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Madonna Interview : Los Angeles Times

Though critics were less than kind in assessing Madonna’s last two movies (she was a hit in her first, “Desperately Seeking Susan” ), she’s determined to prove herself as an actress and is a serious student of film who sees just about everything that comes out. The last film that impressed her was David Mamet’s “House of Games.”

“I’d never seen Joseph Mantegna in anything before and he’s my new movie star idol — he’s such a beauty! And David Mamet is just brilliant. When I was preparing my tour and while I was touring I had to cut myself off, so when I got home I became an information junkie and went to movies everyday. I loved ‘My Life as a Dog’ and ‘Wish You Were Here,’ but I was so disappointed in the American films I saw — except for ‘House of Games,’ which I really flipped for. I wrote David Mamet a fan letter — it was my first fan letter — and he wrote me back.”

Her favorite period from the past is the ’20s — “because it was an age of abandonment, release and rebellion” — and she collects Art Deco and Art Noveau from that period. Her affection for that era of high-style vamping can be seen in the glamorous, bee-stung look she affects in many of her photo sessions. “I also have pieces by Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and some other artists of my age group, but those pieces were given to me. I don’t really buy my contemporaries.”

Most of Madonna’s heroes, in fact, are artists — women artists to be specific. “I really admire Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo and Tamara de Lempicka. All those women were married to successful, ambitious men, yet they managed to retain a strong sense of themselves and do their own work. They suffered a lot to do it too because there’s no way you can put people like O’Keeffe and [Alfred] Stieglitz together — people with so much ego — and not have conflict. To be that kind of person and be with that kind of person is the ultimate challenge.”

Madonna posed a similar challenge for herself in marrying the mercurial actor Sean Penn; in November she apparently felt she’d had enough of that particular challenge and decided to call it quits on life as Mrs. Penn.

A central element in Madonna’s life is exercise. Maintaining the fitness regime of a professional athlete, she burns through a grueling two-hour workout every day. “I have a 10-speed bike and on alternate days I ride 25 miles up and down the hills along Pacific Coast High-way. I also run the stairs at Pepperdinc University and have a huge dance studio/gym at home with weights, Life-cycles, a trampoline and a pool. I alternate my workout, which keeps it from getting boring.”

Not surprisingly, Madonna monitors what she eats with care and is a vegetarian. “The meat in this country is pumped full of steroids and pollutants and I don’t want weird growths appearing on my body. And if I ever have a child I don’t want my son to grow breasts because I ate the wrong things.

“When I first quit eating meat I found I had more energy, so that was another plus. And if you don’t have to kill animals to live then why do it? Instead of meat I eat things like tofu, Japanese food and Thai food. I also love popcorn. Sometimes I make salads, pasta and things like that, but I’m not the greatest cook in the world.”

Quintessential ’80s woman though she is, Madonna says that she’s “not really big on gadgets.” Having reportedly been paid $500,000 per performance for her “Who’s That Girl” tour last summer, Madonna can obviously afford the state-of-the-art version of anything she desires, but energy and time seem to be the only luxuries she craves, “I have two CD players but I don’t really like them,” she says. “The newest gadget I’ve acquired is a trash compactor, which was installed in my New York apartment when it was recently renovated. It’s really bizarre and I’m not sure I like that either. It’s like a microwave oven — a little bit too New Wave for me.”

© Los Angeles Times