“She’s a huge personality, diligent and disciplined and a spectacular dancer and performer,” he says in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “She’s a phenomenon.”
The pair first connected during filming for Beatty’s 1991 comic-book movie, Dick Tracy, in which Madonna was cast as the sultry lounge singer Breathless Mahoney. “She was perfect for that part,” says Beatty, whose latest film, Rules Don’t Apply, hits theaters Nov. 23.
The relationship didn’t last much beyond the premiere of Dick Tracy, and their conflicting views on life in the public eye were evident in her Truth or Dare documentary — a project Beatty, 79, did not want to be a part of at first.
“When we were going [out] and she was making the documentary Truth or Dare, I said, ‘I don’t want to be in it.’ And she said, ‘Why would I want you in it?’” Beatty recalls. But the actor eventually conceded: “I said if I can have approval, I don’t want to inhibit you.”
In one scene in the documentary, Madonna declines to have a doctor examine her off-camera and Beatty comments that “she doesn’t want to live off-camera, much less talk.” Now, he says he found her decision to include the moment touching.
“I thought that was a kind gesture on her part because that captured how I felt,” he says. “I was kind of touched by that because I felt that I said the right thing.”