Los Angeles — Madonna, our lady of constant makeovers, has added two new identities to her repertoire. Serious actress and mom.
She has the title role in Evita, Alan Parker’s $59-million movie musical about Argentina’s legendary first lady Eva Peron. It opens on Christmas. On Oct. 14, Madonna gave birth to her first child, Lourdes Maria Ciccone Lean, an arrival that upstaged her film coup.
“Everything I do is scrutinized so I shouldn’t be surprised that it continued when I was pregnant,” she says in her first postpartum interview. “I try to have a sense of humor about it, but it does irritate me … My having a child is not for public consumption. It’s not a career move. It’s not a performance to be judged and rated. Nor is my role as a mother.”
The coincidental timing of these twin feats “was incredibly poetic,”says Madonna, 38. “I waited so long for this movie, and it finally
happened. I wanted so badly to have a child, and I got pregnant while making the movie. Suddenly, God gave me two gifts that were very imporrant to me.”
The singer/actress is sipping peach tea in the living room of her home, a 1926 Spanish mansion in the untrendy neighborhood of Los Feliz. Despite “major sleep deprivation,” she is girlishly sexy, wearing tail boots, a short skirt, a sheer violet blouse and no makeup. Her blond-again hair is wet from the shower. Seven weeks after the delivery, she’s trim again, save for a slightly bulging tummy.
“Don’t crash my car, OK?” she jokes to the nanny, who has Lourdes and a bodyguard in tow for a visit to a park. Madonna would prefer pushing the stroller herself, but such an outing would provoke paparazzi frenzy.
Long a savvy self-promoter, Madonna draws the line at the nursery door. The media “turned my pregnancy into a spectacle,” she says. “The media was at my gate 24 hours a day.” Yet she and boyfriend Carlos Leon pulled off her stealth delivery at a low-profile hospital.
She’d rather shift public attention to Evita, a sweeping epic shot over 84 days (and 85 costume changes) in Buenos Aires, London and Budapest. It melds two of this century’s most controversial women and provides a dazzling showcase that could reverse Madonna’s track record of turkeys like Shanghai Surprise and Who’s That Girl? A rave in this week’s Time notes she “plays Evita with a poignant weariness” and “does a tough score proud.”
The film, costarring Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce, opens Dec. 25 in Los Angeles and New York, and goes nationwide Jan. 10. The soundtrack, featuring Madonna’s finest singing to date, premiered at No. 6 on Billboard’s album chart.
Relaxed and upbeat, Madonna waxes rhapsodic on her career and motherhood:
Q: Your four-page letter to Alan Parker insisted only you could play Eva Peron. Why do you feel that way?
Madonna: I just knew that no one could understand what she went through more than I. I related to her commitment, discipline and ambition (and) that bravery required for a girl of 15 to come from the pueblos and go to Buenos Aires to find her way in entertainment and later in politics. Her suffering as a child was a catalyst to make a better life. I understood that.
Q: She was both beloved and reviled. Did you recognize yourself in thatcontext too?
Madonna: Sure. Because of her enormous impact, her detractors tried to tear her down and desecrate her image. People were frightened of the power she had and undermined her accomplishments by calling her a whore. I can certainly relate to that. People intimidated by me feel the need to denigrate me.
Q: In past movie roles, your real persona seemed bigger than the characters.
Madonna: Evita is the first movie big enough to contain me. I know I have a very big presence. If I overpower the movie, the movie fails.
Q: Did your pregnancy pose problems on the set?
Madonna: I never had morning sickness. A couple times, I got dizzy and a little nauseous. I attributed that to the incredible heat in Argentina and the long hours. It was gone by the time I found out I was pregnant. I was more worried about my stomach showing. My only sense of terror was “I’m not going to fit into my costumes!”
Q: Did you have a comfortable pregnancy?
Madonna: It was great. I worked out. I didn’t have any weird food cravings. I felt fine until the last couple of weeks, when you have to wheelbarrow yourself around. Your lower back starts killing you, and you don’t want to get out of your pajamas.
Q: Was it hard to say goodbye to your waistline?
Madonna: I surrendered. It was cool to eat whatever I wanted. It was nice to have that freedom. Now that I’ve had the baby, I feel liberated in a sense. I don’t feel I have to be a certain size or have perfect abs. I still exercise, but I don’t care as much.
Q: Do you and Carlos Lean intend to get married?
Madonna: I don’t see the need. I’m perfectly happy with the way things are.