Becky Johnson: Of the films and plays you’ve done, which do you think best shows your abilities as an actress?
Madonna: None of them. Not yet.
Becky Johnson: Why?
Madonna: I don’t think I’ve had a great part to play yet. There have been moments in each movie where I feel I’ve really explored things or done what I set out to do, but nothing as a whole.
Becky Johnson: Is there any character you’re dying to play?
Madonna: Yeah, Lee Miller. I think she’s great. I love the idea of doing Evita, but that’s just because she’s an incredibly complex and interesting woman. I’m not dying to do it, but it’s awfully intriguing to me.
Becky Johnson: I thought you were supposed to do Evita.
Madonna: I was, but it didn’t work out.
Becky Johnson: What do you do to prepare yourself for a role?
Madonna: It’s all emotional. If I’m attracted tot he character, then I’m attracted to something emotionally. That’s the main thing that helps me get into it.
Becky Johnson: Do you take the character home with you every night after work?
Madonna: No, but I’m incredibly affected by whatever role I’m playing. When I did Speed-the-Plow this summer, I felt the girl I played was extremely defeated. And I felt defeated all summer. I didn’t feel she had a lot of focus or ultimately knew what she wanted to do with herself. And I felt that she lost in the end, she didn’t have whatever tools she needed to get herself out of the situation she was in. And the effects of that really showed on me. I did some photo sessions last summer, and when I look at the pictures I see a totally different person. I didn’t feel confident. I didn’t feel my usual ballsy self. I just felt really… “defeated” is the best word to use. And that actually influenced everything I did, because it made me very sad.
I was writing my album during that time. Because of the state of mind I was in, I dealt with a lot of sadness in my life that I hadn’t dealt with in a long time, things like my mother’s death and certain relationships. I started to explore all of that every night when I would do the play. Especially for the last scene, when I had to walk onstage being really upset and frightened. I would sit in my dressing room with all the lights off, waiting for that scene, and I would force myself to think of something really painful. I did it every night, and I purged myself that way. It was like a goal I set. I would say, tonight I’m going to work this problem out. I need to think about this, or the possibility of this terrible thing happening. These little psychological exercises. Facing my fears.
Becky Johnson: What was it like working with Joe Mantegna and Ron Silver? Were they very supportive?
Madonna: Yeah. They were there for me, but then never went out of their way unless I asked for it. When I was doing the play I thought, God, they’re not really very generous, or they’re not really giving me that much. They made me stand on my own. They treated me like an equal. They didn’t give me any training wheels.
Becky Johnson: What drew you to the play in the first place?
Madonna: It’s weird. I have this thing about David Mamet, in spite of how chauvinistic he is. There’s a sense of rhythm and music in his language that I think is beautiful. I’d written him a fan letter when I saw House of Games. I thought it was a great movie. And then, when I was in New York doing this movie called Bloodhounds of Broadway, I was having dinner with Mike Nichols, and he told me David Mamet had written a new play. He said, “You should do it.” So I just kind of went for it.
Becky Johnson: And that was before you had even read the play?
Madonna: Yeah. And then I read it. I don’t know, I can’t even say why. I was driven. I was blindly driven to do it.
Becky Johnson: Do you think part of that has to do with the fact that you like to challenge yourself to try new forms?
Madonna: Yes. But things just come up in my life and I feel like I’m supposed to do them. I’m supposed to be doing Dick Tracy right now. I was supposed to write the songs for my album. I was supposed to do that play. And if I don’t feel I’m supposed to do something, I won’t do it. I believe there are no accidents, that everything happens for a reason.
Becky Johnson: This is one Catholic girl who believes in the preordained plan.
Madonna: Oh yeah, definitely.
Becky Johnson: Would you describe yourself as political, or politically involved at all?
Madonna: Well, I didn’t vote, so I guess I’m not.
Becky Johnson: OK, let me rephrase the question. Are you motivated by political concerns?
Madonna: Yeah, I am. I would say that I am subconsciously more than consciously so. I’m aware of things. And my involvement has mainly been giving money to causes that I think are worthwhile. I have the resources to help people, so I do. But in the typical way that one would describe being political, I’m not.
Becky Johnson: You said in a recent interview that you’re drawn to things that illustrate the sadness of life. Why is that?
Madonna: I don’t know why. Because life is sad. And that’s why I try to be happy, because life is so sad. And because sadness is a teacher, and happiness is really a gift.
Becky Johnson: And how would you define love?
Madonna: [long pause] Love is like breathing. You just have to do it.
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