Whenever Madonna saw photographs of Diana, Princess of Wales, she detected the look of a hunted animal, cornered by the enormity of her fame, and too petrified to flee. It took one to know one.
And when Diana’s life hung between the news of the crash and the announcement of her death, the 39-year-old singer felt herself hurtling down the same Paris tunnel, at the same breakneck speed, with the same cameras flashing in her face, and the same fate at her journey’s end.
“I was crying out, ‘please, God, let her live,'” says Madonna, her voice unusually ragged with emotion. “I have been chased through that same tunnel so many times that I have lost count.”
“I felt outraged and helpless. I really freaked out. Oh God, let her survive, because it is going to mean something so frightful, so horrible if she dies. Anyone who has ever been chased like that, and who has had to live that sort of life hit the wall with her.”
While she is speaking, the news is coming through that the driver had been drinking. This does not deflect her rage from the paparazzi.
“People say that if she had been travelling with her sons, it would have been all right, but that’s bullshit. They don’t draw the line like that.”
“When I came to Europe to promote Evita, I was in Rome and the paparazzi didn’t even give me time to strap my baby into the car. We were driving at about 90 miles per hour, and we were being followed, and flanked and surrounded”.
“OK, so if there weren’t such large offers of money, then these people wouldn’t go to such extremes to take the pictures. Then you have to look at the editors and ask who is responsible for this. But even that does not dig deep enough. As much as I want to blame the press, we all have blood on our hands. All of us, even myself. I bought those magazines and I read them. Until we no longer feel that it is our right to read about people’s private lives, and until we lose our fascination with scandal and sensational journalism, we are never going to act. It is all our faults.”
Madonna and Diana met just once. It happened two years ago in London, at a charity cocktail party hosted by the Duchess of York. The singer was in England to record the soundtrack for Evita. She was suffering from a heavy cold at the time, and says she would probably have stayed in bed if there had not been the possibility of a meeting with the Princess.
“I happened to be a friend of her stepbrother, and he kept trying to arrange tea for us because we both wanted the chance to sit down and talk properly. But she had a really hectic schedule, and so did I.”
“We must have talked for about ten minutes. I said I had always sympathised with her position, and made some joke about how the only person who seemed to get more attention than me was her. She said ‘I think you handle the press better than I do,’ and I said ‘You will have to get skin as thick as an armadillo.’ She said: ‘We must get together and you can tell me how,’ and we agreed to meet when I was over in England again. And that’s it. I had wanted Diana to host a royal premiere of Evita, but for some reason we couldn’t put it together. And we never did meet again.”