Despite her enthusiasm, Keshishian didn’t hear from Madonna for quite a while. She didn’t call to ask him to direct “Vogue” or any of her other music videos. “I said to myself, Go on with your life, Alek. You are not going to work with Madonna. And then, out of the blue, one afternoon at the end of March last year, the phone rings and it’s Madonna asking me to make this documentary.”
The film, which ended up costing Madonna around million (it will be distributed domestically by Miramax), was originally conceived as a concert film about the tour. David Fincher, who directed some of Madonna’s best videos (“Express Yourself,” “Vogue”) was scheduled to make the movie, but reportedly he and Madonna were romantically involved, and when their personal relationship cooled, so did their professional alliance.
When Madonna contacted Keshishian, it was three days before the start of the tour, in Japan. “I found Alek quite attractive,” she recalls. “But I had kept my distance because I never like to have a crush on somebody everybody else has a crush on.”
Keshishian was given total access, but instead his crew never to speak to Madonna — and to wear only black so as to be unobtrusive. “I would say, ‘We are not human beings,'” Keshishain recalls. “‘We are just here to report.'” He got some remarkable footage: Madonna eating breakfast in her European hotel room, saying, “Even when I feel like shit, they still love me,” as fans scream wildly outside her window; a depressed Madonna having coffee with pal Sandra Bernhard who tries to cheer her up by asking, “Who would you most want to meet?,” to which Madonna replies, “I think I’ve met everybody”; Madonna visiting the grave of her mother, whose death when she was six seems have been the seminal event in her life; and a guest appearance by Warren Beatty as the Voice of Reason. “This is crazy,” he says. “Does anyone make a comment when you’re doing this film about the insanity of doing this in front of the camera?” “Who’s anyone?” Madonna demands. “Well anyone who comes into this insane atmosphere,” he says. Beatty gets the last word when Madonna’s doctor asks if she would prefer to discuss throat malady off-camera. “Turn the camera off?” Beatty says in mock horror. “She doesn’t want to live off-camera, much less talk.”
Truth or Dare is also racy, and Freddy DeMann, Madonna’s manager, was initially appalled by the idea of it. “I thought she was exposing too much of herself,” he says. “But Madonna didn’t agree, and when she doesn’t agree she has a doll and she squizees it in all the right places, and I feel pain.” DeMann laughs, although he is clearly only half joking. “But I was wrong about the movie. It works. The makeup is off and all the gloves are off, and it’s the real real.”
Apparently, part of DeMann’s nervousness had to do with the fact that all but one of Madonna’s dancers are openly gay and their sexuality is very much a part of the movie. In one scene, two men kiss passionately while Madonna looks on enthusiastically. “This is my favorite scene in the movie,” she says. “I love that people are going to watch that and go home and talk about it all night long. I live for things like that.”
The larger question that the movie, like most documentaries, raises is: What is real and what is for the benefit of the camera? “People will say, ‘She knows the camera is on. she’s just acting,'” says Madonna rather defiantly. “But even if I am acting, there’s a truth in my acting. It’s like when you go into a psychiatrist’s office and you don’t really tell them what you did. You lie, but even the lie you’ve chosen to tell is revealing. I wanted people to see that my life isn’t so easy, and one step further than that is, the movie’s not completely me. You could watch it and say, I still don’t know Madonna, and good. Because you will never know the real me. Ever.”
“Whether it’s real or whether it’s Memorex is only important for her to know,” says DeMann. “The fact that it keeps you guessing — well, she’s already succeeded.”
It’s 10:30 on a Friday night and Madonna is walking home after dinner. She is small and pale, and tonight she is dressed like a street urchin — a schoolboy’s cap covers her hair completely and she wears no makeup. “Straight from the cast of Oliver,” says Keshishian. “When Madonna puts on her cap and overcoat, she looks like a twelve-year-old boy. She wore that one day in Los Angeles and we went to the Body Shop, this go-go-dancer place, and when we left, the valet guy goes, ‘Are you leaving so soon? I here Madonna’s in there.’ He was looking right at her when he said it.”
Madonna stares at the ground when she walks, careful not to make eye contact with passersby. The strategy works: ever though the streets are relatively crowded Madonna walks home without causing commotion.
“It’s not always this easy,” she says. In Europe she is mobbed no matter how she dresses, and outside her New York apartment building there are nearly always paparazzi and fans lying in wait. The photographers seem to upset her the most — their constant presence certaanly wreaked havoc during her three-and-a-half-year marriage to Sean Penn.