So there I was, the evening of the first shooting day, supposedly playing it cool. Madonna and her friend, Ingrid, are standing right next to me when all of the sudden there’s a Jow rumbling that permeates the air, the set seemingly shifting under our feet. Over the sounds of the crew and all of the work going on. I could hear faint creaking noises coming from the stage. I yelled out, “EARTHQUAKE!” Ingrid calmly replied, “No, it’s only someone closing a stage door or something.” I felt sort of fooling as the two of them walked back to their trailer. Of course, I got ribbed by a couple of crew guys as they jokingly hung onto props and shook themselves yelling, “EARTHQUAKE!” It was funny until 10 minutes later when the whole stage shifted, shook and creaked again, this time with more force. It was nothing anywhere close to the January ’94 quake here in Los Angeles, but it was enough to send some people scattering. Of course, Matt’s earthquake prediction hours earlier came to mind. He was surprised by his premonition too, and told me later that the radio reported two small earthquakes had indeed hit that night.
The shooting schedule was long and tedious (kind of like this article), slowly moving from one scene to next. For each shot, Mark was directing everything from light readings and run-throughs of the camera movements, to the rearrangement of the props and the meticulous cleaning and dusting of the set. Most of this pre-shooting circus takes place around Madonna’s double, rather than herself.
As with all films and music videos, Madonna has stand-in double. She doesn’t necessarily look just like her, but she’s the same height and has similar hair and skin coloring. This was the crew can spend the hours needing getting the set ready based on the test shots they take of the stand-in. Meanwhile, Madonna doesn’t have to stand there for hours and can be getting ready for next shot.
Every time Madonna entered the set she looked completely transformed. One moment she’d be decked out in a white Victorian wig piled high atop her head, wearing a long maternity dress. The next scene would call for a wig of straight white hair down to her ankles and a simple white gown. Then she’d appear as if she’d just stepped out of the Logan’s Run movie wearing a futuristic silver outfit and clear plastic knee-high boots with her shorter hair slicked back.
Sometimes there were complications on the set, like when Madonna found herself dyed blue from the chest down after sitting in the blue pool water with the bird skull. Or when technical difficulties forced out a scene of Madonna opening a chest cavity facade exposing her internal organs. Even the man-made skeleton that embraces Madonna in the video was too small and had to be rebuilt from scratch. The special effects crew was literally gluing together the new larger-than-life skeleton just hours before it was filmed.
Actually, being on a live set can get old very quickly. What it really amounts to is many hours of waiting around in a darkened stage combined with a few moments here and there of actual filming. Each scene you see in the video was filmed over and over again, with Madonna lip-synching the song from beginning to the end each time. I spent my time sketching all kinds of stories from the set, from the crew lighting a scene to Madonna getting stylized by her assistants. I was never bored, though, because the set was so unlike anything I’d ever seen and I was busy trying to interpret it all on my drawing pad.
When Madonna wasn’t hard at work. You could easily find her hamming it up with her friends and the crew. It was like there were two different Madonnas; the fun-loving, joking Madonna and the sly, transfixed siren that stared intently into the camera as it rolled.
Once, she came on the set wearing black go-go boots, black latex underwear, her leopard jacket tied around her waist and a long black wig tied off in pigtails. “What’s your fantasy, sailor?” she jokingly asked. Snapping her gum, she demanded that everyone call her Varia (referring to the wild character in the classic cult film, Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill.)
I had a chance to visit with Madonna when she sat down next to me during the filming of the futuristic lab scene that opens and closes the video. Inspecting the heel of her boot, she complained, “My Lagerfelds are coming apart. Look, the heel’s ripping!”