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Madonna Interview : The Face

Madonna - The Face / June 1991

In Bed With Madonna : The Inside Story

What was originally conceived as a TV special on Madonna’s Blond Ambition tou has been turned into a movie. For the first time, the singer has allowed the cameras to followe her from shower to bedroom. Destined to be more controversial than the “Justify My Love” video, it’s not called In Bed With Madonna for nothing.

“I don’t know how many people could stay in a room when I’m throwing a tantrum.” says Madonna in praise of film-maker Alek Keshishian, who spent five months capturing the star’s every mood for her revealing concert documentary.

The media hurricane that raged over Madonna’s “Justify My Love” video may seem like a mere hiccup once the Material Girl’s critics set eyes on this film, which delves deeper into the tawdry side of a pop star’s life than anything we’ve ever seen before. The film. due to be released in cinemas here next month under the title In Bed With Madonna, was originally conceived as a television special on the singer’s Blond Ambition tour. But after viewing footage shot during the first leg of the tour in Japan. the film-maker and his subject decided there was a bigger – more risque – story to be told.

Twenty-six-year-old Harvard graduate Keshishian first had to convince Madonna to let him candidly film every aspect of her life. “I give Alek a lot of credit for being insistent because I’m a really strong person.” says Madonna. Most people. when I go. ‘No. that’s it. you’re not coming in here.’ they go. But Alek wouldn’t.”

The result is a backstage view that’s far from the usual air-brushed portrait of a pop star at rest and play. Interspersed with live segments, we see everything from discussions about her throat to the singer stepping in and out of the shower. Madonna, who is never content to be just on our minds but is always seeking new buttons to push, must have foreseen infinite opportunities here. Although we get glimpses of her as a devoted daughter to her family and compassionate surrogate mother to her “orphaned” crew, the moments more likely to gain attention are even more candid: Madonna dissing Kevin Costner for calling her show “neat”; Madonna discussing anatomical shortcomings in bed with a train of gay male dancers; and in a scene from which provided the name for the movie’s American release, Madonna performing oral sex on a bottle during a game of ‘Truth or Dare’.

Why include a scene like the bottle game, which is bound to cause controversy? “There’s a raunchiness that happens when you’re on the road. and that game, to me, captured it,” says Keshishian, who insisted on having final cut before taking on the project. “Some people will hate her for it, others will love her for it.”

Says Madonna: “The game of Truth or Dare is a metaphor. The bottle thing, that was part of the game. It’s like, OK, if you’re willing to play this game are you willing to go all the way?”

If indeed, as the movie implies, Madonna’s career can be boiled down to a series of rising dares, giving up her privacy to the unblinking eye of Keshishian’s 16mm camera may have been the toughest gauntlet to accept. “I was very wary of Alek. I just didn’t trust him,” she admits. “In this type of situation, you either become very close to someone or you hate them more than life itself. It was really difficult for me in the beginning because I didn’t know what I was getting into … By the end he could come to the bathroom with me. I didn’t care. But it’s completely to his credit that I grew relaxed in front of the camera.”

Madonna - The Face / June 1991

THE VIDEOS APART, moving cameras haven’t been that kind to Madonna, who one studio mogul recently described as “a movie star in search of a movie”. So far, few of her films have fully capitalised on her stage charisma, a problem she blames on her lack of control. At one point she was to have featured in the debut film by Jennifer Lynch (daughter of David), but it now seems her next screen venture will be the title role in the film-of-the-musical Evita for Disney. However, she is also developing a Reds-like project for herself based on the life of revolutionary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.