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Madonna Interview : New York Times

Madonna - New York Times / Sep 8 2002

Looking very much the young married couple, Madonna and her husband, the English filmmaker Guy Ritchie, sat on a sofa in their central London home one recent afternoon to talk about Mr. Ritchie’s new movie, “Swept Away,” which stars his wife.

In this remake of Lina Wertmüller’s 1974 Italian-language sex-and-sand movie, “Swept Away . . . by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August,” Mr. Ritchie has cast Madonna as Amber, a rich, arrogant American shipwrecked on a deserted Mediterranean island with a resentful Italian sailor, Giuseppe. They begin by hating each other and end up lovers, with much rolling in the sand to prove it. Adriano Giannini, who plays Giuseppe, is the son of Giancarlo Giannini, who played the role opposite Mariangela Melato in the earlier version.

For Mr. and Mrs. Ritchie: Madonna says she now likes to be called Mrs. Ritchie, finding it more intimate than her given name: “Swept Away” proved to be something of a test. Mr. Ritchie, 33, made his name in 1998 with “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”; he followed that with “Snatch” in 2000. Madonna, 44, has a longer movie record, including “Desperately Seeking Susan” in 1985 and “Evita” in 1996, as well as the 1991 documentary “Madonna: Truth or Dare.” But “Swept Away,” which opens Oct. 11, was the couple’s first feature film together.

Mr. Ritchie, in a T-shirt and slacks, and Madonna, wearing an orange sweatsuit, teased each other with affection. Madonna, about to end a 10-week run in David Williamson’s play “Up for Grabs,” was the chattier of the two. Occasionally a shout from their 2-year-old son, Rocco, reached the sitting room. (Madonna’s daughter, Lourdes, 5, also lives with them.) Several guitars leaned against a wall. Nearby was Madonna’s favorite painting, “My Birth,” by Frida Kahlo. Here are excerpts from their conversation with Alan Riding, the European cultural correspondent of The New York Times.

Alan Riding: So whose idea was it to do a remake of “Swept Away”?

Guy Ritchie: Initially, it was mine.

Madonna: You liar.

Ritchie: It was mine.

Madonna: It wasn’t his. That’s a total lie.

Ritchie: Darling, not so. It was my idea. You brought the film, you put the film on. I watched the film with you and then I said, “Someone should remake that film.”

Madonna: Actually, it was suggested to both of us. Don’t you remember?

Ritchie: Oh, yeah, yeah, I do.

Madonna: I always loved it, I always loved the movie. And then I was like, “Oh, God, I haven’t heard that film mentioned in a long time.”

Riding: And what made you think it was worth doing a remake? I mean, remakes normally have the kiss of death, don’t they?

Madonna: Yeah, well.

Ritchie: Not necessarily, actually. I thought the “Thomas Crown Affair” remake was very good. I mean, give me examples of films that were a disaster when they were remade.

Riding: There are lots of French films that get remade in the States and disappear without trace. One or two make it. But why remake a film that exists?

Ritchie: Because I liked the film and I knew no one was going to watch it who wasn’t Italian. And it was made in 1974, and I’d never heard of it. So I liked it, I thought it had some pertinent points in it: rather politically incorrect, but nevertheless pertinent. I just thought it was an interesting film and very fresh, comparatively.

Riding: And how did you end up casting Adriano Giannini in the role created by his father?

Ritchie: We wanted to do it in Italy, and we got all sorts of contemporary Italian actors. We had photographs of them down on the floor, and we had a look at them. And his was the first one we picked out.

Madonna: He didn’t know it was Giancarlo’s son. He watched the tape with a casting person, and they narrowed it down to a few. Then they said, “Come in and take a look.” And everybody liked him the best. But no one knew who he was, because we weren’t really reading the names.

When we found out, everybody’s like, “Oh, that’s too weird. But let’s just see how he is anyway.” So he came over, and we did some scenes. And everybody still really liked him, but it kept coming up: “Well, we can’t do it because that’s his father and it’s just too weird.” But nobody was better. So then we just thought, “Well, it’s a stupid reason not to do it if he’s the best one.”

Riding: Did you audition with anybody else?

Madonna: No, I didn’t. But the casting person met with lots of others.