Gina Gershon Remembers the ‘Totally Stupid’ Time She Turned Down Prince’s Offer to Be in Purple Rain

What could have been. Photo: Getty Images

Ever have one of those kick-me moments? Gina Gershon does. Last night at the premiere for A Bigger Splash hosted by the Cinema Society at the MoMA, Gershon told Vulture about the time she turned down an opportunity to star in Prince’s Purple Rain. Yes, that Purple Rain.

Here’s how it almost went down: A former colleague Gershon did musicals with told her that Prince wanted to meet her. Gershon was a freshman at NYU at the time, and Prince flew her out to Minneapolis. “I changed my clothes, rubbed the dirt off my face, put on a leather skirt, and I got out and there’s a purple limousine waiting for me — a stretch,” said Gershon. “He was super-friendly and he was shy. And then he played me ‘Purple Rain’ in the car, and then it started drizzling. It was very magical.”

She remembers Prince insisted on calling her Geena with a hard “G” sound. “I got a little freaked out when he wanted to call me ‘Geena,’” said Gershon, emphasizing the hard “g.” “He kept going, ‘We’re going to call you Geena.’ I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to be changing my name.’”

In the end, though, Gershon lost her nerve because of the sex scene. “Maybe it was stupid, but I ended up turning it down because I got nervous about the sex scene,” she said. “It was totally stupid, and I wanted to be a serious actress at the time. It’s one of the things — I don’t know if I regret it, but I kind of always think, ‘Oh my God, I could have been doing music with him.’”

How did Prince react? “I don’t think he was very happy when I turned it down — maybe it was a big mistake,” said Gershon. “He’s a genius, but I had a lot of fun with him that night.”