Madonna is developing other projects, including an adaptation of the James Baldwin novel “Giovanni’s Room” and a film about the life of legendary choreographer Martha Graham. She also has been working with two different writers on a film about painter Frida Kahlo. “I’m excited about it,” she says. “It won’t be your typical reverent artist-bio picture.”
Nor has Madonna ruled out the prospect of making “Lita and Swan,” a female buddy picture that would co-star Demi Moore and be produced by Joel Silver. “It has more character development than most Joel Silver films,” she explains. “The problem is that the timing doesn’t look good. They want to make it right away, but I think the script still needs some work and Demi is six months pregnant.”
You get the distinct impression Madonna is not the sort of woman who can sit on her hands for very long. “It’s true–I’m freaking out,” she says. She recently took a small role in an upcoming Woody Allen movie, in which she plays a circus performer. And she’s committed to playing a part in director Gus Van Sant’s adaptation of Tom Robbins’ novel “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” which she says will shoot in June and July. Asked about her role, Madonna quipped: “I get to make out with Uma Thurman. What could be more fun?”
Nearly a year later, Madonna still has mixed feelings about her last big film project–“Dick Tracy.” “This is going to sound really horrible, but I have to admit I’ve never really seen the movie. I saw a lot of bits and pieces, and I did see an early cut, and I saw about half of it at a premiere in Washington, D.C., but then I had to leave.
“You could say I have a lot of unresolved feelings about it. I remember being very upset that all of my big music scenes were cut up the way they were. I learned a lot about filmmaking from Warren, but obviously it didn’t make me a big box-office star, did it?”
Madonna’s happiest marriage has been with the media. Her critics have landed a few punches in recent months, most notably a withering broadside in Playboy that dismissed her as an emasculating pop tart. But she’s generally been portrayed with a mix of unabashed curiosity and outright adulation. She posed as Marilyn Monroe II in Vanity Fair. “Nightline” treated her like a presidential candidate. Even Spy magazine, which eagerly attacks everybody, has handled her with kid gloves, even putting her on its cover last month (albeit with Madonna’s head plastered on another woman’s body).
Madonna has even started to pick up a few highbrow accolades, most notably from hotshot feminist academic Camille Paglia. Writing in the New York Times last fall, she lauded Madonna as the “future of feminism.” Praising her “profound vision” of sex, Paglia wrote: “Madonna sees both the animality and the artifice of sex. She’s taught young women to be fully female and sexual while still exercising total control over their lives.”
These accolades don’t go unnoticed. In fact, the south wall of Madonna’s kitchen is dominated by an immense blond-wood magazine rack, stocked with Vanity Fair, Mirabella, Vogue, Interview, Traveler and more.
“I don’t mind being the subject of gossip,” she says. “People who take it seriously just end up being devastated by it. I find a lot of it fairly amusing. Spy can be very funny–it’s abstract gossip. It’s more challenging than People or US. I enjoyed being on their cover. I’d just like to know whose body they used instead of mine.” (Spy says Nicki Gostin, its picture research editor, posed as Madonna’s “body double.”)
Madonna handles the celebrity glare well. Her house in the Hollywood Hills is hermetically sealed, with guards, hidden cameras and an electric-eye gate. But out in public, she is relaxed, if on guard. Though she is recognized virtually everywhere she goes, she quietly slipped into her favorite coffee bar, sized up the crowded room and casually asked if she could retire to a quiet, upstairs area. It’s easy to see why journalists have generally treated her with respect. She is smart, sassy and fearlessly frank, and never ducks a question.
When she realizes the bar’s noisy sound system might be drowning out her replies, she takes the tape recorder off the couch and holds it in her hand. “No problem,” she says brightly. “It’s just like holding a microphone. I’m pretty good at it.”
You’ve raised a lot of money–and awareness–for AIDS-related causes. Why hasn’t Hollywood, which has many gay men in positions of power, taken a more active role?
Answer: Because nobody wants to offend anybody. If you take a stand on something, then you may not get a job, or people may not go see your movie or people might be insulted by your actions. Everyone is afraid in this town. This is a town full of very self-centered, selfish people who make their entire living out of putting their best face forward.
Throughout “Truth or Dare,” Madonna repeats–as if it were her mantra–that her act isn’t just provocative, but political too. Not everybody buys that. In fact, many critics say she’s confusing political statements with shock-value narcissism. Even on “Nightline,” when asked how she could wear a neck manacle in one of her videos and not see herself as a sex slave, she replied, not very convincingly: “But I chained myself. I’m in charge!”