Behold, The Fifth Element costume concept art that Prince thought was "too effeminate" for him. Amazing.
Before Chris Tucker stole the show as Ruby Rhod in Luc Besson's The Fifth Element, the role was offered to another celebrity, Prince. And while it makes perfect sense that the role of the androgynous, sexual firecracker would be offered to Prince, we could never picture what he would have looked like in the role.. until now.
Thanks to The Brooklyn Museum's fantastic new exhibit featuring the mind-blowing work of artist (and Fifth Element costume designer) Jean Paul Gaultier, we got a glimpse of Prince as Ruby Rhod. A collection of Gaultier's illustrations for his work on the film were displayed in the exhibit along with this absolutely fantastic story straight form the designer himself, which also revealed that Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts were originally cast as the lead roles.
One of the thousand costumes in The Fifth Element, I took my inspiration for many of them from my own collections. Filming was originally planned for 1992, with Julia Roberts, Mel Gibson and Prince in the leading roles but due to a lack of financing the project was put on hold. At that time, the role of Ruby Rhod, the outrageous media personality finally played by Chris Tucker, had been given to Prince.
When the singer was giving a series of concerts in Paris, Luc Besson wanted us both to meet with him to show him my sketches. Prince had already attended my runway shows, but he came and went very quickly every time, so we had never been formally introduced. While I was waiting for Luc in his office, I saw this huge bodyguard appear, with Prince trailing behind him. As Luc hasn't yet arrived, I thought he must have wanted me to meet with Prince alone, so we could get to know each other a little bit. In broken English, and with my strong French accent, I tried my best to make conversation, something like "Hell-O Prin-ze, welcome to Par-isse! So for ze role I sink…"
I showed him my drawings, but he didn't say a word. I had had an idea for a really funny costume with netting which quite long body hair would pass through, and I had done front and back versions of it. So then I explained to Prince: "Eet eel fake 'air, you know, and eet eel beaucoup, beaucoup, airy, vraiment fun, and ze back is made of sat, and on ze back were eez ze faux cul, you know, a very big faux cul." and I slapped my buttocks to show him how the back of the costume would be designed.
Still not saying anything, Prince gave me this Charlie Chaplin kind of look. I could see that something had just happened, but I didn't know what, only that he had indicated to his body guard that he wanted to leave right then and there. I thought he was going to go and see Luc. Later, Luc told me that Prince had been very surprised and amused — by my presentation, but that he found the costumes a bit too effeminate. And, most importantly, he had thought he head "Fuck you, fuck you!" when I was saying in my terrible English accent "faux cul, faux cul" [fake ass]!
—Jean Paul Gaultier
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk runs from October 25th to February 23rd, 2014, at the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibit is absolutely fantastic and we highly recommend this immersive and exceptionally curated experience. You can purchase tickets here.