On May 9, 1997, Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element hit theaters and the world would be changed forever. The Fifth Element is one of those films that has stuck with audiences over the years, and has inspired an entire generation of fandom. #LucBesson truly captured lightning in a bottle, and fans across the world still celebrate the film 20 years after its release.
One of the most popular characters in The Fifth Element is Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod. The boisterous radio star was one of the highlights of the film; however, #ChrisTucker was not who Luc Besson originally envisioned for the role. It turns out that the part of Ruby Rhod was originally written for His Royal Badness, #Prince.
Prince As Ruby Rhod
As per Luc Besson's wishes, the wonderful #JeanPaulGautlier drafted concept art that featured Prince in bombastic outfits, claiming even that Prince was too effeminate — yes, that happened. Luc Besson met with Prince on several occasions, and it seems that the singer was on board for the film. During his 2013 art exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, The Fifth Element’s costume designer, Jean Paul Gaultier, discussed his meetings with Prince, and how the legend reacted to his concept art:
“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.
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.”
Prince’s meeting with Jean Paul Gaultier was his last, and a few weeks later, he dropped out of the film.
Luc Besson Explains How Chris Tucker Won The Role Of Ruby Rhod
During a Reddit AMA in April 2017, Luc Besson spoke about casting the the role of Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element, and touched on the different actors who were up for the role:
“It was written for Prince, I met him, he said yes. But then he went on a world tour for 10 years!! We couldn’t find time in his schedule. Then I started casting and the two finalists were Chris Tucker and Jamie Foxx.”
Besson went on to give a specific and hilarious reason for why he chose Chris Tucker over Jamie Foxx, and the rest is history:
“Jamie was amazing, but he was as strong as Bruce, and Chris looked like a shrimp so I knew it would be funnier. But what a luxury to have to choose between these three talented people.”
When it comes down to it, The Fifth Element was cast perfectly, and everything worked out for the best. Although it might have been fun to see Prince play Ruby Rhod, he probably wouldn’t have brought the same level of manic energy that Chris Tucker did. The Fifth Element still holds up 20 years after its release, and will forever remain one of the best #SciFi films of all time.
Make sure you check out The Fifth Element when it plays select theaters on May 14 or May 17, and Luc Besson’s newest film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets when it hits theaters on July 21, 2017.