“I said, ‘Goodbye, I love you, goodbye.’ “
That’s what Madonna said were her parting words to her husband, actor Sean Penn, before he went to a California jail Friday to begin serving the first part of 60-day sentence for punching a movie extra.
“I said goodbye to him here in Chicago a couple of days ago,” she said Saturday afternoon, sitting on one of the many sofas in her two-story Ritz-Carlton hotel suite, which rents for $2,000 a night. “It’s nice they’re letting him serve only 32 days, and in chunks.”
Madonna was in Chicago for a Friday-night concert before 47,000 screaming, joyful fans in Soldier Field, where her powerhouse dancing to such hits as “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Material Girl” easily replaced memories of the Chicago Bears’ Super Bowl Shuffle.
“They bait Sean in ways I can’t even tell you,” Madonna said, on this, her day off in between concerts. The next stop on her tour is Sunday night in Alpine Valley, Wis.””
“They call me obscene names in front of him just to get him to react. How would you react if someone said that about your wife? And that movie extra he hit, he wasn’t really an extra – he was a paparazzi posing as an extra. You’d have to be a pacifist or a Buddhist to be able to handle it.””
“But Sean is trying to learn not take the bait,” she said, “and I think he will emerge from jail as a better person and as an even greater actor. Now, that’s enough about Sean,” she said firmly.
Madonna was dressed in a black tank top and stretch jeans. Only her spiky, blonde-dyed hair and quick mouth provided color. She was asked her height. “I’m 5-foot-4 1/2,” she said. Told she looked much taller on stage dancing in flat, black half-boots, she replied, “That means I was coming across as powerful.”
About those boots: “They’re size 7 1/2, lace-up, wing-tip boots I bought at Neiman-Marcus. (Fans, take note: The boots are Neiman’s 1986 fall model, No. 8726; they sell for $205, if you can find them).
“I bought a whole bunch from a lot of different stores. You wanna know my measurements? I’m 34-23-33. You wanna know what kind of underwear I wear?!”
She’s a smart and tough and joyful entertainer, this Madonna, born nearly 28 years ago in Bay City, Mich., named Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone. Her birthday is Aug. 16.
Her first three albums have sold 15 million units; a fourth is just out and should put her over the 20 million mark. She fills outdoor stadiums now rather than auditoriums.
She has one hit movie (“Desperately Seeking Susan”) and one flop (“Shanghai Surprise”) under her boy-toy belt. Little girls and teenager girls follow her every fashion move, from bare belly to bangles to black shiny bustier.
Her latest movie, a screwball comedy called “Who’s That Girl,” opens Friday nationwide, but Warner Bros. has been reluctant to screen the film early for preview audiences or critics–not a good sign.
“Get mad at them, not at me or the movie,” said Madonna. “I think it’s a good film. I could have done others, but I liked my character in this one. She’s a very funny girl who gets thrown in jail on a false charge by this big businessman, who panics and then sends his superstraight, son-in-law-to-be (Griffin Dunne) to bail her out and get her out of town. That’s all he’s supposed to do, but of course we do a lot more.”
Madonna said she passed on playing opposite Bruce Willis in the lackluster comedy “Blind Date” to star in “Who’s That Girl.”
“I was going to do that film, but my contract with Warners (with whom she also makes her records) gives me approval of costar, script, and director. And while I was out of town, Warners cast ‘Blind Date’ with Bruce Willis and made Blake Edwards the director. So I passed. I thought it was a dumb movie.” Making more and different movies is one of the directions Madonna would like to take in her career. “Pop stars are trapped,” she said, “because they have to keep playing the same role over and over. I don’t want that. That’s why I designed this concert now as a bunch of completely different musical numbers. I play all kind of roles on stage.”
“I want to do lots of different stage shows and movies. My next film is going to be a remake of ‘The Blue Angel’ (the picture that made Marlene Dietrich a star in 1931), but we’re setting ours in the ’50s. We’re trying to get Robert De Niro to play the role of the professor.”
Of course, Sean Penn often has been compared with the great De Niro, but when Madonna worked with her husband in last year’s “Shanghai Surprise,” the result was a critical and commercial disaster.
“It stunk,” she said. “I hated it. Sean hated it. We knew after two days it was going to be terrible. We wanted it to be a period film, but the director, Jim Goddard, wanted to shoot it fast without any production values. It was like a bad music video.”
But how could Penn, she was asked, who gave such brilliant performances in “The Falcon and the Snowman” and “At Close Range” have taken the role at all? Was he blinded by love?
“No,” Madonna said at first. Then she relented. “The truth is, we had just gotten married. Sean wasn’t supposed to do the film. He didn’t want to do the film. But he also didn’t want to spend four months away from me.”
The real shocker in Madonna’s movie career, however, was not the failure of “Shanghai Surprise” – many films starring lovers or married couples fail as they lose perspective on the script or each other. No, the stunner in Madonna’s film career was the success of “Desperately Seeking Susan,” her 1985 movie debut as a punk character who takes a couple of straight people (played by Rosanna Arquette and Mark Blum) for a joy ride into a whole new way of life.
“I had no idea it would be a hit,” she said. “I think it worked because it’s a comedy that defies description. It’s not pratfalls, like so many teenage films, and it’s not a cult art film, like ‘Down By Law.’ It’s somewhere in between.””
“My favorite scene in the movie is when I’m in the straight guy’s apartment. It’s a complete mess; I’ve eaten all the food, and we’re in bed smoking a joint. I don’t have any method of acting, but I just knew that scene was funny.”
Told that her praise of a scene involving marijuana might make some of her fans’ parents shudder, she said:
“I didn’t write the script. It’s just a role. She’s rebellious, and kids relate to that and always have.”
But is there any limit to what she would portray on screen? “Yes. I don’t condone violence, and I don’t believe I would ever play a victimized character, unless it was properly resolved by the end of the film. With hard drugs the same would have to be true.”
Madonna’s strength, and humor, is apparent in her concert as well as her conversation. “I suppose my favorite number in the show is the medley with ‘Dress You Up,’ ‘Material Girl’ and ‘Like a Virgin.'” (She appears as a nerd in a button-festooned dress, looking like she just survived a car wreck at a Woolworth’s).
“In that number I’m sticking out my tongue at those old images, at the fans and at myself,” she said. “I also like dancing real hard during ‘Papa Don’t Preach.’ I really lose myself. I’m throwing a tantrum. I’m stepping on every man who every told me to do something I didn’t want to do.”
Madonna had a difficult childhood. Her mother died of cancer when she was 6. Her father married the family housekeeper two years later.
But that’s 20 years ago. Today, she runs her own life and part of her daily life involves running, a lot of running. Here, in her words, was how she spent Friday, the day of her Soldier Field concert:
“I got up at 9 and had breakfast. I have to wait two hours for my food to digest. Then, with my trainer, I went for a run along the lakefront here. Then I came back to the hotel and ran up and down its stairs, twice (the hotel has 20 floors). After that I had a workout with pushups and situps, working out all the muscle groups. The whole workout lasted about two hours. At 2 o’clock I had lunch, a lot of fruit.”
“I left the hotel for the venue around 3:30. At 4, I began a sound check (with the other dancers and singers in the show) that lasted for an hour and a half. Then I had a vegetarian dinner prepared by my cook. From 6 to 6:30 I had a massage with my masseuse. Then I went in for makeup. Just before I went on (at 9:07 p.m.) I started dancing in my dressing room to some real loud music. Last night it was (her latest hit) ‘Causing a Commotion.’ Then I’m on. “After the show,” she said, “I jumped into the limousine, went back to the hotel, took a shower, ate mango sorbet and read ‘A Feast of Snakes,’ a novel by Harry Crews. Then I fell asleep.”
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