Prince Wrote Songs for a ‘90s Musical Comedy Disaster

Who wouldn’t want to see Albert Brooks sing and dance?
Prince Wrote Songs for a ‘90s Musical Comedy Disaster

The late musical genius, and occasional sitcom guest star, Prince contributed a lot of songs to movies over the course of his career — from the iconic Purple Rain, to the decidedly less iconic Under the Cherry Moon. And, of course, there was 1989’s Batman, which for some reason paired a soundtrack full of upbeat pop-rock bangers with a story about a sad millionaire whose parents were gunned down in a filthy alley.

Prince also penned a number of songs for a 1990s musical helmed by one of Hollywood’s most successful comedy directors, but you wouldn’t know it from seeing the movie, because all the musical elements were unceremoniously cut out at the last minute. 

In 1994, James L. Brooks made I’ll Do Anything, a fairly run-of-the-mill, mostly forgettable dramedy about an aging actor (played by Nick Nolte) who is charged with looking after his six-year-old daughter after his ex goes to prison. The low-key Hollywood satire also featured comedy legends like Albert Brooks and Tracey Ullman, as well as cameos from a random assortment of stars like Woody Harrelson and Ian McKellen. Note how the trailer features absolutely zero scenes of people breaking into song and dance.

But that wasn’t the case with every trailer. An earlier advertisement contained footage of what appears to be several lavish musical numbers:

That’s because Brooks always intended for I’ll Do Anything to be a musical featuring original songs from three beloved recording artists: Sinead O’Connor, Carol King and Prince. But it didn’t go well. 

The film’s producer, the criminally under-appreciated Polly Platt, expressed concerns to Brooks about the film’s musical element. In her unpublished memoirs, which were utilized in Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This podcast, Platt recalled witnessing Prince react to actress Julie Kavner (the voice of Marge Simspon) belting out one of his tunes: “I watched Prince listen to his song being mangled, and he was expressionless, no winces, no looking around. ‘This is not how the song will be in the movie,’ I told him. ‘We will have someone else sing the song on the soundtrack later.’ He nodded, as if I had commented on the weather.”

In the end, the songs were all scrapped, doomed by test screenings which, as The Independent noted, were as “disastrous” as the ones depicted in the movie. Fortunately for those of us who are vampires for cinematic cringe, some of the film’s musical numbers have surfaced online, like this scene in which a disquietingly horny Albert Brooks sings the title song — and by “sings” we mean angrily barks. 

Compare that to the demo that Prince recorded. Yeah, it sounds a lot better when performed by someone who’s an actual singer, and not the founder of the Famous School for Comedians. 

Brooks has reportedly tried to restore I’ll Do Anything in recent years, but claimed that he “couldn’t get the rights.” Apparently there is a bootleg copy of the movie containing the original uncut version of the movie, but it too has been stymied by legal issues — e.g., a “secret internet live stream” of the “musical cut” was shut down in 2020 after Prince’s estate threatened to sue. 

Only the video tape from The Ring is a more cursed bootleg than this one. 

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