Madonna Makes Movies
165th Street and Broadway in Manhattan is not one of your more glamorous corners. Newspapers blow down the decaying streets, and in a shabby park nearby, old men jockey for a place on the slatless benches.
One sunny day in October, though, 165th and Broadway, home of the once-glorious Audobon Ballroom, is the location for Desperately Seeking Susan, a film which, though set in unglamorous old New York , features one of the most glamorous rock stars of recent memory in her first acting role – Madonna.
The Audobon, newly spiffed up through the magic of paint and clever set design, is serving as the film’s “Magic Club”, and Madonna, clad in brilliant orange and black with sequined boots, and festooned with beads, chains and bracelets, struts through and around it, seeming as at home as “Susan” amidst the lights, cameras and action as she would in the recording studio.
Madonna is fidgety. She confers with co-star Rosanna Arquette, two blond heads bobbing together; she asks director Susan Seidelman a question; she waits through endless retakes of a single scene, toying with the cigarettes she hates but must smoke in character; she flirts with all the male members of the crew.
And somewhere in between all this, she squeezes in a chatty, frequently-interrupted interview, beginning with the smiling, orange-lipped observation that she’s very tired of doing interviews.
What are you most tired of people asking you?
Why am I doing this movie, what things do I have in common with the character, and do I like the rest of the cast, stuff like that. They’re all pretty obvious questions.
Why do you think people want to know about your motivations?
Because they like to get into those personal aspects, because they want to be able to identify with me, and maybe a lot of readers have dreams and ideas about what they’d like to do. People always want to know the why and how, how stars got to be hot.
When I was little? I think I liked knowing about what they were like when they were little, their background, where they grew up, what they were like as kids, probably how they got discovered, and those are all the interesting stories.
What do you think is important about you making this movie?
It’s important to me because I intend to have a career as an actress as well as a singer, and I gotta start somewhere. This is a very good first project for me, and so it’s important to me. It’s important that it’s good, and this is the right time, so everything just seems right about it.
Is learning lines that you didn’t write harder than learning lyrics that you did?
No. I sing songs that I don’t write. Memorization is really easy; it’s integrating it into the actual scene and really feeling it that’s hard. You have to forget about the lines, so it sounds like you’re just saying them.
The actual process – the makeup and the waiting and the sitting around – is all that hard to get used to?
Yeah, it is, because I’m a really hyperactive person. I hate sitting around more than anything. And so many times they make you get up at five in the morning, and they won’t use you until after lunch. It’s so frustrating, ‘cause you can’t get mad at them. They’ll just say, “Well, that’s making movies.” It’s so unpredictable. The weather changes, the sun changes, they have technical difficulties – there are so many elements involved that really just take time.
Whereas in records –
Well, in records and in videos, I control everything. I decide when to start, I decide who I work with, I decide the studio we work in. In videos, I decide – to me, it’s all centered around me. I have total control. Here, I’m just the actress.
(As if to prove this last statement, Madonna is called back to the set. Later, over a lunch of salad, we continue.)
Do you still dance?
Yeah, in my trailer in front of my mirror and in nightclubs, but not in a class situation. I’d like to, but I don’t have time. I don’t want to do it unless I can go regularly. It’s like any kind of class, you miss things if you don’t go once in a while. You can’t really get anything out of it that way.
Being a famous person, when you walk down the street people must stop you all the time. Is that hard to deal with?
It depends on what kind of mood I’m in. Sometimes I want people to notice me, when I’m feeling like I really need to have my ego boosted and stuff, and sometimes I want everyone to leave me alone.
It must make it harder to go shopping.
I don’t even go shopping anymore. I hate to be stared at when I’m looking at something on the rack.
So do you miss that?
I miss being anonymous. I miss being someone that people just looked at ‘cause they thought I was interesting – you know what I mean? – and not because they know who I am. If they know who you are they think that they have the right to come up and ask you stuff, get things from you.
Do people mostly want your autograph?
My body. (laughs)
What do you want to do when you finish this up?
I want to continue seeing my psychiatrist. I’m going to go out to LA for a while and look for a house to buy and, and what else? Then it’ll be Christmas time, and then I have to get a band together and go on tour.
Are you going to move to LA?
No. Just have a place there. I hate it here in the winter. It’s depressing.
If you could make a movie – if you could make your next movie with anyone and it could be about anything, what do you think it would be about and who would be in it?
It would be about – I don’t want to say because I’m already trying to do that right now.
What is the one question that you wish someone would ask you that no one ever has?
“I’ve asked you too many questions already, haven’t I?” (Laughs.)
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