Question: Do you think he underestimated you?
Answer: Yes. But he’s always underestimated me.
Madonna says signs were posted in all her backstage areas, warning anyone who came there that he or she would be filmed. However, as an added precaution, she and Keshishian obtained signed releases from virtually all the regular members of her entourage. Except for Beatty: “Hah!” she cackled. “Do you think Warren is going to sign a release for a movie he hasn’t seen?”
The most talked-about celeb zinger involves Kevin Costner, who is filmed backstage congratulating Madonna. When he praises her show as “neat,” she immediately prods him, ” Neat? Whaddaya mean by ‘neat’?” And as soon as Costner leaves, she growls, “Anybody who describes my show as ‘neat’ has to go,” turns to the camera and pretends to throw up. She has no regrets about treating Costner as if he were some hayseed who just fell off the turnip truck.
“Well, he acted liked one,” she said, sipping her coffee. “To go to my show, which I think is very disturbing and moving, and then come backstage and say it was ‘neat,’ I felt that was a slap in the face to me. So basically, I was slapping him back.”
If it’s any consolation for Costner, Madonna’s family members didn’t get any special considerations. The film shows Madonna’s brother Martin, just out of an alcohol rehab clinic, trying to pick up one of her backup singers and failing to turn up after her show to visit her at her hotel. The footage makes him look like a forlorn, almost pathetic guy reaching for his sister’s coattails. You have to wonder what it added to the movie to drag his personal problems into the spotlight.
“It was reality,” Madonna says. “My brother willingly took part in the movie and in his interviews. It’s obvious I was upset because I thought that he’d missed coming to see me because he’d stopped to get something to drink. And when you see footage of him, trying to explain it, it’s obvious that it’s a con job. But I also think that he’s very entertaining. My brother is a ham. He’s an exhibitionist. And he knew full well what he was doing.”
Question: Did you ever have a woman in your life who offered you the kind of support your mother would have?
Answer: No. Not at all. Not even close.
Q: Do you miss that?
A: God, yes. When I see my girlfriends with their mothers even now I can’t even imagine–it’s unfathomable what that sort of nurturing would have done for me. Let’s face it. I probably wouldn’t be sitting on this couch here talking to you now if I’d had a mother. I really miss it. My role models who nurtured me when I was growing up were all men.
Madonna’s mother died when she was 6 but clearly did more to shape her life than anyone else. In what is perhaps the film’s most emotional–some might say over wrought–scene, Madonna visits her grave, first kneeling and then sprawling on the ground beside the headstone.
She freely acknowledges that it was the presence of the cameras–and her notion of “Truth or Dare” as an exploration of her life–that inspired her to make the trip. “I hadn’t been to her grave since my father remarried,” she says. “But that’s what this film was about. I was on a mission to film my life. So it gave me the opportunity to deal with an issue that I’d been avoiding or running away from all my life because it was so painful.”
The loss of her mother at such an early age fueled Madonna with an edgy, impatient desire to succeed. In the film, a member of her tour group puts it simply: “She’s in a race against time.” Reminded of the remark, Madonna quickly nods. “It’s true. Life is just too short and I have too many goddamn things to do, so I better hurry up. That has a lot to do with my mother’s death–I’ve felt that way since I was a child.”
As she sees it, her mother’s death freed her from accepting the typical constraints of a blue-collar, big-Catholic-family upbringing. “I think the biggest reason I was able to express myself and not be intimidated was not having a mother,” she says. “I did not have a female role model. Women are traditionally raised to be subservient, passive, accepting. The man is supposed to be the pioneer. He makes the money, he makes the rules.
“I know that some of my lack of inhibition comes from my mother’s death. For example, mothers teach you manners. And I absolutely did not learn any of those rules and regulations. And because I had such a large family, I realized that I would only be noticed and heard if I made the biggest noise. If I wanted my father’s attention, I would get on a table and tap-dance and lift my dress and–guess what–he’d pay attention to me.”
In “Truth or Dare,” Madonna is never seen with her musicians, only with her backup singers and, most often, with her troupe of young, predominantly gay, dancers. As she puts it: “They flocked to me. They were my family.” She revels in their affection, teasing them, flirting with them, playfully dragging them in bed with her. Then, just as suddenly, she stings them with a bitchy tongue-lashing, dubbing them “queens on the rag.”
Madonna views this complicated family affair in maternal terms, which is probably accurate if you can imagine yourself wrapped in the adoring arms of a black widow spider.
“It comes from my need to be mothered,” she says, running a hand through her shoulder-length blond hair, which shows an inch of dark roots at the top of her head. “I look at the dancers and say, ‘They’re me.’ I transfer me as a little girl onto them. I view them through all of my feelings of being deserted and not being emotionally supported or loved. And I say, ‘Now I’m going to be their mother in the way I didn’t have one.’ “
Question: OK. Give me an analysis of your Hollywood career.
Answer: I’ve been a failure so far. And the reason is that I simply haven’t put a lot of thought into it. I haven’t honored or respected a movie career the way I should have. I didn’t approach it the way I approached my music career. I’d had a lot of success in music, and all of a sudden people were going, “Here’s a movie.” And I didn’t think about it. I just took it. I underestimated the power of the medium. It’s been a good lesson for me.
If you took a thermometer to Madonna’s stack of possible movie projects, the one that would generate the most heat is “Evita.” For more than a decade, everyone from Oliver Stone and Michael Cimino to Meryl Streep, Bette Midler and Liza Minnelli has been on–and off–the musical about Eva Peron. Now Madonna and director Glenn Gordon Caron are at the helm, with the Disney Studio providing the financing. But today, Madonna is gloomy about the film’s prospects.
“It doesn’t look very bright right now,” she says. “Every day I get another message from either my agent or Glenn Caron saying, ‘We’re waiting just one more day to hear from Disney on whether they’re going to give it a green light or not.’ But I’m not going to lie and say that my enthusiasm hasn’t flagged a little. I’m very fickle. And if Disney doesn’t commit soon, I’m just going to have to concentrate on other things.”
She contends that Disney’s legendary cost-consciousness has stalled the project. “It’s very frustrating. (Disney studio chairman) Jeffrey Katzenberg is squabbling over pennies. We’re all paying for that crazy memo he wrote. If they don’t want to spend the money, that’s fine, but I don’t want to be in a low-budget version of ‘Evita.’ “
(A Disney spokeswoman says, “As far as we’re concerned right now, the movie is a go.”)