Prince’s ‘The Everlasting Now’ Frustrates the Hell out of Kevin Smith: 365 Prince Songs in a Year
To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse body of work left behind by Prince, we will be exploring a different song of his each day for an entire year with the series 365 Prince Songs in a Year.
After Prince made a life-changing conversion to the Jehovah's Witness faith, he did what any musician of his caliber would: He wrote about it. "[H]e took his pearly crown / He raised it up and spun it 'round / And tossed in2 the deep blue underground / No longer lead by the ways of men / He looked 4 the kingdom deep within" he sang on "The Everlasting Now."
But on The Rainbow Children, an album with religious overtones, the release of just a single track from it telling his own story didn't do it justice. So instead of simply releasing The Rainbow Children, the musician had another serendipitous idea to spread the word.
Enter Kevin Smith.
The filmmaker contacted Prince to secure rights to use “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” in his own 2001 work, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, a typically mundane task. That wasn't to be, but it did get Prince, a fan of Smith's 1999 film Dogma, thinking.
Prince called him at home one night, wanting to collaborate on a project that Smith wishfully imagined might be a musical. Instead, the musician went on at length about his appreciation for Dogma, a fantasy comedy revolving around two fallen angels who want to employ a religious loophole to get back into heaven. But as he continued talking about it, Smith recalled, "[I]t's starting not to sound like the movie I made ... He's got the character names down, but there's things he talking about that I'm like, 'I didn't say that in the movie, did I?' Like, 'Hold on, I'm going to rewind the movie.'"
"He starts talking more and more about spirituality, religion, faith. It becomes very apparent over the course of a half-hour, Prince is way into Jesus. Like, really into Jesus," Smith said. "He's always had one foot in the corporeal, one foot in the spiritual. He sings about 'Darling Nikki,' but he also sings about God. But it felt like the pendulum swung far away from nookie, right into the son of God."
Prince even chastised Smith, who has a famously foul mouth, for cursing and questioned him on whether the intent of his language is to offend people. "He asked me, 'Can you make a movie without cursing in it?'" to which Smith replied, "Yeah, but why bother?"
Eventually, Prince got around to sharing his idea for their collaboration, a series of listening parties for The Rainbow Children at Paisley Park. "He's like, 'I want you to shoot people's reaction to the album. Let them listen to it and you have them talk about it," Smith said. "And then I want to talk about the religion and lead that into race, and lead it into the music biz and radio. At the end of the week, I want to change the world.' I'm like, 'I'm in the middle of making a dick-and-fart-joke movie. I'm not prepared to change my underwear, let alone the world.'"
A highly anxious Smith told Prince's rep that he simply can't do it. He's not equipped to make a world-changing documentary about religion, which he said should come from someone passionate about the topic. "I said, 'If Prince wants a movie about a couple of guys hanging around a mall, like, I'm you're guy, but I can't make a documentary.'"
But who can say no to Prince? So Smith went to Paisley Park for a week to shoot the documentary that is ostensibly about religion, but when he got people talking about religion, Prince told him to change the subject. Nonetheless, when Prince appeared sporadically through the process to talk with the guests Smith was shooting, he pulled a Bible out of his back pocket and preached to them. He played games with them to illustrate his points.
When they wrapped, he was told by one of Prince's representatives that the film is unlikely to see the light of day, alluding to its eventual spot in the musician's legendary vault. And when all was said and done, Smith tried to say goodbye, but is told, "He's working on some music." "I walk to the car and I'm like, 'I can't fucking believe it. I spent an entire week shooting a documentary for which I wasn't paid, for which I had really no passion. It was not my story. And the dude never once said, 'Thanks for taking the time,'" Smith lamented. "Like, I'll do anything as long as somebody says, 'Hey, thanks.' Gratitude is a big part of my life. It was so weird that the dude didn't have two seconds to be like, 'Night, tubby.'"