Interviewing Madonna – whether it be an invigorating round table discussion or during a one-on-one wet dream interview come true – is an event.
During a recent Q & A, the chanteuse’s latest film role was examined. Throughout it one could not help but wonder which role Madonna herself feels best suited. Is she: A] an icon; B] an entertainer; C] a mother; D] all of the above?
Before you answer this question, remember that Madonna is undoubtedly the most iconographic personality in the world. And among music-loving gay men, testosterone-charged teenage boys, midriff baring high school girls and back-to-school working mothers, the entertainer once known for her forays into the naughty and decadent underground is now primarly knows as Lourdes’ mom. The role of motherhood is, perhaps happily for Madonna, The Next Best Thing.
Next: How important are male friendships in your life?
Madonna: Incredibly important. I mean, friendship is really important to me. It just so happens – strangely enough – that most of my friends are gay men. I don’t know how it worked out that way.
Next: If the right man came along, are you in a place in your life where you’re open to the possibility of marriage?
Madonna: Possibly. [Smiles broadly]
Next: What is your attachment to gay men?
Madonna: My attachment? I don’t know. I don’t really think about it.
Next: Would you fall in love with Rupert Everett? And have you?
Madonna: Essentially, yeah. I mean, I adore him, I love him. And, you know, I’m sure if he were straight, things would be different. [Laughs] I don’t know!
Next: After the birth of Lourdes, it’s been said of you that female relationships have become of greater importance to you. Do you feel that way?
Madonna: I had lots of really good friends – girlfriends – before I had my daughter. Well, I wouldn’t say lots , I’d say a handful. I’ve had a handful of really good friends – male and female. The only difference now is I can probably relate to mothers more since I had a baby. I’ve become much closer to my sister, for instance, who has children as a result of that. I think that happens to most women with children; you gravitate towards other women with children, generally, because you’ve got more in common with them. You can pick their brains and complain together.
Next: Religion has figured greatly in your life and in your art. How do you intend to have religion affect your own child?
Madonna: That is a conundrum. I don’t know. I’m very conflicted about that. I don’t exactly know how to do that. I mean, I talk about God to my daughter when we say prayers every night before she goes to bed. And she was baptized a Catholic, but I’m not really sure how I feel about the concept of organized religion. So, I don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t know exactly how I am going to introduce that into her life.
Next: Do you have a private life?
Madonna: Yeah. [Laughs] I have a private life now – I always have. And I just think that that’s a misconception that a lot of people have had about me – that I expose everything about myself. And that there is nothing that is private, when in fact so much is. Plus, I didn’t really become famous until, I guess, I was about twenty-four or twenty- five. [Laughs] Until then I had to wait in line.
Next: What is the biggest misconception about you?
Madonna: That I’m insecure and vulnerable and full of fears. [Laughs] And that I’m strong and fearless and no one ever says, ‘No,’ to me. And that I’m in control of everything – all that nonsense.
Next: In The Next Best Thing your character Abbie has a lot of those same qualities you speak of. She is also ruled to a great point by the men in her life at different points in the film. How similar or dissimilar is Abbie to you?
Madonna: Well, I do have some things in common with Abbie. I have found myself in situations with men – even though I had nothing to do with the writing of the line – where I’ve said, ‘Wait a second. You mean if I had less to offer you, I’d have a better chance in a relationship?’ I didn’t exactly say it like that, but there have been many situations in my life where I feel like my accomplishments and my success and things like that have actually hindered certain relationships from taking place. So, I can relate to that, but obviously my life and Abbie’s life are very different. But I think a lot of situations she made, you know, the way that she chose to have a baby and raise the baby and all of those things, I probably wouldn’t have done those things — in fact I’m sure I wouldn’t have done those things.
Next: There is a very dark side to the second half of the film.
Next: When you were considering the script, were you concerned about the…
Madonna: The tonal change?
Madonna: Um, only that it flowed effortlessly and that the audience took the ride with you. But I do think it is very reflective of life. I mean, it started out kind of happy – I wouldn’t say carefree – but I don’t think my character or Rupert’s character really thought things out further down the line. I think they lived very much in the moment. And I think what happened to them in the movie happens to lots of people in life. Certainly there are couples who fall in love and marry and have children — never thinking that things may not work out down the line. So what happens as a result of that?
Next: Do you have any friends who have had children by a gay man? And are there assumptions about gay men in the larger world that you hope this film might change or revise?
Madonna: Okay. The first question: yes. I have friends that have had children with gay men. As for the next question, I think gay men truly are interested in raising families and being parents, but I don’t think many people take that very seriously. I hope [the film] changes that misconception. And I think Rupert is a fantastic gay role model because he doesn’t really fit into middle America’s preconceived notion about what gay men are: that sort of effeminate, Nellie, queeny, gay personality. I think he kind of defies all of that. He’s actually quite butch.
Next: Was it your idea to record Don McLean’s “American Pie”?
Madonna: No. It was his – Rupert’s.
Next: Was that actually referenced in the script?
Madonna: Yeah. He suggested it to me.
Next: Did you feel any trepidation in recording a classic as American as “American Pie”?
Madonna: Kind of. Yeah. There was a minute there where I thought it was too corny for words. [Laughs] But everyone else seemed to like it though. I kind of went with the flow.
Next: Has Don McLean heard your version?
Madonna: I don’t know. Probably by now.
Next: You didn’t speak at all about it?
Madonna: No [Laughs]. He’s probably horrified by it!
Next: It seems like you treat a lot of your relationships in a mother-son or mother-daughter sort of way.
Madonna: It does?
Next: Judging from what the public knows about you, it would seem that’s the way it is with Rupert.
Madonna: Actually he’s the one who’s always bossing me around. [Laughs]
Next: Is he like a big brother to you?
Madonna: He’s more like a big bully. [Laughs] He is tall, he is stronger than me and he can wrestle me down to the ground. [Laughs] I do have a maternal kind of role with some of my friends, but I wouldn’t describe my relationship with Rupert like that.
Next: Is your character likeable to you in the film?
Madonna: Yeah. I do like her. She’s a really nice person. And I think she did the best thing that she could do. I think she made a mistake – she made some silly choices in the end – things that, perhaps, I wouldn’t have done. But in the end I have a lot of compassion for her and I think she behaved in a very humane way.
Next: At this point in your career what have you not done yet that you’re still itching to try?
Madonna: Writing. More writing. I don’t know what shape that would take. I do enjoy writing. I don’t know whether it would be a screenplay, but I think I’d like to do that more.
Next: What would you say you do for a living?
Madonna: I never know what to write down sometimes filling out those cards and things. [Laughs] Sometimes I write ‘singer.’ Sometimes I write ‘actress.’ Sometimes I write ‘mother.’ It depends on the mood I’m in. Sometimes I write ‘entertainer’ and I feel like that sort of covers all the areas.
Next: Have you made professional missteps?
Madonna: I’ve made some mistakes, definitely. But you live and learn. Right? [Laughs] I’m still kicking myself.
Next: Is there a point at which your life could have gone a whole other way where it was so hard continuing to be an entertainer that you thought, ‘Maybe I should just pack it up and move back to Michigan’?
Madonna: No. I’ve never reached that point. [Laughs] It’s got to be pretty bad for me to go back to Michigan. No. I’m just kidding. Attention anybody from Michigan: I didn’t mean anything bad! [Laughs]
Next: How aware are you of your cultural influence on America and the rest of the world?
Madonna: And do you like to play with that concept? Wait a minute. I’m from Michigan and I’m really slow. Say it again.
Next: Well, what you do has a great cultural significance – it has an influence on people.
Next: So, do you like to keep that in mind when you go through your various images and phases?
Madonna: I just like to go – what goes through my mind is much more selfish. Because what you’re talking about is how it affects other people. I always approach every project I do with, ‘What am I going to get out of it? What am I going to learn from it? Is it going to challenge me? Is it going to take me to another place? Am I going to grow from it?’ It always starts there.
Next: The Next Best Thing is a very political project. It makes a strong argument for…
Madonna: What makes up a family?
Next: Yes. And that gay men can be good parents.
Madonna: And that appealed to me greatly . That is why I chose to do the project. That was a big part of my decision. It was that , it was a political statement, it was a chance to work with Rupert, it was a chance to work with John Schlesinger. I mean, it was everything combined.
Next: What did you think about The Next Best Thing when you first saw it?
Madonna: I had very mixed feelings — but I always have mixed feelings when I see a movie that I’ve done for the first time. You know, there are things that I didn’t like about it, there are things I loved about it, there are things that moved me in the story. It’s hard to do that when you watch a movie – that you’re in – for the first time because you can’t really look at it objectively. All you’re thinking about is what you felt like the day that you shot that scene or you think, ‘Why didn’t they use that other take?’ It’s too much to think about really. You have to see it again before you can have a proper reaction to it.
Next: What happens when something you do doesn’t connect with the audience? You just talked about how it sometimes has to be selfish for you.
Madonna: Yeah. I think the creative impulse has to come from a selfish place. I don’t think you can begin being creative by thinking how it’s going to affect other people – because that waters it down and ultimately a creative impulse has to come from a pure place.
Next: How surprising is it to you that so many people have followed you for so long and through all of the different manifestations of Madonna?
Madonna: It’s pretty surprising, actually. I mean, it is. Sometimes I think the things I’m interested in are just too weird for other people to be interested in.
Next: Based on the success of Evita, do you have any plans on doing another movie musical?
Madonna: Um. I would love to. There has been lots of talk over the past few years about doing Chicago, but there seems to be a big disparity between what Miramax wants to spend making the movie and what directors come up with budget-wise, though. Until that happens, I don’t know.
Next: Are there any other projects – film or otherwise – that you are looking to develop right now?
Madonna: Yeah. I mean there’s a script – a play in England that I’m really interested in – a David Hare play that hasn’t been done before. And there are a couple of film projects that are kind of up in the air. One doesn’t have a director attached to it, one does. But I’m really, really picky about stuff, so, there is nothing really specific yet.
Next: Is it getting easier for you to put yourself out there as an actress and face the reaction to your performance? Obviously, your greatest successes have been in other arenas.
Madonna: Um, yeah. I feel much more comfortable with myself as an actress now – that’s for sure. But I don’t really think about the audience. I just think, ‘Okay, A: Do I really love this part?’ and ‘B: I’m going to do the best job I can possibly do because that is the only insurance I’ll have when it comes to audience’s reaction.’
Next: Do you think your fans would be surprised if they knew what kind of mother you are?
Madonna: I don’t know because I don’t know what kind of parent they think I am. I don’t.
Next: Maybe they think you have your kid doing something strange. Like?
Madonna: [Laughs] I’m actually a very strict mother.
Next: How important is a father figure to children as far as you’re concerned?
Madonna: Extremely important. Very, very important.
Next: What has changed in terms of your career since the birth of your daughter?
Madonna: Well, I don’t want to make a movie in a place where she can’t go to school. And wherever I am, I always want to make sure that she and her father have a regular and steady relationship. I’ve turned down a lot of things because of that. I’ve turned down going on world tours, you know, for a long period of time because of that. So, yeah, I’ve given up a lot.
Next: What have you gained?
Madonna: An incredible relationship with my daughter.
Next: Would you ever deter your daughter from going into the entertainment field?
Madonna: No, I wouldn’t. But I would, you know, want to make sure that she knew what she was getting herself into. But I’m sure by the time she is of a decision-making age she will know.
Next: What exactly is Lourdes getting herself into?
Madonna: Well, the climate of the entertainment business changes from decade to decade. So, who knows what it’ s going to be like when she gets older? But I do think you’ve got to be pretty thick-skinned to survive in the entertainment business. I think you have to sort of understand that it is about the big picture and not the small picture. And that everyone’s career is just made up of lots of ups and downs and you have to be prepared for rejection. And you have to do it for the right reason. If your intention is just to become famous and popular , then that’s a pretty bad place to start off. It should come from having skills – being good at what you’re good at – and being talented. It comes from there.
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