Prince's soundtrack for Tim Burton's Batman is almost as famous as the groundbreaking superhero movie itself. However, the story of how the wildly independent artist came to work on a major studio film is pretty intriguing, as we're (once again) finding out, thanks to a new interview with Albert Magnoli, the director of Prince's semi-autobiographical 1984 film, Purple Rain.
Magnoli was heavily involved in steering Prince's career through the late '80s, and as he tells it, the Batman soundtrack wasn't just a major collision of worlds - it was the parachute that bailed Prince out of potential financial ruin.
"Prince was at a crossroads. The 'Batman' album afforded us the opportunity to do art and commerce and allow the artist Prince to forge on. This was a perfect opportunity and a perfect vehicle in which he could express himself creatively."
As for what brought Prince to that "crossroads" in the first place? Magnoli recounts that the Purple Rain tour had overextended Prince financially, and his management team was in the process of trying to raise funds through methods like leveraging future earnings against current debuts. Prince eventually asked Magnoli to step in and help manage things, which Magnoli eventually agreed to. When the filmmaker started looking at Prince's finances, the picture got even bleaker:
"I immediately did a forensic kind of financial search as to what was really going on, and it was more horrible than anybody thought. So [the plan] was about trying to bring revenue into the operation without overextending him to the point where no one would be interested in getting involved in anything he wanted to do," Magnoli explained. "And the 'Batman' album came into being when I was contacted by ['Batman' producer] Mark Canton, and I went to Prince and said, 'This will help us bring revenue into the system without having to expose you to another album... This will be a way for you to creatively go to work. It's not essentially a Prince album, it's a 'Batman' album, and so it's a win-win.'"
Magnoli had to do a lot of work getting the album to the finish line. He basically pioneered the process of a concept album inspired by a film, while that film still has a traditionally composed score (Batman was scored by Danny Elfman). All in all though, the effort paid off: the money Prince made on Batman, combined with Magnoli's cost-cutting guidance, allowed the artist to get over his financial hump and continue living his accustomed lifestyle.
More importantly: the world got a collection of songs that helped keep the experience of Batman '89 alive in their minds forever - not to mention plenty of great times to jam out to ("Partyman" FTW).
What's your best memory of Prince's Batman soundtrack? Let us know in the comments.
The next Batman movie will start production in 2020 for 2021 release. RIP Prince.