The relationship seems serious, though Leon visited the Evita set infrequently. “It’s a long trip and he has his own work,” said Madonna. “And I’m not someone who needs my boyfriend around all the time. I’m not Melanie Griffith.” (She was referring to the near-constant presence of costar Antonio Banderas’ girlfriend, whom he subsequently married.) The baby, who Madonna says is a girl, will have some combination of Ciccone and Leon as a last name. Madonna’s people now keep an eye on Leon, for example, it was Liz Rosenberg, Madonna’s publicist and adviser, who persuaded him not to endorse a line of World Gym sportswear last summer because she thought it was a bad deal.
Madonna, who has any number of angry speeches (another thing she has in common with Eva Person) railing against the press, doesn’t mind using the press to air her own private grievances. It was she, for example, who neatly segued from a discussion of her pregnancy to the matter of her ex-husband Sean Penn’s second marriage.
“I can give you this whole thing about me being pregnant and not being married or living with the father of my child,” she said. “Does anybody make a stink when guys do it? Does anybody say a damn word about my ex-husband having two children with Robin Wright and not living with her for five years and having any number of girlfriends on the interim? Did anyone say a word about it? He is a celebrity, and people pay attention to the things he does.”
Did this bitter note mean she’d felt a twinge when she heard that Penn had finally married Wright last spring? He and Madonna had remained close; he’d periodically called her on the Evita set.
“A twinge? What do you mean?” said Madonna, her voice still carefully modulated. “I know that up until two weeks before the marriage he had another girlfriend. Actually I thought the marriage was sort of knee-jerk response to me, if you must know. When it was revealed that I was pregnant. My reaction was, this is Sean trying to be dramatic. You know what I mean?
Sort of, though it’s hard for mortals to comprehend the strange reality of the world Madonna lives in.
“Have you read the book?” I asked, referring to the literary work that occupied the number-one slot of The New York Times nonfiction best-seller list for eight weeks earlier this year, Dennis Rodman’s Bad as I Wanna Be.
“No,” she said dismissively.
“I only read the Madonna chapter,” I assured her.
She gave a frosty smile. “I’m sure that’s all anyone’s reading.”
Madonna had plenty to say on the subject of Dennis Rodman, and said it in the affronted tone of damsel whose knight in shining armor turned out to be a flasher.
“It’s not the first time I feel he’s exploited his very brief relationship with me,” she said, “When I first knew him I sent him a few very silly faxes with really childish drawings on them, and moths after I’d stopped seeing him appeared on Hard Copy and I thought, This is only the beginning.
“It really wasn’t much of a relationship, which is why it astonishes me that he’s gotten so much mileage out of it,” she continued. “I’m sure somebody wrote the book for him, and I can only imagine they urged him to be as imaginative and juicy as possible and to make things up and maybe offered him more money if he would talk about me.
“He is someone I would classify as a borderline psychotic personality,” she said. “He is a very exciting person to be around, like most crazy people, and during the whole two months I dated him – and that was not on any sort of regular basis – it was like this fun adventure, and then I soon discovered that he was a seriously damaged person, and I really couldn’t get away from him fast enough.”
She continued for some time, then leaned back on the couch to deliver the final sally in her rebuttal of errant Rodman. “Much as I should hate him, I actually feel compassion for him. This is a person with a few screws loose.”
“Not easy, not easy,” Alan Parker was muttering. A small round man dressed in black, his hair newly cut in early-Beatles style, the director shuffled around the set like a worried gnome guarding his treasure. He clutched a cigarette; he’d been smoking a lot lately.
It was late afternoon and sunny at Shepperton Studios outside London, but inside Stage D it was evening in Buenos Aires. A baquet table was artfully cluttered with platters of food and giant candelabra; extras in evening dress milled about.
A familiar sound pierced the quiet. “Colonel Peron?” sang Madonna.
Yet there was Madonna sitting on a chair sucking a candy, even as her voice filled the room. She looked frail and tense, her hair a 1940s pile of blonde rolls, her blue eyes darkened by brown contacts, the gap in her front teeth covered by a dental piece. A long fur stole hung limply to the floor. (The fur was one of the many ways Madonna’s growing tummy would be camouflaged, along with artfully places purses and careful camera angles.) She had spent much of the day standing on high heels, and this scene was taking forever.
Because parker had recorded the sound track before filming began, nearly every scene had to be lip-synced, a nerve-racking process that Madonna excelled at, never missing a cue. It was 6:20 p.m., and Madonna, who’d been working since eight that morning, was tired. Suddenly she stood up, “I need Martin,” she said.
Martin was Martin Samuel, the film’s chief hairstylist, a small, worried-looking man with a dramatic mane of hair and a scarf around his neck. He had been well aware from the outset that his very presence was irksome to Madonna. Samuel’s job was to hover above the star and make sure that the hairdo shot today matches the same hairdo in the part of a scene that was filmed weeks earlier, halfway around the world. The problem, as he saw it, was that Madonna considered this her job, too – along with choosing her wardrobe and fine-tuning her makeup.
“We’ve had our little faces,” said Samuel carefully after he’d tended to Madonna. “Very good actresses know what they’re supposed to look like and you work together, but they allow you to take over. But Madonna is a controlling spirit. It was difficult for her to give up to me with her hair, and also for me to give up to her. I am very involved with my hairdressing.”