“The Tree of Life,” which collected three Oscar nominations Tuesday, has a high-profile advocate in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — Madonna.
In an interview from her Sunset Boulevard home, which appears in Sunday’s paper, the singer spoke about her new movie as a director, “W.E.,” her nervousness about her upcoming Super Bowl performance and the sounds she’s mining on her new album, “MDNA.” Amid her many projects, Madonna, who is a member of the academy in the actor’s branch, said she does make time to watch the screeners Oscar voters receive and had selected a top choice.
“‘Tree of Life’ is stunningly beautiful. That’s my favorite,” Madonna said. “I think it’s a spiritual, deeply profound movie. My mouth was hanging open the entire time I was watching it.”
“W.E.,” which Madonna co-wrote with Alek Keshishian, tells the story of Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough), the American divorcee for whom Britain’s King Edward VIII (James D’Arcy) famously abdicated the throne in 1936.
As a filmmaker, Madonna said she is inspired by the singularity of vision reflected in “Tree of Life” director Terrence Malick’s nonlinear drama starring Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Madonna’s ex-husband, Sean Penn. The film, which chronicles the origins of the universe and a 1950s Texas family’s tragic loss, was nominated for Oscars in the categories of best picture, director and cinematography.
“[Malick] really does make the movie he wants to make,” Madonna said. “It’s completely and utterly authentic. And I feel like he really is channeling something without anybody else’s input. No one’s saying he should do that, he shouldn’t do that. He gets amazing performances out of his actors.”
Celine Dion is sharing her thoughts on fellow music superstar Madonna performing in next week’s Super Bowl halftime show, and disclosed why she herself won’t be up on that stage.
Celine tells The Trend on Zappos Couture, “I’m not going to be performing at the Super Bowl because I’m pretty booked, I’m in Las Vegas right now at Caesars Palace doing a lot of shows so I won’t be at the Super Bowl.”
“But I love Madonna and know her well,” she continued. “I know she’ll do just fine, she doesn’t need any luck. She’s going to do her thing, she’s going to do what she does best, she’s going to give us something for us to remember. She’s going to be great, just fine.”
On a fall afternoon in New York’s Central Park, hundreds of curious onlookers and paparazzi watched as two comely young actresses, Abbie Cornish and Andrea Riseborough, performed a scene on a park bench. When a rock band sound check across the park disrupted the scene , the movie’s director trotted off to ask the band for a reprieve.
“The entirety of Central Park followed her,” said Riseborough, “and left Abbie and I sitting on the bench, at which point we just looked at each other like, ‘Well, this obviously isn’t where it’s happening.'”
That filmmaker has held crowds in thrall every time she’s left the house for the last 30 years. Now, as the co-writer and director of the romantic drama “W.E.,” she’ll attempt to draw audiences from behind the lens. After four years in relative seclusion, Madonna is returning to the public eye: “W.E.,” her second feature film as a director, arrives in theaters Friday; she’ll perform in front of more than 100 million TV viewers at the Super Bowl halftime show on Feb. 5; and “MDNA,” her first album of new material since 2008, is due in March.
The busy period is just the latest iteration of a career of perpetual self-reinvention, one that has earned her a reputation as a reliable provocateur and miner of fresh cultural territory. But many of the things Madonna has sung about, done and worn over three decades that have been incendiary — teenage pregnancy, interracial kissing, cone bras — have since become mainstream. To attempt to live one step ahead of the moment indefinitely must be exhausting.
But in an interview at her sprawling Sunset Boulevard home, Madonna said she’s driven by something much more stimulating — an inquiring disposition.
“I don’t like to repeat myself,” she said. “I’m a curious person who’s interested in learning, and I like to take the road less traveled by. That’s just my nature, so perhaps that leads me to subject matter or controversial or subversive waters. I don’t know. It’s not something that’s intentional. I’m not calculating being subversive or trying to be ahead of people. I just work on things that interest me.”
When Madonna’s film “W.E.” premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August, it was savaged by critics. The Times of London called the drama “screamingly, inadvertently funny” while Daily Variety said it was “burdened with risible dialogue and weak performances.”
Since dropping out of the University of Michigan and moving to New York with $35 in her pocket, the woman christened Madonna Louise Ciccone has adopted a dizzying array of identities: the sexpot Material Girl; Esther, the Kaballah enthusiast; Queen Madge, the Anglophile. Now, she’s trying again to be a highbrow director—she cites Wong Kar Wai, Visconti and Antonioni as inspirations—following the dismal critical reception of her first film, 2008’s “Filth and Wisdom.”
At 53, she has taken her knocks—Ricky Gervais took a shot at her at the Golden Globes (she shot back, and later won the best-song award). So she identifies with her film’s subject, Wallis Simpson, the American socialite for whom King Edward VIII abdicated his throne, becoming her third husband. She and the Duke of Windsor were suspected by many to be Nazi sympathizers. Next Friday, “W.E.” will hit theaters in wide release, after a weeklong run in December. The film, re-edited since its Venice debut, interweaves the historical love story with a modern-day tale of a young woman in an abusive relationship.
When Madonna takes the stage on Feb. 5 at the Super Bowl XLVI half-time show, the performance will mark the intersection of various elements of Brand Madonna. Her first record in four years will be released in March. The first single, “Gimme All Your Luvin,'” featuring M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj, breaks in February and another new song, “Masterpiece,” plays to the closing credits on “W.E.” Her first fragrance, called Truth or Dare, will follow in the spring.
Dressed in a silk dress by the French couture house Vionnet and Chanel fingerless gloves that showcased her yoga-enhanced chaturanga arms, Madonna was perched on a Louis XVI-inspired settee in the Royal suite at the Waldorf-Astoria—where the Duke and Duchess of Windsor once lived in New York—as several of her favorite gardenia-scented Diptyque candles burned during a recent interview. Her comment on the suite: “I like this one, don’t get me wrong. I just prefer the one in the Ritz Hotel [in Paris]. It’s more Art Deco, which is more my era in furniture.” Below, an edited transcript.
The Wall Street Journal: You have a movie coming out, a fragrance, a new album and a tour—and now the Super Bowl. Was this a master plan?
Madonna: No, everything kind of converged in a bottleneck. I was always planning on making a record when I finished my film but I ended up finishing my film much later than I had expected so, because I had already scheduled time with all the producers and writers for my record, I had to multitask and work on my record at the same time I was finishing my film. And then somehow it worked out that the record was being finished right around the time the movie was coming out. Then I got talked into doing the Super Bowl.
That sounds like a lot of obligations.
I want to do everything really well. I kept saying to my manager, “I don’t want to do the Super Bowl unless I can really give it my all, and really focus all my attention on it.” And he said, “Don’t worry! There won’t be any problems. You’ll be able to concentrate just on the Super Bowl.” Now of course my movie is coming out during the Super Bowl so it’s a little bit nerve-racking.
How’s the rehearsing going?
It’s not an easy show to do because you have such a short period of time to set the stage up. And you’re performing in the round so you can’t direct anything that walks off anybody’s sight line. You have eight minutes to put your stage together, 12 minutes to do the show and seven minutes to take it down.
What did you find so fascinating about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor?
What intrigued me about their story was how polarized people felt about her and him, and the abdication [of King Edward VIII], and that period of history and what they were: Did they love each other? Were they Nazis? Was he gay? Was she vicious and a social climber? They were a very controversial couple. I am very interested in that period of history, prewar England, and in deconstructing the cult of celebrity, which is another layer of the film, the way we peg and sort of diminish a lot of people who we don’t understand and who we are afraid of.
What convinced you that they were not Nazi sympathizers?
Research. And not being able to find any empirical evidence whatsoever that they were. People came to me and said they were, and I said, “OK, show me. Prove it to me. What is the evidence? That [Edward] had a meeting with Hitler in 1936? Give me the reason.” It would always go back to “This is what I heard.”
Did you identify with Wallis Simpson on a personal level, in the way she was judged all the time?
Yes, to a certain extent. I think that she didn’t have the ability to defend herself the way I do now, or we do now. It was a different time. The media was different, and women didn’t have the choices that they do now. Even so, there were moments, there were lines in her letters that I thought, “I could have written that.”
Anything in particular that resonated?
Just the experience of being treated unfairly in the press, not having a nice word said about you. There was a time where I actually read what people wrote about me, and that’s a slippery slide to get on. So, if you do that, and you’re doing something controversial or unpopular, then you’re just going to be reading a bunch of stuff that isn’t nice about you. I certainly know that feeling of devastation, like “Oh, my God, the whole world’s turned against me.”
So, you really don’t read any press about yourself?
No. I haven’t even read any reviews of my film yet, and I don’t want to.
When did you decide to ignore all that?
When I adopted my son from Africa and I was accused of kidnapping him. I was so devastated by what people wrote about me, that people basically accused me of doing something criminal. That was my turning point.
Will.i.am has confirmed that LMFAO will perform with Madonna at this year’s Super Bowl in America.
The duo, who are signed the Black Eyed Peas star’s Will.i.am Music Group, had been rumored as one of the surprise guests at the event on 5th February.
Speaking to Capital FM about Madonna’s set, Will.i.am, who performed last year’s Half-Time Show with Black Eyed Peas, said he was going to attend the game to watch LMFAO.
“I’m going to the Super Bowl this year to see my group LMFAO perform with Madonna,” he said.
“Check that out, Will.i.am Music Group is pretty freaking two for two. One year the Super Bowl the next year another group part of the Super Bowl in collaboration with Madonna. That’s still happening.”
Nicki Minaj and M.I.A have also been linked to Madonna’s Half-Time Show performance as they feature on her new single ‘Give Me All Your Luvin’.
But Madonna has so far refused to confirm the acts, only hinting recently that the performance will feature pom-poms.
Madonna halted the step-and-repeat at Tuesday’s red-carpet premiere of “W.E.” at the Ziegfeld to lean over the velvet rope and check in on celebrity photographer and WireImage co-founder Kevin Mazur, who suffered a broken wrist and foot and a hematoma in his neck from a near-fatal November car accident in the Hamptons. “She came over and gave me a kiss hello and asked me how I was doing,” Mazur told us of the “W.E.” director, who also sent him flowers. “It was driving all of the photographers nuts because all they wanted was for her to pose.” Mazur sent an e-mail to industry friends late last week with the subject, “We are Lucky to be Alive — Texting Kills,” which included details from a police report describing how the 22-year-old woman who died after colliding head-on with the Escalade carrying him and his wife Jennifer was drunk and texting at the wheel at 2:30 a.m. “My plea is to please stop texting while you drive,” Mazur, who’s still limping and has a cast on his wrist, wrote. His wife suffered a broken eye socket and is still recovering. He closed the e-mail with, “I was the biggest [texting] offender before my accident.”