The Face (August 2000)
Madonna has a swift, firm handshake and a straight, green gaze and a face that you know as well as your own. The sharp little chin, the heavy lidded eyes, the gap in the teeth: all familiar, but, also, all strange. She looks like Madonna but 300 times better-looking. She looks like Madonna, but smaller.
She walks lightly into the heavily draped Duke of Newcastle suite at Home House, the club-cum-hotel on London’s Portman Square, and gasps. She explains she once stayed in this very suite for quite some time. “My baby was in that room” – Lourdes had to snuggle down in the bed the size of a school playground – “and I was in the one behind, and, uh, it was OK, except I don’t really like hotel bathrooms. Those towelling dressing gowns”
Madonna has been looking for a house in London the past six months. It seems longer: since she decided to move in on us, our press have moved in on her. Not a HEAT or an OK! Or a Sunday Times goes past without some mention of Madge. Where she got her highlights done (Daniel Galvin); where she goes to eat (San Lorenzo); to drink (The Sanderson); to wash the car (everyday garage in north London). How her boyfriend’s really pish (the son of a Lady); really rough (he has a scar on his face); really committed (he put his hand on her knee!); really not (Madonna rushes back from America for relationship summit meeting).
Madonna, by moving in on Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels director Guy Ritchie, has changed from being a remote, fantastic, superstar hologram to a real-life local girl. And because she’s so close, we want her even closer.
So, then: up close, 41-year-old Madonna is beautiful, blonde, and pregnant, wearing dark blue Maharishi trews, a red vest with a Chinese letter on it and pointy red slippers. She doesn’t waste time; not hers, not yours: she arrives without fuss or entourage, gives some easy chit-chat – about the room; about being pregnant (“I’ll eat all these olives, I warn you”); about my accent, surprisingly (“Manchest-oh! Curry!”) – and then sits on the floor between the sofa and coffee table and agrees that we should start.
I’d been warned by several friends who have interviewed Madonna that she’s a tricky, unlikeable interviewee: “A cold fish,” said one. “Really, really difficult,” said another. But her press officer insists that Madonna has relaxed, and offers the fact that she goes to a public gym as an example of her new nonchalance: “The old Madonna would have insisted that it was all set up for her at home.”
So: I didn’t know what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect Madonna to be funny. But she is. Her answers are delivered wryly, with a camp sideways look, or a half-laugh. And I didn’t expect her to be easy company. But she’s that too.
Madonna’s accent has Los Angeles touches (some statements? Are questions?) and an occasional British twang (her vocals are rounder than most Americans). She speaks rapidly, but pauses a lot. She thinks before, during and after she answers: I’d say she’s naturally honest, and precise, but she’s well aware that when she speaks, the world listens in. “If I had my druthers, I wouldn’t do any interviews,” she says at one point. “Because (a) I think it’s boring to explain my work to the nth degree and not let anybody figure it out for themselves; and (b) I’m not that interested in blabbing my personal life either.”
Her posture has the neutral poise of a dancer; she carries herself with status but not starriness. I’ve met third-division indie boys whose high-rank body language would eclipse Madonna’s economic gestures. Still, she knows how to move. When she leaves, she does so abruptly. She turns her back and she’s gone.
But before she does that, we’re here to talk about her new album, Music. Madonna’s been having trouble with MP3 internet database Napster – THE FACE downloaded her new single before it even arrived at her record company – so I’m not allowed an album because I might run off a few CDs of my own. “And then people won’t buy my record. And how will I pay for my daughter’s schooling?” says Madge, with one of her sideway looks. “Anyhow, I didn’t want you to get bored.”
Before the interview, I go to her press office and hear seven tracks twice over. Two are get-thee-to-the-dancefloor numbers: ‘Music,’ the cheeky, Daft Punk first single, and the ‘Impressive Instant’, a complicated, Chemicals-related, headlong headrush of a track with a disco baseline to challenge Donna Summer. Then there’s ‘I Deserve It’, ‘Amazing’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me’ – all spacey, twisted pop songs, and all about lerve.
‘Amazing”s lyrics include: “It’s amazing what a boy can say/I cannot stop myself/Seems I love you more than yesterday/I love you and no one else.’ If Mr. Ritchie isn’t blushing – yes, I know he doesn’t look the type – then, ladies, he should be. Finally I hear the catchy silvery ‘What It Feels Like For A Girl” – likely to be the second single – and ‘Paradise (Not For Me)’, which is also on the Mirwais album, Production. Five of the tracks are produced by Mirwais, the 39-year-old French maverick introduced to Madonna by photographer Stephane Sedanoui. ‘Amazing’ is produced by William Orbit; ‘What It Feels Like For A Girl’ by Guy Sigsworth (Bjork, Seal). And they’re all ace: poppy, electronic progressions from the musical arena she moved into with Ray of Light.
As we talk, Madonna sips from a bucket-glass of Cabernet and munches her way through an impressive amount of olives and crisps.
Interviewer : Music seems a very positive LP. Kind of There are some songs that are tinged with sadness (sideways look). Madonna : This record, more than any other records, covers all the areas of my life. I left off partying on Ray of Light. But I’d just had a baby, so my mood was complete, like wonderment of life, and I was incredibly thoughtful and retrospective and intrigued by the mystical aspects of life.
Interviewer : You could connect Ray of Light with Like a Prayer. With you looking for spirituality, looking for a meaning, looking for God. It’s not that I don’t have to look anymore.
Madonna : Spirituality is still really important to me, but I don’t feel so inspired to write songs about it. I mean, I got to church: I go to Church of England, I go to Catholic churches, I got to synagogues, I partake in all religions. In my bones, I’m Catholic, because that’s how I was raised, but I am just as intrigued by Judaism as I am by Catholicism.
Interviewer : Between those two albums, there were some long wilderness years. You seemed to be flailing a little.
Madonna : Sure. It was a combination of a lot of things. My marriage ended, and that left me incredibly cynical about love for a long time, and then also my fame increased and I had a love-hate relationship with that, feeling trapped by it, and feeling angry about it. I was running the gamut of emotions, and I think that creatively I was all over the place.
Interviewer : What mood were you in when you made Music?
Madonna : To tell you the truth, I didn’t know what the mood was. I feel like an animal that’s, like, ready to be sprung from a cage. (Laughing) I’ve been living a pretty low-key domestic existence and I miss things. Like, I miss performing, and dancing, and being on the road, that kind of energy. So part of the record is about that. And then the other part is about love. So there’s the frivolous side of my life and then there’s the – hopefully – non-frivolous side of my life. I usually make a record that’s one or the other, and I feel I did both on this one.
Interviewer : Do you sit at home and write songs and then take them into the studio, or do you work when you’re in there?
Madonna : I keep a pillow book, I jot things down – dreams or poems or things I’ve read in books. Or kind of diary-like entries, or I’ll cut out articles from newspapers, anything that I want to remember. So, I keep this scrapbook, and a lot of times I’ll go back and draw from an idea that I’ve kept for a song. But generally, it’s music that kicks me into thinking a certain way or feeling a certain thing, and I rely heavily on the people that I collaborate with to inspire me lyrically. Believe it or not, I’m at my most creative when I’m standing at a microphone and the pressure’s on.
Interviewer : “Impressive Instant” seemed to be about that brilliant point when you’re at a club and you see somebody and think I’m going to spend the rest of my life with him!
Madonna : That’s why it’s called ‘Impressive Instant’ – it’s that moment. That moment where everything goes wooosssh (clapping her hands)! Of course, it helps to have had a couple of cocktails.
Interviewer : “What It Feels Like For A Girl” – who’s speaking at the beginning?
Madonna : Charlotte Gainsburg [daughter of Serge]. Did you ever see a movie called The Cement Garden? Where she has an affair with her brother? It’s a scene where she’s saying to her brother “It’s OK for girls to dress like boys, to wear shirts and boots and blah blah blah. But for a boy to dress like a girl is degrading, because you think that being a girl is degrading – but secretly you’d love to know what it’s like.’ I just was like, ‘Oh my God, that is so brilliant!’
Interviewer : Is that song addressed to your daughter?
Madonna : Um.. . ish. It’s to her, but then it’s me talking to myself, it’s me. It’s about me discovering that being an overachiever is not always to your benefit when it comes to relationships and dealing with men, because men are quite intimidated by women who accomplish a lot. There have been so many instances where I’ve said to myself ‘Oh I wish somebody would have said to me, “Be great, but don’t be too great because you’re going to limit your options”
Interviewer : Be great and then fall over?
Madonna : It is a game that all strong women have to play. ‘Game’ is the wrong word, but the song is really a realization about the politics of the sexes. It’s a complaint. It’s also about traditional feminine behavior, this kind of thing (curling her hair around her finger and batting her lashes). I was thinking about girls in advertising, and about how on the outside something can look like pubescent acquiescence but in reality, underneath, it’s completely different. And it’s not a feminist anthem, but I feel like other women can relate to it. The song’s about quite a lot actually, but the more I explain it the more trivial it sounds.
Interviewer : And then there’s ‘I Deserve It’, ‘Amazing’, and ‘Don’t’ Tell Me’, which are all about love, aren’t they?
Madonna : Yes. ‘I Deserve It’ is a love song. ‘Amazing’ is a I-love-you-but-fuck-you song. And ‘Don’t Tell Me’, that’s of the same thing too. They’re all I-love-you-but-fuck-you songs. Those are my best songs. ‘I Deserve It’, even, it’s a love song, but there’s something lonely about it. Sonically, the juxtaposition of the acoustic guitar and then that synth siren sound – to me, that strange combination makes it a little bit uncomfortable. ‘Amazing’ starts off: “You took a pretty picture and you’ve smashed it into bits/You took a poison arrow”‘and you aimed it at my heart’. My daughter goes around the house singing that bit. I don’t know why she picked up on those lines.
Interviewer : What’s that one about then?
Madonna : Well, durr! What do you think it’s about?
Interviewer : You’re meant to tell me. But I’ll tell you what I think. It’s about people seeing you as an image, not as a rounded human being, and then if someone comes up and sees past that, then it blows you away.
Madonna : Yeah It has to do with shattering an image that you have of somebody, but it’s also a song about loving someone that wish you didn’t love. Because you know that you’re doomed, but you can’t stop yourself, because it’s amazing.
Interviewer : It’s amazing?
Madonna : You figure out what ‘it’ means.
Interviewer : When do you think people will listen to the record?
Madonna : At night. This is night listening. I think it’s too moody to listen to during the day. You could put the first two tracks on before you go out, though. Actually, the third track is a William Orbit track and is also a really up-tempo, dancey, clubby song as well. You could put the first three on before you go out; and then, after you meet the man of your dreams you come back and listen to ‘I Deserve It’ and ‘Amazing’.
We talk about the prospects of her touring. After she’s had her second child, before the end of the year, she’d like to play a few small venues in America and Europe. And then, informs Madge, a proper full-blown tour may be in the cards. ‘I feel like I want to, but I know it will such an enormous undertaking: be really intricate theatre. Lots of work. So I’m having a back-and-forth game in my mind about that, because I’ll have two kids.’ I ask her if her second pregnancy has been different from the first: she says it has, simply because the first time around was new and she was utterly overcome by it. For Madonna, this is what made Ray of Light a spiritual adventure: she was overwhelmed by the experience of having her first child, and it was this personal transcendental event that informed the LP. Despite her mystical protestations, though, most of us classed Ray of Light as, essentially, a dance record (her first 1990’s ‘Vogue’). And though Madonna may classify it as a ‘moody’ LP, Music builds on Ray of Light’s legacy. Its pop songs are poppier and its dance tunes proper ripsnorters, unashamed of their disco destination. Like ‘Into the Groove’, they celebrate the true brilliance of throwing yourself about like a berk to a tune that sounds like it fell from heaven. Only when you’re dancing can you feel this free. Ray of Light was made in one fell swoop in Los Angeles and was, according to William Orbit, an intense experience: ‘I walked into Madonna’s World and emerged blinking, five months later.’ Music, though, was made in London, using various producers. It was a bittier process: plus, Madonna hopping back and forth from America during recording. Still, both William Orbit and Mirwais testify to her concentration and dilligence in the studio. She works fast and decisively: ‘She wants it to be done quickly, it’s cool. I can spend years on a song, it’s not really cool,’ says Mirwais, while Billy O informs: ‘If a track has a good vibe, that gets her off the runway. She doesn’t have to give it much thought – either it does or it doesn’t. And she’s always rehearsed, she doesn’t like to be one that holds up the session. She always does her homework.’ Madonna, it seems, is a keen user of the dictaphone, and she drives around listening to half-formed tracks in her car. Music is the first ever Madonna LP made outside America. The first one recorded in the UK. And it shows, in parts. Mirwais says that he and Madonna both ‘consider to mix experiemental and commerical music’, and in ‘Paradise’, she even tries out a bit of French: ‘je suis cassee’ (‘I’m broken’, but also, in French slang, ‘I am out of it’). She tells me that the recordings Serge Gainsbourg made with Birkin and Brigitte Bardot in the Sixties and Seventies ‘floated in our subconcious’ during the making of this album. Plus, ‘Impressive Instinct’, even more so than ‘Music’, has that muffled chemical squelch guaranteed to tear up British dancefloors. And lyrics that could have come straight from the UK’s National Songbook For A Messy Night Out: ‘The universe is full of stars/Nothing out there looks the same/You’re the one I’ve been waiting for/I don’t even know your name’. Made in Britain, indeed.
Interviewer : How do you find living in Britain? Do you like it? Or does it get on your nerves?
Madonna : Both. There are many days when I feel like a stranger in a strange land and I despair, and I miss my friends and I miss certain things that one always misses about the country of their origin. But I love the idea – whether it’s in my work or where I live – exploring new frontier, and I like putting myself in strange places and trying to survive and figure things out and gather up an infrastructure. I like knowing that I could figure out a way to live anywhere.
Interviewer : And at least we speak the same language.
Madonna : Yeah. But just because we speak the same language doesn’t mean we’re actually that similar. Actually. It’s interesting, because one always thinks about England as being this repressed, tradition-based place, where everyone has this uptight prim way of relating to each other. But, in fact, Americans, who are known for being boisterous and straightforward, are puritanical, so it’s a strange paradox. Because on the outside it seems like everyone in England is uptight, but actually they’re not, they’re a bunch of dirty wankers. My God, all you have is naked people in newspapers here! I can’t get used to naked Page Three girl, no matter how hard I try. You know, I’m having my cup of coffee and I’m opening a newspaper and.. uh! I mean, tits are everywhere here but really!
Interviewer : Are you still thinking of buying a house in London?
Madonna : I’m definitely going to buy a house here, but I can’t find the perfect house for me. And I cannot believe how expensive real estate is here, and I refuse to bend over and get fucked up the ass – and I say that to my boyfriend. It’s misleading because I could get my mind around buying a house for $6 million in America and here, you get tricked into thinking L6 million is $6 million, and it’s just too outrageous and I’m just too middle-class to throw my hard-earned money away like that, it’s absurd.
Interviewer : So you’re going to have to move to Birmingham?
Madonna : No! God, no. I’m just going to bide my time I have a love/hate relationship with England. I always, always, always fantasized about living in London, and then I started living in London and it wasn’t what I thought and I went though a whole, oh fuck this, America is so much nicer.
Interviewer : What let you down about London?
Madonna : Well, partly, I don’t like living in rented houses with other people’s things; I miss my things. And partly, it’s just a different lifestyle here. At six o’clock everybody goes home here and nobody works on the weekends and people go away for a month in the summer. It’s a very old-fashioned lifestyle. It takes a lot longer to get anything done here. In America, my employees work 24 hours, around the clock.
Interviewer : Here, you can’t whip them into shape
Madonna : Exactly – I can’t beat all my employees into submission. I mean, I’m going on a vacation in two days, but it’s the second vacation I’ve had in my life and it’s a foreign concept to me. Because I love what I do, and travel so much for my work, so going on holiday seems weird, because when I’m not working I just want to go home and sleep in my bed. So, yeah, it’s a different mentality. People are much less work-oriented and ambitious here than they are in America.
Interviewer : But surely the people you meet must be ambitious, for British people.
Madonna : Half and half. I’ve met some dilettantes and some bon vivants. I envy those people.
Interviewer : No, you don’t.
Madonna : No, I don’t. I don’t envy them! I don’t – I can’t imagine my life not being productive. But there’s an appreciation of life here – in all of Europe – that doesn’t exist in America, and that part I like.
Interviewer : And by ‘life’ do you mean ‘cultural life’?
Madonna : Yeah. Culture. Music and art and literature and things like that. Nature.
Interviewer : What’s a normal day for you here, then?
Madonna : It depends on what I’m doing. I get up at the same time every morning because my daughter wakes me up. So, I get up at seven, and she goes off to school and I drink my coffee and look at the naked girls on Page Three. And then I go into my office and I spend hours in front of my computer emailing people. That’s how I conduct all my business in California. And then I have yoga practice every morning, with my teacher. I do it to music. All kinds of stuff, lots of traditional Indian ragas and ambient stuff: Nitin Sawhney – I have all of his CDs. Then I meditate at the end in silence. By then, my daughter is usually home from school and I have lunch with her, and then she takes a nap, and then I go off and do my things, whatever they are, for the rest of the day.
Interviewer : Do you have good friends here?
Madonna : I have a very small handful of good friends here, but I do miss my friends in America because obviously I’ve known them a lot longer.
Interviewer : Who’s your oldest friend?
Madonna : This girl called Debbie – I knew her in New York, when she was an elevator girl working in Danceteria, before anything every happened to me. She’s one of my few friends I have that knew me before I was famous. Because the rest of my really good friends I’ve had from ten to five years.
Neither of us, as yet, has mentioned the reason for Madonna in Britain in the first place. Though she may have always wanted to live in London, it wasn’t until she started seeing Guy Ritchie that she actually made the move from New York. She bought a four-storey mansion in South Kensington in November of last year, only to sell it on a month later – too damp and cold, apparently – trousering a tidy L900,000 profit in the process. Since then, she and Ritchie have been renting; soon after this interview, she snaps up a disgraced tycoon Asil Nadir’s old Belgravia residence, a snip at L10 million. Moving to London is a big step for America’s Pop Queen: the father of Lourdes, Carlos Leon, still lives in America, and she’s had to relocate her work, including her PA, and make new friends. (She contacts people she considers interesting and arranges to see them, at their house, or for lunch: a nice way to meet stimulating acquaintances, but no substitute for old chums.) And from the way she talks, the move has not been as easy as she thought. All this for a relationship that didn’t become official until February this year, when Ritchie took her to the Evening Standard Film Awards. A month later, she announced she was pregnant with his child. The story goes that she was introduced to Ritchie by Trudi Styler, Sting’s wife, at a party. (Styler produced Lock Stock) Madonna took him to the Grammy Awards on February 24, 1999, though at that point, Ritchie was insisting that they were just friends. The relationship was considered an on-off one for quite some months: rumors that he stood up to her in an argument, and that she, unused to such treatment, finished with him on the spot. But they bumped into each other again, a few months later, at a party in New York’s Moomba bar, and got back together again. Aw. And now, as well as glamour snaps at premieres, we get to see Madonna and her feller doing ordinary, coupley things: washing the car, going shopping, coming out of the gym, leaving restaurants. Not very Warren Beatty. But sweet enough, and the pair of them seem pretty settled. Madonna is reported to have ‘calmed down’. Though Guy’s still peppy enough to have a fuck with a fan outside their Kensington home, for which he received a police caution last month.
Interviewer : When you met Guy, was it like in ‘Impressive Instant’?
Madonna : Yeah. I had a whole premonition about my life fast-forward. That’s only happened to me once before.
Interviewer : With Sean Penn?
Madonna : (No answer)
Interviewer : Is it frightening?
Madonna : No, it’s invigorating.
Interviewer : Did you tell Guy how you felt?
Madonna : Not then, no way. I went into a state of denial because he lived here and I lived in America and wasn’t interested in torturing myself by having some long-distance love affair. But it happened anyway. It was just one of those inexplicable uncontrollable things. But it’s hard work having a long-distance relationship and he’s really stubborn and so am I, so it does turn into a bit of a war of the wills.
Interviewer : When you say you had a premonition about what was going to happen, what exactly do you mean?
Madonna : It’s weird. I couldn’t even tell you specifically what my thoughts were, it was just You know when people say ‘he turned my head’? My head didn’t just turn – my head spun around on my body! Do you know what I mean? In this business, my business, I get to meet all kinds of incredible people, fascinating people, glamorous people and sexy people and highly intellectual people. And you meet them and you go ‘interesting, interesting, interesting’. They’re interesting, but not very many people stop you in your tracks. But that’s got so much to do with chemistry and timing.
Interviewer : It’s very exciting that, meeting someone that makes you go wobbly.
Madonna : Umhm. Bonkers, wobbly-bonkers.
Interviewer : Where exactly was it you first met him?
Madonna : Oh, out in the countryside. I was having lunch in the garden of Sting and Trudi’s house and he was a guest. This coming Sunday it will be two years since I met him. I remember it, because it was Father’s Day in America, and when I was at Trudi’s I excused myself from the lunch table because I had to go and call my father. So, yeah, I had no idea he was going to be there. He just appeared on the seat next to me.
Interviewer : Did he make you laugh?
Madonna : Yes, immediately. He’s very funny. He has a great sense of humor.
Interviewer : It must be hard to have a relationship that’s so public.
Madonna : Yeah, but it’s only public on one level. Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass, but it’s inevitable. I mean, he has a sense of humor about it all and so do I. We know what people write about us is not anywhere near the truth.
Interviewer : What’s the truth about Guy beating up a fan of yours?
Madonna : Umm. Oh God, it’s so boring to talk about it. Nothing.
Interviewer : He just fell over onto Guy’s fists?
Madonna : He didn’t hit him with his hand, he kicked him. This guy had basically been stalking me for the entire time I’d been here. And he’s a grown man, he’s not like a kid, so it’s a bit creepy. All the fans and kids have been getting more and more aggressive, and he was one of the leaders. They don’t leave me alone – they ring my doorbell, they order pizzas, they harass my daughter, they stand in front of the car so we can’t back in and out of our driveways, they make life impossible. It’s just a serious irritant every day, every day, every day. And on this particular day, we arrived in a car, and this guy opened my car door. And so Guy had to get out and tell him what’s what. I mean, Guy kept warning him saying, ‘If you piss me off, someone’s going to get it,’ and they sort of defied him. But the thing is, since that happened there has been no one in front of my house. So, thank God for chivalry. I mean, he was just being a protective boyfriend.
Interviewer : If you had to think of five qualities you liked about Guy, what would you pick?
Madonna : I’m not sure I feel so comfortable talking much about Guy.
Interviewer : He’s really good-looking, he’s nice to his mum and dad
Madonna : Yeah, those two And he makes me laugh. And he’s brilliant and he’s gorgeous and he’s smart and (pause) How many is that? I don’t want to do any more or he’ll get big-headed.
Interviewer : Since you’ve been here, what’s been your best night out?
Madonna : My best night out (thinking) Oh dear, I haven’t really been out that much. Sorry. I’m pregnant, I can’t go out on the piss or anything. And I don’t really feel like dancing. I mean, I do, but now I’m a big fat whale and I can’t dance, so what’s the point? So I haven’t really been going out that much. I’ve had lots of nice evenings out, but not nightclubbing or anything. I haven’t been to Ministry of Sound.
Interviewer : Do you think the British are really class-ridden?
Madonna : Yeah. Everybody always asks you what school you went to here in England. Even middle-class people. It’s accents and schools. People use them to put other people in categories, whereas in America, nobody cares what school you went to. Well, it’s not a way to pinpoint someone.
Interviewer : You were invited to Highgrove for dinner? What was it like?
Madonna : It was fun. I got to sit next to Prince Charles. It was boy, girl, boy, girl. I had Michael Parkinson on one side and Prince Charles on the other, and my boyfriend was across the table from me and we waved at each other. Prince Charles was very charming, I must say. He was.
Interviewer : What did you talk about? Art?
Madonna : We talked art, we talked the entertainment business, we talked about the media, we talked about traveling and jetlag, ha ha. We covered every topic. He asked me how I met Guy. He’s quite romantic: he wanted to know kind of what you wanted to know. And he was very down to earth. I didn’t find him stiff at all. He’s very relaxed at the table, throwing his salad around and stuff. Flinging lettuces willy-nilly. I liked him, he’s funny.
Interviewer : Were you late because you had to choose something to wear?
Madonna : Do you believe everything you read? No, I was late because I wanted to skip the tour of the garden. And also, it’s an hour-and-a-half drive, and I’d rather spend time with my daughter and hang out with her, put her to bed
Interviewer : It must be strange to act naturally and then have a spin put on the top.
Madonna : I think in the end, when you’re famous, people like to narrow you down to a few personality traits. I think I’ve just become this ambitious, say-whatever’s-on-her-mind, intimidating person. And that’s part of my personality, but it’s certainly not anywhere near the whole thing.
Interviewer : Do you think you’ll stay in Britain for a while?
Madonna : Well, I’m going back to America to have my baby and spend a little bit of time there. I want the same doctor that delivered my daughter to do it. It’s familiarity. And my sisters live there, and I want to be around my family and my friends – they can all come and look after me, come and visit me. I miss my house anyways. And I think Guy wants to spend time there, because he’s a filmmaker and his film’s coming out, and he wants to check out LA for a while, and it’s a good time for him to be there. But I’m sure we’ll come back. Absolutely.
Interviewer : Did you go to the set of Snatch?
Madonna : Yeah. It was great watching Guy direct. It’s a great aphrodisiac, actually. I just liked him being in charge of everybody. But not in an obvious way, because he’s really laid-back on the set. He’s in charge, but he’s not bossy.
Interviewer : I’m glad that you’re in love.
Madonna : I am too. It only took me 40 years to get it right. Write that down.
Time’s up. Tape’s off. Madonna uncoils herself from the floor, stretches a little, pads round to the back of the sofa. We talk some more about her pregnancy: she knows what sex her child will be – ‘but I’m not going to tell you’ – and she and Guy have discussed names – ‘but I’m not telling you that either’. She wanders into another room and comes back with a keen young man from her record company, Maverick, who must have turned up during the interview. We chat music, music videos. The video for Madonna’s new single has Ali G making an appearance as her driver: he grapples at her breasts in hilarious ‘I am the new Benny Hill’ fashion.
Madonna has become an Ali G fan when someone gave her his video as a present. ‘I hope he breaks America,’ she muses. ‘I think he could do you like his other characters, the Kazakhstani? I love him’ Last Friday, Madonna went round to Sacha Baron Cohen’s parents’ house for dinner. ‘Sacha’s not at all like Ali G,’ she says. ‘He’s a very lovely young man and the apple of his family’s eye.’
It’s not until she leaves that is strikes me: how much UK culture she has absorbed in so short a time. From Ali G to the Royal Family; from Page Three to Ministry. She buys British art (‘three pieces by an artist called Julie Roberts. She’s Welsh. Or Scottish’), she reads books about ‘high-society English ladies that threw everything away for love.’ Madonna is accused of constantly ‘reinventing’ herself, as though it’s a self-conscious, deliberate act of changing her image. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that she’s always developing, changing in reaction to her environment. She likes to learn; she’s quick to observe (she mentions both my T-shirt and a particular charm on my charm bracelet); she’s known to consume new music; she’s voracious in her appetite for stimulation. Let’s hope Britain gives her enough to think about.
Madonna shakes my hand firmly. ‘You didn’t insult me,’ she says, ‘too much’ Before she leaves, she makes me say five nice things about my boyfriend.
© Face Magazine