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Madonna’s Evita Diaries : Vanity Fair

Madonna - Vanity Fair / November 1996

Buenos Aires [Sunday, February 11, 1996]:
Yesterday, with much planning, I managed to escape for the day lying down in the back of a truck with a blanket over me. Once we were outside the city limits, I could sit in the front of the car and enjoy the countryside going by. No police escort, no bodyguards, no cameras, no noise. I was on my way to a private ranch owned by the company that is distributing our movie in Argentina. My driver was one of the partners in the company, and he happens to be a polo player who owns many polo horses. After driving for an hour we ended up on a narrow dirt road which led to a series of farms and ranches. We stopped at the last one. When I got out of the truck, six of the dirtiest dogs jumped all over me, covering me with mud. Children belonging to the caretakers were laughing in the distance and the flatlands streched out as far as the eye could see. Cows were grazing in the fields and beautiful shiny polo horses were posed like statues all around me. It was like a dream. One I never wanted to leave. The house itself was a standard pueoble ranch with an inviting porch that went all the way around it and the comforting shade of some very old trees. I was perfectly content to sit on the porch and watch caretakers feed the horses and rake the leaves. To do nothing, to not be watched, to be anonymous. After much urging by one of the caretakers I summoned up the courage to get on one of the horses. Satin pants and Prada shoes are hardly appropriate riding apparel. Nevertheless I managed to walk and eventually ride a very slow trot. I imagined myself galloping through the countryside at full speed without care in the world, the wind in my hair. I thought to myself, I could have this life if I wanted it. Children and a husband waiting to have lunch with me. And then I remembered I had about eight months of work ahead of me. A girl can dream, can’t she?

Buenos Aires [Monday, February 12, 1996]:
Today I met the actress who plays my mother in the film and I love her. She’s an old soul and she’s been hurt, but she’s a survivor. Her English is as good as my Spanish, but we speak the language of hurt people, so all is understood. She told me about a dream she had recently. I was a child and I was pressing my head against her belly, and when I looked up, there was a golden light around my head. Then I told her I wanted to go back inside of her womb and I began to cry. If only she knew how close to the truth this is. Maybe she does. Mis lágrimas son para ti. Recuerdo el suen~o! Then she gave me a beautiful antique emerald ring she was wearing. There was a demonstration in my honor yesterday afternoon. All of my fans got together and marched from the Obelisco [a monument in the middle of the Avenida Nueve de Julio] all the way to my hotel. When they arrived they chanted “Eva” / “Madonna” for a while, then they had 10 minutes of silence. Then they started to play “Like A Prayer”, and at this point I went out on the balcony and waved and blew kisses and almost started to cry. My life is surreal down here. I have given up on sleep and happiness as I know it. There is something else to be learned here. Tomorrow is my first day of shooting as the young Eva and I am beyond nervous.

Buenos Aires [Tuesday, February 13, 1996]:
I made it through the first day of filming after spending most of the day inhaling poisonous smoke billowing from an ancient train, scraping dirt from the inside of my contacts, and eating enourmous amounts of dust. It was dry. It was hot. There was dust. Everywhere. The first half of the day was fun and easy. Saying my good-byes to my family at the train station on my way to the big city. I love all the actresses playing my sisters. Two are English and one is Cuban and I’ve grown attached to them that it was not difficult to imagine how sad I would be to leave them. We finished the scne by lunchtime and all the actors left and took the fun with them. The rest of the day I sat on the train with a lot of strange extras [none of them spoke English] and reacted to the passing scenery over and over again from every angle, inside and out. The only problem besides the fact that I was dying from heat exhaustion and was being made a meal of ants, flies, and hornets was that the scenery was dull and lifeless and there was nothing to look at. Yes, I know this is where the acting comes in… Alan didn’t seem to notice the heat or the flies. In fact, I’d never seem him so excited and alive. It wasn’t until the last shot of the day that I realized why it was so important to shoot the movie here. We were doing a wide shot of my train whizzing across the countryside and 20 gauchos came galloping through the frame over the prairie as the sun went down. I have never seen such a majestic sight. Still, the day ended for me in an anticlimatic way. I went from extreme anxiety and nervoussness to elation and then to boredom and self-doubt. I kept saying to myself over and over again, “When is something really exciting going to happen to me!” I think I may have even said it loud a few times while we rolled back and forth on the dusty tracks, just me and the extras. I’m sure they all thought I was mad. And it isn’t until now, as I write this, that I realize that that’s surely what Eva must have been saying to herself as she left her dusty little village on her way to a better life. Little did she know. Little did I know.

Buenos Aires [Thursday, February 15, 1996]:
Valentine’s Day came and went and I scored very low in the valentine department. Receiving flowers from my accountant is not my idea of romance. I am mistrustful of flowers from people who make a percentage of my gross income. Today’s work was a lot more fun because we actually got to shoot a scene where people were talking/singing to each other. I had to flirt with lots of men, dance the tango, and leave the owner of a magazine for the owner of a soap company. Is this moving up? I’m not sure. At least I will be clean all the time. This is the part of the script I find a little dodgy. The implication that Eva slept her way to the top. I guess I am even more offended by it because people always imply that about me. It’s a way for envious people to undermine your strength and your accomplishments. My wig feels like a vise grip on my head. I have decided that acting in movies is a very humiliating job. People sit around all day, turning you from left to right, whispering behind the camera, cutting your nose hairs, plucking stray eyebrow hairs, and patting down your sweat while they fill in the lines on your face with Spackle. When they are setting up the next shot, you are told to go and wait in your trailer like a good little doggy and this is where you have an ample time to be hypercritical of yourself. You wonder if you’re pretty enough or good enough or thin enough or attractive enough and you inevitably feel like a slab of beef. Rare, medium, or well done. It doesn’t matter as long as peole want to eat you.

Buenos Aires [Saturday, February 17, 1996]:
The last days of shooting have gone by without too much fanfare. Yesterday we watched a polo match with the aristocrats and I was little more than set dressing. I have never felt heat from the sun with such intensity. Today I had to be up at the crack of dawn for one hour of good light on the sidewalk between eight and nine A.M. Then I spent the rest of the day for the next good light, which was at five P.M. I went a bit crazy and started making up dance routines a` la Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. My dressing room was inside an old courthouse which had stained-glass windows and high ceilings. It really looked more like a church, but it had lots of good stairs and pillars to dance around, and for hours I pretended I was in the Ziegfeld Follies.

Buenos Aires [Monday, February 19, 1996]:
Today is my first day off in a week and I am practically catatonic. I am finally in sync with the U.S., where it is Presidents’ Day and everyone has the day off. Why do we celebrate the men who rule our nation when we ultimately have only contempt for them? Went to dinner with David Caddick and my movie family and we entertained ourselves with imitations of Jodie Foster in Nell and gossip about who’s sleeping with whom on the set of the movie. Which is just about everyone. It’s a real soap opera and I hoard and relish the secrets I have been told about various philandering husbands and so-and-so’s boyfriend, who’s sleeping with so-and-so’s sister. For some reason people feel the need to confess things to me. It must be my trustworthy face. After dinner we went to a milonga club so I could brush up on my tango. When we walked in, it looked like we were entering a bingo game. There was folding tables and chairs around a big empty space, fabulous fluorescent lighting, and no one under the age of 60. Lots of strech pants, gold lamé, and sequins. It was a scene straight out of GoodFellas. The only thing missing was Joe Pesci.

Buenos Aires [Wednesday, February 21, 1996]:
Perhaps I have been bitten by a tsetse fly. I have an uncontrollable urge to sleep from the moment I wake up to the moment it is actually permissable. My insomnia has reserved itself. The heat makes me lethargic, and the endless sitting around and waiting, which I will never get used to, make me feel like a body that has been deserted. Today I wanted to cry from frustration. We’ve been shooting all week in a beautiful old school, and for security reasons my makeup, hair, and wardrobe are all in the principal’s office, which is very posh and ritzy-looking. High ceilings and old master paintings on the walls. Giant leather chairs and Venetian chandeliers. I would have gotten myself sent to the principal’s office all the time if this had been what I had to look forward to. There are balconies and marble staircases everywhere and a huge science room that looks like a museum of natural history. It’s hard to imagine small children running around in the hallways. I spent my free time looking at stuffed mammals and ancient artifacts, but nothing could distract me from my feeling of uselessness. I call this photo-opportunity week. We are shooting several montage sequences of Eva doing her charity work. So all day long I am handing out shoes and bicycles and medicine to poor children and posing for cameras. There is no dialogue – just a lot of kissing and hugging and costume changes. Snore. Speaking of balconies, we have been formally invited to an audience with the president at his private residence. We will grovel if we must.

Buenos Aires [Thursday, February 22, 1996]:
Last night I dreamed that I was pursuing a director I was once in love with and he invited me into his home to tell me that he couldn’t be with me. I sat at his kitchen table on the verge of tears. Then he said to me, “You once described a man’s body as powerful. What is your definition of power now?” and I replied, “Power is being told you are not loved and not being destroyed by it.”

Buenos Aires [Friday, February 23, 1996]:
It’s raining cats and dogs and as much as I love the idea of a day off I was disappointed when most of the day’s work was canceled. It was my first scene where I give a speech to the workers from the back of a truck while Peron is in prison. I was all psyched and ready to emit a little fire and brimstone, but Mother Nature is not cooperating with us today. We did have a lively little chat with Menem at his private residence. It was not as much fun as the first meeting. Alan, Antonio, and Jonathan were there, and it was much more formal. Alan was basically reiterating what he had said in the press conference about having freedom as artists, and everyone was being very polite and I couldn’t take it anymore. So in the middle of the discussion about pizza I said, ” When we’re done talking about pizza can we talk about balconies?” And Menem said that he was sure there would be no problem if we used it and any other government building we wanted. I was ready to jump for joy, but Alan shot me down by saying that we’d already spent so much money on a replica of it in London that financially it wouldn’t make sense to shoot here. Not to mention the fact that we did not have the proper lighting equipment. But hadn’t the reason for the meetings been to convince him to let us shoot on the balcony? And what an honor and a thrill to be able to stand there looking down on that plaza at night filled with all those people, singing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.” Hopefully, Alan will change his mind. I will consult the stars and work my voodoo. Forgot to mention Menem’s daughter, Zulemita, who also attended the meeting. A thin wisp of a girl who seemed very fragile and very sad. She held her father’s hand through the entire meeting and they kissed and whispered things to each other in a very intimate way. I was mesmerized by them.