Universal Pictures is developing an original movie musical inspired by the music of Prince, Collider has confirmed. The studio has acquired the rights to many of Prince’s classic songs, which will be used to drive a fictional narrative, though the project is not expected to be a proper biopic, or even a quasi-biopic like Purple Rain.
The move comes as 20th Century Fox’s Queen movie Bohemian Rhapsody crosses the $500 million mark at the global box office. There are only so many truly beloved artists out there, and like Queen singer Freddie Mercury, Prince is one of them. Universal must look at those Bohemian grosses and think Prince’s catalogue of hits is worth the (surely considerable) price. The studio knows it can sell musicals, as its Mamma Mia! sequel took in nearly $400 million worldwide, while Les Miserables grossed nearly $450 million worldwide and Pitch Perfect spawned an entire trilogy. The genre is clearly a strength of the studio’s marketing department, and Prince’s music offers no shortage of interesting possibilities on that front.
According to Variety, which broke the news, Prince’s estate had been gauging interest from studios for an original movie driven by Prince songs, and Universal’s Donna Langley saw the potential in such a project and moved quickly to make a deal. The studio is already meeting with potential writers and producers, while Troy Carter, who advises Prince’s estate in all entertainment matters, will executive produce alongside Jody Gerson, the Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group, which handles Prince’s catalog. Universal executives Sara Scott and Mika Pryce will oversee the project for the studio, whose president of Global Film Music and Publishing, Mike Knobloch, will also play a key role in the development of the project.
Universal has Danny Boyle‘s musical coming out next year along with Tom Hooper‘s film adaptation of the Broadway hit Cats and Paul Feig‘s Last Christmas, which features the music of George Michael. I think it’s a smart move for the studio to bank on the music of Prince, who has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. The artist clearly struck a chord with fans, and you can see how a talented writer would be able to fashion an interesting narrative out of Prince’s music. Stay tuned to see who the studio hires and what direction they’ll take the story.