Wax Poetics has conducted an interview with producer/director Chuck Statler, the man behind the never-completed Prince film The Second Coming.
The Second Coming (cells pictured above) began as a simple concert documentary, but quickly escalated in scale and style after Prince saw footage of the proposed doco. It was proposed that the footage be used in a feature film with a concept similar to that of Purple Rain.
Thirty years after the film was slated to premiere, Statler opens up about a film that looked set for success before eventually residing unfinished in Prince’s fabled vault.
Wax Poetics: What was their impetus for shooting the Controversy Tour footage?
Chuck Statler: The initial objective was to create a film for the same reason music videos were done at that time: as a promotional tool. Prince’s management wanted to document the concert for possible home video or television distribution. Because there was some concern in specific concert markets about audience demographics and all that, they felt that a film was an easier alternative for people to experience the live show.
After about three days of meetings and discussions with Prince and his management, I spent a few days on the road watching and blocking the live show for the film shoot. We shot it at the Met Center [in Bloomington, Minnesota] on March 7, 1982. That was a very cold night towards the end of the tour. I’m pretty sure we covered it with five principal cameras — 16mm color — and a possible sixth rolling camera for audience shots.
But after screening the footage from the concert, enthusiasm propelled conversations about adding material and seeking theatrical distribution. Steve Rivkin was working with me as an editor at the time. We were cutting the concert shots when Prince came in and got really excited about what he saw. He says, “Wait a minute — maybe we should really expand this and really try to make it a film. Not just a concert movie”.
So his management came back to me and said, “Here’s this situation. Prince wants to do this interstitial material within the concert footage. And it’ll be somewhat autobiographical”. Management’s thinking was that a theatrically distributed film with a semblance of story line could demographically broaden the audience, and, in particular, specific metro markets. In time, this mixture of concert and dramatic interludes would morph into The Second Coming project.
WP: The idea of the film languishing in his archive is disheartening, given his reputation for shelving projects indefinitely. Maybe he’ll reconsider.
CS: I had actually hoped that when he got it, he would try to do something with it – put it together. I don’t think there’s any kind of document from that time frame. Not of that professional grade quality from the Controversy Tour. Again, it’s always bothersome when you make this investment and for one reason or the other the plug gets pulled.
There were excellent parts of the footage, namely his stage performance, even though he was in his bikini and trench coat. Not to mention the antics with his guitar, the miming of certain sexual behaviors. Now, I as an artist have complete respect and admiration for the fact that he really is an artist. Not only with his musicianship but the way he approaches things and perceives things. He does have his own designs and concepts about it.
WP: Purple Rain undoubtedly raised the bar for rock films and romanticized the image of Black musicians on the silver screen. Had The Second Coming been completed and released on schedule, would it have a similar cultural impact?
CS: There’s little question in my mind that The Second Coming would have enjoyed commercial success. I know it’s easy to say now, but the Artist and his music was/is too compelling and powerful. His music is undeniable, and the odds are much better that it would have garnered a large audience. It was the right idea at that point in time. It would have had a reach well beyond what his touring could provide. It’s difficult for me to estimate its critical appeal because the premature abandonment left a large portion of production and the project unfinished and unrealized. It had potential. But it’s just something that’s in his vault, and that’s as far as it will ever go, most likely.
Want to know more about Prince’s fabled vault? Check out this hilarious tale told from the experiences of Kevin Smith.
Watch: An Evening With Kevin Smith – Prince