Madonna exclusively talks about her fascination with Wallis Simpson and reveals their many similarities
Looking relaxed and happy, Madonna was greeted with wild cheers from her fans as she arrived at the London premiere of her latest directorial offering, W.E..
But though she seemed composed and confident, the star later admitted that she had been nervous about the UK airing of her new film, which focuses on the affair between Edward VIII and American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
“I have more butterflies in my stomach here than [I did] in Venice or Toronto,” she said to the audience at the London Film Festival premiere in Leicester Square’s Empire cinema.
“The idea for the film was born here. I was inspired to get to know English history and discovered the story of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson and their love affair.”
In her address, she said of her film: “I never set out to make the quintessential historical biopic. I thought it was important to give the story a point of view and show it through the eyes of a young woman who is searching for love and happiness.”
Madonna also talked of her difficulty in casting the part of Wallis — who, after marrying Edward, became the Duchess of Windsor — and of her joy in eventually finding British actress Andrea Riseborough. “When Andrea walked in the door, she was the Duchess — that combination of fragility and steeliness. I was thrilled,” she said.
The film has received mixed reviews so far, but it has earned praise for capturing Wallis’s legendary sense of style — one reviewer called W.E. “one of the best-dressed movies of the year” — but Madonna insisted that the story’s most enduring trait is its human heart.
“One important point — there is no such thing as perfect love,” said the former Mrs Guy Ritchie, possibly alluding to her own past relationships.
“If you think so, then you are in for a rude awakening. Love really requires compromise. Nothing is what it seems and there are always many sides of the story.”
Girl on film
The film is Madonna’s second directorial outing. Her first, 2008’s Filth & Wisdom, sank without trace and many believed it marked the end as well as the beginning of her career as a film director.
However, as Madonna explains in this exclusive interview with HELLO! before the London premiere, she was so captivated by Wallis that she decided to get behind the camera once more.
“I find Wallis fascinating,” she says. “She was a survivor. She started out with nothing, she survived an abusive first marriage and she found a way to create a whole new life for herself. She had a great sense of wit and humour, and I think that one of the reasons the King fell in love with her was that she had a fresh energy about her — she was able to be irreverent with him, which not many people were.
“He gave up everything for her. It was a huge sacrifice for both of them — she got hate mail basically for the rest of her life. And you think, ‘Wow, what must it be like to be loved like that only to find out that it was a terrible responsibility?'”
Moving on to talk about her own life, the 53-year-old gives her take on how she rose from an anonymous dancer to become one of the world’s best-selling singer-songwriters.
“I’ve always been adventurous, both in my life and in my creativity — I’ve always let myself be open to new things, experiences, opportunities, meeting people.”
“When I first moved to New York, I was a dancer and I never imagined for a minute that I’d ever be a singer and a songwriter. But when somebody said to me, ‘Hey, why don’t you try auditioning for this record producer?’ I didn’t say, ‘Oh, no, I’m a dancer, I can’t do that.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ So I did and one thing led to another and here I am.”
“I don’t think anyone has ever tried to box me in. I think that some people have had opinions about what I should or shouldn’t do, but I’ve never had someone say to me, ‘You cannot do this.'”