Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich weren’t always meant to star in Luc Besson’s ambitious sci-fi classic The Fifth Element. Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts were originally eyed for the leading roles, which would have made for a distinctively different film. (And one that may have lacked the alien language Jovovich and Besson invented for Leeloo.) But that wasn’t the only major change in casting — as Besson reminds us, the late, great Prince almost played Ruby Rhod.
The part of the bold and boisterous radio personality ultimately went to Chris Tucker, who made for a delightfully memorable Ruby Rhod, but Besson had initially wanted Prince to play the part. It almost happened, but the musician’s touring schedule got in the way, as Besson recalls in this tweet which includes a look at Jean Paul Gaultier’s design for Prince’s costume:
Prince by @JPGaultier. He was supposed to play Ruby in the 5th Element…but couldn’t find dates during his tour…😢 pic.twitter.com/xNEBX7KKTq
— Luc Besson (@lucbesson) April 23, 2016
This isn’t the first time one of Gaultier’s designs for Prince’s intended role in The Fifth Element has been seen publicly. In 2013, the Brooklyn Museum’s Gaultier exhibit featured many of the designer’s concept sketches for Prince’s costumes in the film. In a feature for Entertainment Weekly following the 1997 release of The Fifth Element, Besson said that Gaultier’s designs for Tucker’s version of Ruby Rhod reminded him of Prince’s earlier stage costumes.