After the global self-publicity coup of her book Sex, Madonna still has one unrequested ambition – to be a bona fide A-list movie star. Her latest attempt is Body of Evidence, in which she drips hot wax over Willem Defoe’s genitals and does some nifty little tricks with a dildo. Michelle Pfeiffer won’t be losing sleep but whatever the outcome, Madonna is already two development deals ahead. Nash Peters talks to her in New York.
So the Madonna phenomenon marches on. Unflustered by the furore surround the publication of her book, she is back in the line of fire yet again for her steamy performance in Body of Evidence. And judging by the response of American audiences this won’t be the one to lift Miss Ciccone’s movie career out of the doldrums. Playing a sadomasochist with a penchant for geriatrics, Madonna’s character is tried for murder when one of her older men snuffs it on the job. Boasting almost as many sex scenes as her book, the court-and-bedroom drama (by all accounts one long romp with her trial attorney, Willem Dafoe) earned giggles and hoots from a specially invited audience at an early preview. Quick to defend other performance and the movie itself, Madonna is remaining characteristically cool in the face of this new barrage of criticism, though, apparently, nervous studio executives were secretly holding a spiced-up version of the already sexually supercharged film in the wings as box office insurance – deciding against releasing this racy cut despite reaction to the “tamer” version. Madonna has also been quick to sort out her own safety-net with a new movie project, Snake Eyes, already up and running. Written by super-hip Abel (Bad Lieutenant) Ferrara and co-starring Harvey Keitel, the movie is conveniently being funded by Madonna’s own new production company / record label Maverick. The first of a whole bunch of movies that the operation has in development, it looks like Madonna will never be short of films to star in. The question is: will she ever really make it?
Why Body of Evidence? Was it because it continues your exploration of sexual adventures, the theme of Sex?
Madonna: I’m afraid it wasn’t that calculated. I read the script about a year ago and I wasn’t really that interested in it. I thought it was predictable and that my character was really one note. But then when director Uli Edel and Willem Dafoe said that they were interested in working on it I got interested. In fact, I did the movie before I even worked on my book.
Your role in Body of Evidence seems to reinforce your image rather than stretch you as an actress. When are you going to play someone totally different from that image?
When someone offers it to me.
It’s not exactly the kind of film where people practise safe sex…
My character, Rebecca Carlson, was the kind of person who lived life dangerously, lived life on the age, and I don’t think that practising safe sex was something she even cared about. So for me it was a character choice, and in a way I guess I was attracted to her honesty and her straightforwardness, and the fact that she doesn’t apologize for her behavior.
Would you admit you’ve made some bad film choices?
Well, I just want to work more in films, and I want to have a chance to learn as much about movie-making as I have about music and performing. I don’t like to define where I am at this point in my life in terms of getting to a higher place or being a megastar; I think of it in terms of artistry and experience. And the more you do it the more you learn, the more you know. Sure, I’ve made some mistakes in terms of choices in film-making, but I did it when I didn’t know that much about movie-making – and I’ve certainly concentrated a lot more of my time in music, so it goes without saying that that’s where I have accomplished more. I chose to do scripts that weren’t that well written. I just wanted to make movies and I didn’t think.
Is there any particular movie that you see as a mistake?
[Sarcastically] Oh, you want me to name my mistakes? I’ll leave that up to you.
With your book and this film filled with bondage and handcuffs, is there anything you’re not prepared to do? Is there a limit?
My limits, once again, I define in terms of being an artist. My limits are: “Am I being true to myself? Is this what I want to say? Is this what I want to do?” And if it’s not and I can’t be proud of it then I don’t want to do it.
How does this movie fit into that? It’s already been roundly criticized.
Well, in my opinion, it’s the best film role that I’ve been offered, and it gave me a chance to really do more than I’ve been given the chance to do before as an actress.
How were the – by now notorious – sex scenes?
Um, actually, they were difficult. They’re difficult to do. I don’t think anyone will tell you that love scenes aren’t difficult to do, because it’s hard to pretend to make love to someone you don’t know that well. That’s all there is to it.
You could argue that Body of Evidence can be seen as misogynistic because your character, who is both sexually active and extremely independent, gets punished in the end…
We’re living in a misogynistic society, so what are you asking me?
Are you concerned that the film might further misogynistic stereotypes?
Well, I have two answers to that question. She was a murderess, so aside from the fact that she enjoyed having sex, she did kill someone. I don’t think it’s right to kill someone. Secondly, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a script that wasn’t fairly misogynistic, so that to me is reflection of society.
Is it true that you were going to shave your head to play a concentration camp prisoner opposite Willem Dafoe in triumph of the Spirit?
Yup, that’s true. But then I got offered Dick Tracy and the rest is history. [Laughs]