Los Angeles — Madonna, our lady of constant makeovers, has added two new identities to her repertoire. Serious actress and mom.
She has the title role in Evita, Alan Parker’s $59-million movie musical about Argentina’s legendary first lady Eva Peron. It opens on Christmas. On Oct. 14, Madonna gave birth to her first child, Lourdes Maria Ciccone Lean, an arrival that upstaged her film coup.
“Everything I do is scrutinized so I shouldn’t be surprised that it continued when I was pregnant,” she says in her first postpartum interview. “I try to have a sense of humor about it, but it does irritate me … My having a child is not for public consumption. It’s not a career move. It’s not a performance to be judged and rated. Nor is my role as a mother.”
The coincidental timing of these twin feats “was incredibly poetic,”says Madonna, 38. “I waited so long for this movie, and it finally happened. I wanted so badly to have a child, and I got pregnant while making the movie. Suddenly, God gave me two gifts that were very imporrant to me.”
The singer/actress is sipping peach tea in the living room of her home, a 1926 Spanish mansion in the untrendy neighborhood of Los Feliz. Despite “major sleep deprivation,” she is girlishly sexy, wearing tail boots, a short skirt, a sheer violet blouse and no makeup. Her blond-again hair is wet from the shower. Seven weeks after the delivery, she’s trim again, save for a slightly bulging tummy.
“Don’t crash my car, OK?” she jokes to the nanny, who has Lourdes and a bodyguard in tow for a visit to a park. Madonna would prefer pushing the stroller herself, but such an outing would provoke paparazzi frenzy.
Long a savvy self-promoter, Madonna draws the line at the nursery door. The media “turned my pregnancy into a spectacle,” she says. “The media was at my gate 24 hours a day.” Yet she and boyfriend Carlos Leon pulled off her stealth delivery at a low-profile hospital.
She’d rather shift public attention to Evita, a sweeping epic shot over 84 days (and 85 costume changes) in Buenos Aires, London and Budapest. It melds two of this century’s most controversial women and provides a dazzling showcase that could reverse Madonna’s track record of turkeys like Shanghai Surprise and Who’s That Girl? A rave in this week’s Time notes she “plays Evita with a poignant weariness” and “does a tough score proud.”
The film, costarring Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce, opens Dec. 25 in Los Angeles and New York, and goes nationwide Jan. 10. The soundtrack, featuring Madonna’s finest singing to date, premiered at No. 6 on Billboard’s album chart.
Relaxed and upbeat, Madonna waxes rhapsodic on her career and motherhood:
Q: Your four-page letter to Alan Parker insisted only you could play Eva Peron. Why do you feel that way?
Madonna: I just knew that no one could understand what she went through more than I. I related to her commitment, discipline and ambition (and) that bravery required for a girl of 15 to come from the pueblos and go to Buenos Aires to find her way in entertainment and later in politics. Her suffering as a child was a catalyst to make a better life. I understood that.
Q: She was both beloved and reviled. Did you recognize yourself in thatcontext too?
Madonna: Sure. Because of her enormous impact, her detractors tried to tear her down and desecrate her image. People were frightened of the power she had and undermined her accomplishments by calling her a whore. I can certainly relate to that. People intimidated by me feel the need to denigrate me.
Q: In past movie roles, your real persona seemed bigger than the characters.
Madonna: Evita is the first movie big enough to contain me. I know I have a very big presence. If I overpower the movie, the movie fails.
Q: Did your pregnancy pose problems on the set?
Madonna: I never had morning sickness. A couple times, I got dizzy and a little nauseous. I attributed that to the incredible heat in Argentina and the long hours. It was gone by the time I found out I was pregnant. I was more worried about my stomach showing. My only sense of terror was “I’m not going to fit into my costumes!”
Q: Did you have a comfortable pregnancy?
Madonna: It was great. I worked out. I didn’t have any weird food cravings. I felt fine until the last couple of weeks, when you have to wheelbarrow yourself around. Your lower back starts killing you, and you don’t want to get out of your pajamas.
Q: Was it hard to say goodbye to your waistline?
Madonna: I surrendered. It was cool to eat whatever I wanted. It was nice to have that freedom. Now that I’ve had the baby, I feel liberated in a sense. I don’t feel I have to be a certain size or have perfect abs. I still exercise, but I don’t care as much.
Q: Do you and Carlos Lean intend to get married?
Madonna: I don’t see the need. I’m perfectly happy with the way things are.
Q: I barely caught a glimpse of the baby. Does she look like you or Carlos?
Madonna: She looks mostly like me, but every day she looks more like him. She has my shape of face and eyes. She’s got his nose.
Q: Do you want more kids?
Madonna: I’d love to have one more. But not right away. I have to recover from this.
Q: Your mom died when you were 6, and you helped raise your siblings. Was that experience helpful in dealing with a first baby?
Madonna: To a certain extent. I knew how to change diapers and I spent many hours baby-sitting. My sister has a son, and I drew on her knowledge. She gave me tons of books, and I still call her up every five minutes.
Q: What have the past few weeks been like?
Madonna: For the first four weeks, I didn’t do anything except take care of her: holding on to her, feeding her, looking at her. Then I slowly started getting back to work, sitting at my desk and talking on the phone and trying to run my record company. It was a huge adjustment. I used to make a list and know I’d get everything done. Now a lot of things don’t get done, and that’s OK.
Q: How radically will motherhood alter your future?
Madonna: It’s a big question mark. I have no idea what I’m doing next. I’m reading a lot of scripts, I know I’ll make another album. It’s exciting that I don’t have it all planned. I would like to spend less time working and more time with my daughter. And I will.
Q: Will Lourdes be raised a Catholic?
Madonna: I’m not really sure. I am baptizing her Catholic. There are things about Catholicism that I disagree with, but there are a lot of things I’m still intrigued by. I still go to church and light candles. The church provides a kind of sanctuary and a sense of community. I’ll teach her about Catholicism, but also about all religions, especially Buddhism, Judaism and the Kabbala [ancient Jewish lore]. My own religion combines all those. I would rather present the Bible to my daughter as “some very interesting stories you could learn from” rather than “this is the rule.”
Q: How will you shield Lourdes from the bad side effects of your fame?
Madonna: I would like her to have as normal a life as possible. I don’t think I want her to go to school in L.A. I’d prefer New York, probably not Manhattan. I don’t want her life to be chronicled, so I’ll shield her as much as possible. Look at John Kennedy, Jr. He’s been photographed since he was 2, and he turned out OK. He had a very strong, intelligent mother.
Q: What are your regrets?
Madonna: I wouldn’t say I have regrets. I made mistakes and learned from them. Most people want to hear me say I regret putting out my Sex book. I don’t. What was problematic was putting my Erotica album out at the same time. I love that record, and it was overlooked. Everything I did for the next three years was dwarfed by my book.
Q: Dennis Rodman wasn’t a regret? In his Bad as I Wanna Be, he details your sexual encounters.
Madonna: First of all, it was untrue information. Second, I felt violated because I did consider him to be a friend, as crazy as he may appear. I know his depiction of our sex life was probably one reason the book sold so well, and that is highly irritating.
Q: Have you spoken to him since then?
Q: In Rolling Stone, he says he hopes you two can eventually be friends.
Madonna: [Laughs] Right. I ihink he’s terribly delusional.
Q: In the documentary Truth or Dare, you made no secret about your crush on Antonio Banderas. Was it awkward making Evita?
Madonna: Not at all. Several years ago, when we were going to do Evita with a different director, we got together, had dinner and joked about the whole thing. We’ve become friends. It’s way past the crush.
Q: Has the spotlight toughened your skin?
Madonna: I have a better understanding of humanity, but I’m still very hurt by personal attacks. I don’t mind criticism of my work. As human beings, we have this need to tear people down, to enjoy other people’s suffering. That makes me sad because it seems to be human nature. We’d rather watch people trip on the sidewalk than ascend to a great height.© USA Today