can do it."

Cavallo said he told Prince: "Goodbye and good luck." Prince got Rod Stewart's managers to help him make "Graffiti Bridge," which wound up earning less than half of the underwhelming $10 million that "Cherry Moon" had grossed.

On how they stayed in touch:

"When I was at Disney, he'd call me," Cavallo said. "He paid me a hundred grand for a couple of years just to answer questions whenever he had questions. He didn't recognize he wasn't writing stuff that was as immediate as he had done in the past."

After Prince's death, Cavallo wanted to collaborate with "Purple Rain" director/screenwriter Albert Magnoli on a Broadway version of the film. He even lined up an interested investor, but Troy Carter, entertainment adviser to the Prince estate, wasn't interested in working with Cavallo's team, the producer said.

On Prince's faults:

"He was a control freak. Vanity? We can't bust him with that. He once said to me just after 'Purple Rain': 'How do you rank me?' I said, 'Oh, top 10 for sure. Some days top five, depending on my mood.' He laughed."

Cavallo was shocked to learn of the opioid addiction that led to Prince's death: "I never thought he'd be somebody to take a drug.

"He obviously didn't understand how dangerous his condition was. It still shocks me. He was such a self-reliant guy, maybe to his detriment."

Cavallo wishes now that he had given Prince more philosophical guidance about life.

"I could have been more like a father. That's what he needed. I could have been that if I'd moved to Minneapolis. He needed someone to say, 'You're full of (crap). You don't believe what you just said.' Nobody took him on. I took him on a couple times. He needed more of that."

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