Prince's Road to Happy Feet: An Insider Recalls His Trip to Paisley Park

Find out what it was really like working with the late music legend

By Marc Malkin Apr 22, 2016 1:10 AMTags
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Prince wasn't on hand when he won his Golden Globe award for "The Song of the Heart," his original tune for 2006's Happy Feet.

It's not that he didn't want to be there, but he was stuck in L.A.'s infamous traffic. Justin Timberlake ended up accepting the award on Prince's behalf.

If only getting to the show proved to be as easy as it was for Prince to write the song.

Happy Feet director George Miller first approached Prince to seek his permission to allow Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman to sing a cover of his song "Kiss" in the movie.

Miller decided to take things one-step further by asking Prince to write an original song for the film.

Before agreeing to anything, Prince would have to see the movie first. A screening was quickly scheduled for Paisley Park Studios.

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"It was a Friday afternoon and we were met by his assistant at a back door," remembers Warner Bros. Pictures' executive vice president of music Darren Higman, who flew to Minnesota with his boss Gary LeMel (now retired) for the screening.

An informal tour of Paisley Park followed. Higman and LeMel they were lead through a hallway lined with photos of Prince from throughout his career.  "There was a sound stage that had a green screen because he liked to make movies and then we were taken to a sound stage that was set up with a concert stage," Higman said. "It was fully lit and there were couches and tables and chairs."

Prince walked in and, as Higman says, "he was fully Prince." He was in full makeup and was dressed in a white ruffled shirt along with a black knitted vest and matching black knitted bell bottoms.

"He was also wearing white platform tennis shoes that had lights around the bottom that lit up when he walked," Higman said.

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The music legend asked if they could wait to watch the movie until a friend of his could join them. While waiting, Prince rehearsed for an upcoming tour. "He got up on stage and was rehearsing and Gary and I were were just sitting there and watching him rehearse," Higman said. "It was crazy. I was like, 'Oh, my God we are getting a private Prince show.'"

This went on for about 20 minutes before Prince's friend arrived. "What really impressed me was that Prince introduced us to his friend by our first and last names," Higman said. "He remembered both."

For the screening, Prince had Higman next to him on a couch just in case he had any questions. The movie was projected onto a wall of the sound stage. Prince didn't say much, only asking who were the voices behind the characters.

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

"By the time we finished the movie, he said, 'OK, I know what I am going to do,'" Higman said. "Then he wrote it and recorded it and flew out to L.A. a week later and played it for us."

Miller loved "The Song of the Heart" and didn't ask for anything to be changed.

Prince celebrated his Golden Globes win with a star-studded party in the Presidential Suite at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

The guest list included Tom Cruise and Kate Holmes, Jennifer Lopez, Leonardo DiCaprio, Orlando Bloom, David and Victoria Beckham, Timberlake and Jessica Biel, Chris Rock, Demi Moore, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Salma Hayek, James Franco, Tracy Morgan, Sienna Miller and more.

Prince performed during the party, as did Mary J. Blige, will.i.am and Marc Anthony.

"He invited everyone from my office, including assistants," Higman said. "He was that cool."