Madonna’s good friend and co-star Rupert Everett recently said to me: ‘I just don’t see her having patience to act, but she can do anything she wants to. She has this amazing energy to do things.’ When I mention this to Madonna, she shrieks in mock anger. ‘How dare he say that! Listen, I’m impatient in the recording studio. I’m impatient everywhere. No one ever works fast enough for me. I’m tireless workhorse. I hate everyone sitting around and I hate waiting. I’m always that way on my video shoots, in the recording studio. I can’t stand it when people take meal breaks, I go mad. I don’t even want anyone going to the bathroom.’
Apart from Everett, who she thinks is divine, Madonna counts very few thespians in her circle of friends, although, over the past couple of years, she has become friendly with Gwyneth Paltrow – also a yoga enthusiast. I ask her about their friendship. ‘I don’t rat on my friends,’ she jokes playfully, before relenting, and telling me to go ahead. Gwyneth always refers to Madonna as being like an older sister; does Madonna in turn see Gwyneth as a younger sister? Gwyneth is experiencing the upsides and the downsides of being incredibly famous for the first time, and I think people taking pictures of you and writing stories about you putting their nose in your business for the first time is going to be disorientating. I wish I could have someone to turn to when I was at that point in my life. I don’t think I would have taken a lot of things so personally. So I’m happy for her. I do see her as a younger sister, although she is very sophisticated for her age. Mostly, she just wants to know where I get my handbags. It’s funny. Even though I’m 13 years older than her, girls are always just girls, constantly coveting each other’s wardrobes: I want those shoes. I want that handbag. Where did you get that? It’s relentless.’
Madonna, unlike a lot of other celebrities, doesn’t have the kind of ego that requires her to socialize exclusively with other famous people. Having accompanied her to several Oscars parties over the years. I can vouch for this. She would rather talk to her friend she is with than scan the room for celebrities. Although when I saw her presenting an award to Sir Paul McCartney recently, she did look a little overawed, so I can’t help asking what was it like to meet him. ‘I was probably a bit starstruck, because I didn’t really hear what he said. I thought he was hysterically funny. I don’t know how the rumor started that he came back to my apartment, but it was a strange rumor.’ She smiles and adds, irreverently: ‘Anyway, everyone knows I like younger men.’
And what about his daughter, her new friend Stella McCartney? ‘When I first met her she was sewing dresses and suits and selling them out of some tiny room on the third floor of some horrible place someone dragged me to in London. I thought she was a genius. I don’t know how anyone could have a line of clothes. You have to stand on top of it and you have to lick every fashion editor’s butt.’
There’s time for just one last question before Madonna has to rush off to her next meeting. Having had a chance to relax over the New Year, has she thought about what she’d like to achieve in the new century that she didn’t in the last? ‘I looked back at the past 20 years of my life, and I’ve worked really hard. I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve had an incredible life. I tend to be really hard on myself, saying “You’re not good enough, you have to work harder.” but on this vacation I had a chance to look back and relax and say, “OK, you don’t have to win any races. Pat yourself on the back and take a deep breath.” The pressure doesn’t really come from anyone else but myself. I don’t look around and I see people doing things and there are always twinges of jealousy or envy. I know about what people have then I ask myself, “Do you really want that life?” And the answer is “No. So shut up.” I mean shut up to myself,’ she qualifies. And then she turns and smiles.