Back on the sumptuous golden sofa, you can reflect on the view and wonder just how Madonna got here. She did, after all, start her musical career proper as a drummer (with a New York band called The Breakfast Club). After bashing a second-hand kit for the first half of 1979 she graduated to singer, then to solo artist. By the end of 1984, the New Wave disco diva with the bedroom eyes and the locker room mouth had four hit singles under her Boy Toy belt. The rest. as they say, is hysteria.
To date she has sold rather more albums worldwide than there are people in Britain (sales are approaching 76 million). As you sit here, her records are tinkling from transistor radios the free world over, reinforcing her status as one of the most famous people on the planet. She was An Icon For The ’80s. Her record company Warner Brothers are now humbly calling her A Goddess For The ’90s. God alone knows which dimension the next lofty mantle will come from. Perhaps, like Michael Jackson He’s planning a duet…
Her entrance is just nonchalant enough not to appear choreographed. She sweeps into the room and regally presents her hand, high enough to either kiss or shake, all the while fixing you with a smiling, soul-scrutinising stare. Her eyes are an unimaginable blue.
Displaying the self-conscious grace of a small girl attempting to keep her mother’s shoes on, she moves slowly and deliberately across the bare floor to the window. Her hair is blonde and, like her music, has black roots. It is scraped back from her face into a small pony tail. She is wearing a loose, green, lattice-work top – a string vest on drugs – with small glass beads at each intersection. It does not unduly tax your powers of X-Ray vision to see that she is also sporting a black brassiere. Beneath this combination, it is alarmingly obvious, lurk the celebrated Ciconne bosoms. The sort of trousers favoured by fashionable toreadors complete the ensemble. As a concession to comfort she has on her feet a pair of old green espadrilles, fraying slightly around the toes. She looks sickeningly healthy and radiates fitness. She is smaller than you’d expect, even when you were expecting her to be small. She is, in the flesh, uncommonly beautiful.
A mug of something brown and herbal-smelling arrives in order to keep her over-worked larynx lubricated during the next two hours as she talks rapidly in a slightly serrated, tinny-timbred voice that mediates between assured businesswoman and regular excitable 32-year-old. She often fires questions aggressively back at you, demanding a more thorough explanation. She laughs – a thick, fruity chuckle – frequently; she smirks sweetly and often concludes her answers with a what-can-I-tell-ya shrug. Occasionally she will shoot you a glare that could strip enamel off teeth, at other times she’ll blink back tears and look so upset that you immediately want to prepare her a hearty bowl of soup.
Do you think Truth Or Dare will change people’s perceptions of you? “First of all,” she says, drawing breath, appearing if anything a little nervous, “everyone overreacts to everything I do. They overreact to really simple, mundane things I do, so I can just imagine the overreactions to this. And this isn’t a three minute video dealing with some touchy issues. This is a two-hour movie and it’s real life. I don’t think it’s my real life, as such, I think it’s life in general. A lot of people will be able to relate to a lot of things in it, but a lot of people will be offended by things in it because it includes things that a lot of people would rather not deal with – homosexuality, family issues – and everybody I know has problems with their families and they don’t want to face up to it: death, AIDS, power, success, loneliness, jealousy, envy … all of life’s big issues.”
It’s a very emotional film.
“Well, I’m a very emotional person,” she states, matter-of-factly. “Then, being on the road is a really emotional thing anyway. The insanity of the life I lead is very emotional also. So, to me it was a very emotion-packed time.”
Presumably your life outside of your work isn’t as emotionally hectic as that?
“I’m afraid to say it is!” she laughs. “Yes, it is. It truly is. Because I’m very maternal with people and like with the dancers in the movie, I mother them all during the movie and I still do. Still! I’m still very close to them and completely embroiled in their lives and trying to help them. In addition to that I have my own, very large family who are all emotional cripples in one way or another. So I’m the matriach of all these little families. I can’t keep my hand out of the fire. I just keep getting pulled into everyone’s lives and try to help them out of their messes. Meanwhile, I’m neglecting all of my own. So… my life remains completely insane. Don’t let this calm, peaceful facade fool you.”
Which parts of the film did you have most trouble with when editing? Which scenes couldn’t you make your mind up about showing to the general public?
“Probably all the most revealing ones,” she shrugs. “I would see rough cuts of it and I would say. Can I do that? Should I do that? The things with my brother, with my best friend from childhood, or the girl Sharon who was molested or attacked, drugged or whatever. But you couldn’t take that stuff out. Otherwise you’d just have an interview which, on film, is just like snoresville.”
The bit where Sharon, a member of your entourage, is interfered with is very vague.
“Interfered with,” she echoes sarcastically. “That’s a quaint way of putting it. I believe that she was sexually assaulted but we weren’t clear as to how it happened. Although, to me, that wasn’t important. We put it in to show how it made everyone come together like a family. It was like, Help, I need help. By that stage in the tour everyone was telling each other to fuck off and tempers were very short and that served to bring us back together and made us respect each other and look out for each other.”
The parts with your dad are funny. Especially when he asks how many tickets he’s allowed to have for your show and you say, As many as you like! You’re my dad!
“Oh yeah,” she beams, “that’s the great thing about my dad. It still hasn’t really dawned on him who I am. Which is good because it keeps him from treating me any differently from all brothers and sisters. He lives in his own world and generally the things that happen to me just pass right by him. I think that’s good because it means he can have an OK life and not be bothered. The good thing is that I have all these rather insane brothers and sisters, so whatever happens to me is just another thing that he has to deal with.”
He seems very laid-back.
“He is, but,” she pauses, “he’s had a very tragic life. He’s been through an awful lot.”
Judging from your mothering instincts in the film, would it be fair to suggest that you’re getting broody?
“Broody?” she asks, leaning forward. “What’s that?”
That you’re feathering the nest, that you want children.
“Probably,” she frowns. “Everyone would think that. I suppose. Uh-huh. Probably. Maybe. Who knows?”
The impression one takes away from the film is of someone who wants desperately to be in charge but also wants to be looked after. “Is that the only impression you came away with?” she asks, almost impatiently. “I think the impression of me will be two-fold. I think people will think. Oh, she isn’t just a cold, dominating person. I think that’s the world’s perception of me, that I’m power-hungry and manipulating. I think a great deal of the movie shows a gentler side of me. I think what you see is not a control freak but someone who has to hold the whole ship together. I really have to be a rock. And it’s a constant struggle in those six months to be that rock. Every once in a while you see that I can’t always be that rock. I break and then I need someone to take care of me.”