You’ve forsaken your Catholicism?
Once you’re a Catholic, you’re always a Catholic – in terms of your feelings of guilt and remorse and whether you’ve sinned or not. Sometimes I’m wracked with guilt when I needn’t be, and that, to me, is left over from my Catholic upbringing. Because in Catholicism you are born a sinner and you are a sinner all of your life. No matter how you try to get away from it, the sin is within you all the time.
Would you raise a child a Catholic?
No, I don’t think so. That’s a tough question. I don’t know what sort of information I would pass on to them in terms of God. Catholicism is not a soothing religion. It’s a painful religion. We’re all gluttons for punishment.
You’re using the song “Like a Prayer” in your Pepsi commercial. You’re not going to call it “Like a Pepsi,” are you?
Well, I wouldn’t put Pepsi in any of my songs. Pepsi is Pepsi, and I’m me.
But why do the commercial? You don’t need the dough, do you?
No, but I do consider it a challenge to make a commercial that has some sort of artistic value. I like the challenge of merging art and commerce. As far as I’m concerned, making a video is also a commercial. The Pepsi spot is a great and different way to expose the record. Record companies just don’t have the money to finance that kind of publicity. As it is, the music will be playing in the background, and the can of Pepsi is positioned very subliminally. The camera pans by it, so it’s not a hard-sell commercial.
Do you ever think you missed your era in this town? I can imagine you running Hollywood as the Bombshell Queen of the Forties and Fifties.
How do you know I’m not running it right now [laughs richly]? But, yes, I do in a way feel it would have been great in those days. Hollywood was so different then. The studio system really nurtured and cared for you in a way it doesn’t now. On the other hand, your life was not your own. Now you have more individual freedom, but you don’t have anyone looking out for your career the way they did then.
The studios used to arrange dates between its stars. Who would you have wanted on your arm?
Oh, Jimmy Stewart! I love him so much. I would die to meet him! I can think of two incredibly favorite moments in his films that just melt me. In It’s a Wonderful Life, there’s that scene where he’s standing with Donna Reed, who’s talking on the phone, and he’s telling her that he doesn’t love her as he’s kissing her, and he’s crying. Clearly, he loves her so much. [She swoons] Ohhh! And then the other moment is in Rear Window when he gives Grace Kelly this look. She’s spending the night with him, and he turns and rests his chin on the back of a chair and looks at her so lovingly. I can’t describe it, but that is the way I want someone to look at me when he loves me. It’s the most pure look of love and adoration. Like surrender. It’s devastating.
How do you think old-line Hollywood sees you?
I don’t really think they understand me well enough to think of me in any way. A lot of them see me as a singer.
Do you consider yourself a movie star?
Yes, if I could be so immodest to say so.
Do you want to become a mogul someday?
[Laughs] I would rather own an art gallery than a movie studio. Or a museum. I would rather be Peggy Guggenheim than Harry Cohn.
But you do have a production company set up to find movies for yourself.
Yes, Siren Films. You know what a siren is, don’t you? A woman who draws men to their death.
Is that how you see yourself?
Oh, I suppose I’ve had my moments of sirendom [laughs].
You’re about to play your first movie villain, Breathless Mahoney, in Warren Beatty’s ‘Dick Tracy.’ Are you researching the role by doing evil things?
Oh, I don’t have to research that. [She laughs coquettishly.] She’s a siren, definitely. She’s a nightclub singer. Stephen Sondheim is writing the music I perform. And she falls in love with Dick Tracy in spite of herself. I don’t think she’s inherently evil, but she’s quite accomplished in her villainy. She’s basically a good person. She’s not bad, she’s just drawn that way. [She flutters her eyelashes.]