Universal Studios has acquired the rights to several classic Prince songs, with the intention of using them for a movie musical. The movie will not be a biopic, but rather a fictional story using Prince’s songs.
During his lifetime, Prince achieved icon status through his music and other creative endeavors. He's one of the best selling artists of all time, with over 100 million records sold worldwide. He won eight Grammys, six American Music Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Oscar for his 1984 movie musical, Purple Rain.
It's this seminal, semi-autobiographical film featuring Prince’s music that had sources stressing to Variety that this upcoming project will in no way tell the story of Prince’s life, but will instead use his music to drive a fictional plot. The creative forces behind the project – which include executive producers Troy Carter, the entertainment advisor to Prince’s estate and the manager who helped thrust Lady Gaga into stardom, and Jody Gerson, the Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group and the first woman to run a major music publishing company – are focused on creating something similar to Universal’s Mamma Mia! and its sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, in terms of one artist’s music being used to tell a story.
The idea for a film featuring Prince songs came from Prince’s estate, which had been shopping the notion around to various studios, likely hoping that a film project will help boost Prince's music sales overall. Universal, who has found success in the past with musicals like Pitch Perfect and the most recent adaptation of Les Miserables, aggressively pursued the rights to Prince’s music. No word yet on which songs will be included or when to expect the film, but Universal already has two movie musicals in the pipeline for next year. The studio is also developing a musical featuring George Michael music titled Last Christmas, and the first film adaption of Cats, one of the longest running Broadway musicals in history.
Mamma Mia! - which uses the songs of Swedish disco phenomenon ABBA to tell the story of a young girl attempting to find her father before her wedding - debuted on the stage in 1999, and helped to usher in a wave of successful jukebox musicals, i.e. musicals that feature songs exclusively from one band or artist or from a specific era in music. Many subsequent jukebox musicals have gone the biopic route such as Jersey Boys (Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons) and The Cher Show (Cher), which officially debuted on Broadway today, December 3.
Besides Mamma Mia!, Rock of Ages, which features 80s glam metal from various artists, also found success as a non-biopic jukebox musical on the stage, though it didn't make a smooth transition to the screen. While inside sources have gone out of their way to stress that this film won't be Prince’s life story, it's likely that Universal is hoping to duplicate the success Fox found with Bohemian Rhapsody, which recently became the highest-grossing music biopic of all time.