Trailing in Madonna’s wake are her two children, whom she has just brought back from a doctor’s appointment. Lourdes is a dark-haired lass whose dignified comportment is affected not at all by the fact that her two front teeth are missing. Rocco, a sturdy, towheaded toddler, does not walk through the house so much as bounce.
Assistants spirit the Kinder upstairs, and Madonna settles into a bulky sofa, apologizing for her tardiness. Her hair is center-parted and somewhat matted. With her orange-and-white-striped long-sleeved T-shirt, baggy jeans ripped at the knees, and Puma future-sneakers, she looks less like an off duty icon than a rave kid who has grown up and become a soccer mom.
Madonna is presently enjoying as much of a vacation as she will ever allow herself, and she looks suitably revivified. The 10-week run of Up for Grubs — she was in nearly every scene of the 90-minute play — exacted a considerable toll. She was nightly required to make swift emotional transitions; the character thinks she, succeeded in a grand manipulation only to be manipulated herself and ultimately to suffer an awful sexual degradation. “I ended up with a headache every night from crying,” she says. “Sometimes I’d show up for work in a happy mood, and I’d just think, I don’t want to be sad; I don’t want to go where my character has to go tonight — but I can’t fake it. That part was exhausting.”
The only imminent demand on Madonna’s professional energy is a video shoot for the theme song she has recorded for Die Another Day, the latest James Bond rollout. Once again she is collaborating with Mirwais, the French producer and D.J. with whom she worked on her last album, Music. This Fall, the two will be back in the studio finishing a new album they started in the spring.
As Madonna describes how flattered she is that the tastemaking Parisian band Air has submitted new songs for her consideration, she slides off the sofa and onto the floor, pulling one knee up beneath her chin, which is level with the coffee table. The informal atmosphere is tainted only slightly by the supervisory presence of her longtime publicist, Lis Rosenberg.
Its not just Madonna’s posture that is casual. Her speech is free of the English intonation which she has affected the last several years and which can suggest a person working a little too hard to maintain poise and control. Only when she imitates the fencing instructor she plays in a Bond-film cameo does she lapse into a South Kensington cadence.
Which is not to say that Madonna has lost her taste for thrust and parry. When I begin a question, “You are known these days as a woman of taste — ” she instantly snaps back, “What do you mean, ‘these days’?!” Then she laughs.
Madonna’s present bout of domesticity allows her amle time to contemplate the fate of Swept Away, the movie she has made with husband Guy Ritchie. A movie that will once again put the credibility of her acting to the test when it is released this October.
Media potentate Barry Diller once stated in these pages that Madonna was “a movie star without a movie…. She’s got a good ten years to find the right movie to prove it.” That was in 1990. It is now safe to say that the former Mrs. Sean Penn is one of the very few people who have proved Barry Diller wrong.
At the time of Diller’s prediction, Madonna was enmeshed with Warren Beatty in a love match that always seemed unequal. Beatty, the vaunted swordsman and Hollywood Brahmin, seemed always to look askance at this sexy little striver from … somewhere in Michigan, was it? Emblematic of their relationship was the scene in Madonna’s pseudo-documentary, Truth or Dore, in which a camera-shy Beatty famously remarks, “She doesn’t want to live off-camera, much less talk.” Well, Madonna now finds herself — to the casual observer at least — on the other end of the socio-professiona-romantic teeter-totter from Guy Ritchie, an English striver 10 years her junior and with less than four hours of cinematic product to his name.
As Ritchie barrels down the stairs of Madonna’s house with son Rocco in his arms and a vintage Madonna T-shirt sheathing his brawny torso, it’s tempting to see this household as a fish-out-of-water sitcom premise come to life. Yeoman-handsome, scar-faced English geezer moves to Beverly Hills to live with maturing Yank sex bomb! And now they’re trying to work together!