Becky Johnson: I am assuming the ban on four-letter words includes any mention of your estranged husband.
Becky Johnson: Just as a footnote, I read in the Los Angeles Times that you’re doing a big media blitz for the release of your new album, Like a Prayer. I’m sure you know the press will try to badger you with questions about your personal life, so how do you plan to deal with that?
Madonna: Well, generally I do interviews because I have something to talk about in terms of my work, and I try to keep it in that area. I mean, it’s kind of an insult that they want to know those other things. It seems the most important thing to them is to find out… stuff I’d rather not talk about, things that don’t have anything to do with my work. And it’s nobody’s business. But people always want to know what’s not their business.
Becky Johnson: Do you care what people think about you in general?
Madonna: Yes, I do.
Becky Johnson: Are you vulnerable to criticism, to bad press?
Madonna: Absolutely. Definitely.
Becky Johnson: What about one of your other current projects? You’re about to star in Warren Beatty’s film Dick Tracy, playing Breathless Mahoney. What’s she like?
Madonna: What’s she like? She’s… I don’t know. She’s a girl. She’s scarred. She’s a seductress in a lot of pain.
Becky Johnson: Have you spent the last couple of weeks preparing for the role?
Madonna: In terms of Breathless Mahoney, I’ve probably been preparing for the role all my life. [laughs] But superficially, yes… I mean, I had to dye my hair, pluck my eyebrows, have a lot of fittings. Stephen Sondheim is writing songs of the period for the film, so I’ve been working on them, and they’re quite difficult.
Becky Johnson: Why’s that?
Madonna: Because Stephen Sondheim writes in a kind of chromatic wildness. They’re difficult songs to learn. I mean one song is written with five sharps. They’re brilliant, but really complex.
Becky Johnson: Are they mostly torch songs?
Madonna: One is. There are three songs. One is a torch song and another is more up-tempo. It’s kind of like “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” or “Material Girl,” where she keeps singing about how she wants more and more. It’s about gluttony. And it’s funny, it’s ironic. And then the third song is a kind of slow, sad song. I’m going to be singing it with Mandy Patinkin, who plays my accompanist at the nightclub where I work. It’s the kind of song you sing at three in the morning, when the club is empty. It’s very melancholy… just a piano and a voice. But they’re all really different for me, and so I’ve been working very hard to get them right.
Becky Johnson: Do you feel this part is more demanding than a lot of other parts you’ve played?
Madonna: [long pause] Yes and no. I’m different now from when I played those other parts, so everything is different for me. And I think there are a lot more subtleties to her character than it would seem on the surface. So in that respect it’s more demanding for me.
Becky Johnson: You’ve just finished a much-talked-about commercial for Pepsi. It’s apparently the longest television commercial ever made.
Madonna: Uh-huh. I just saw it. I love it.
Becky Johnson: Do they actually run the whole length of your song for it?
Madonna: It’s an edited version of the song. The song on the album is five and a half minutes long. It would be great if they could run a commercial that long, but it’s too much airtime to buy.