A conversation with 'Purple Rain' director Albert Magnoli

Prince and Apollonia in 'Purple Rain'
Prince and Apollonia in 'Purple Rain'
Warner Bros. via YouTube

Prince made his acting debut in the iconic Minnesota movie “Purple Rain” 35 years ago. Released in July 1984, the movie quickly became the most popular movie in America, knocking Ghostbusters from the top of the charts. This year, the movie is being celebrated as a part of the Twin Cities Film Festival.

Albert Magnoli
Albert Magnoli in 2016
Alberto E. Rodriguez | Getty Images

”I was told not to shoot in Minneapolis,” said the film’s director, co-writer and editor, Albert Magnoli, in an interview with MPR News host Tom Crann. “And I said, ‘I understand all that, but we have to be authentic to the characters that the film is going to portray and it is absolutely important that we shoot here.’”

The film has become a cultural icon of the city of Minneapolis. The film is known for its operatic rock scenes shot in the famous First Avenue & 7th St. Entry nightclub, which shut down for almost a month during filming.

“It was important for me that we were not doing a rock concert. We were actually telling a narrative. We were telling a story,” Magnoli said. He emphasized the importance of each song having its own set and lighting techniques to differentiate them from each other.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

The audiences in these scenes were comprised of over 900 extras.

“I felt that the energy of this club needed to be conveyed absolutely, and that meant bodies filling every space the club afforded us,” Magnoli said.

Prince is at the center of the movie, playing a character known as The Kid. The Kid is a talented musician who attempts to escape from his abusive home life through music. This character is largely based on Prince’s own life and his authentic relationship to The Kid contributed to his acting ability, especially in a scene in which the character confronts his father.

“I believe that Prince truly felt that moment,” Magnoli said. “He was able to go back and relate to his own world and his own life.”

To Magnoli, the nature of the film hasn’t changed since Prince’s death in 2016.

“I think that there’s kind of a hopefulness in the picture, and the journey itself is important. So, that is still there. It’s still embedded,” he said. “If anything, it made what I was seeing feel a little more important.”

To hear more of Magnoli’s interview on All Things Considered, click on the audio player above.