** All images in this post copyrighted. Do not remove and post anywhere without permission. **
I was invited to cover the red carpet for Madonna's W.E. premiere at the Ziegfeld earlier tonight. Then I was uninvited. (Space.) Then I was re-invited. I wound up getting to go, and it was a blast of epic proportions. There was a very light turn-out of fans in the cold rain, but the press was packed into a long tent leading into the theater. I was placed two slots from the bitter end, which turned out to be a nice position because anyone who did the red carpet had to pass us to get inside.
I made friends with a woman covering for Pink Is the New Blog, but she was whisked away ("first, they came for...") to a spot in the lobby so I wound up bonding with Matt from Hard Candy Music. As I told him, we were probably the lowest men on the totem pole so as such would be lucky to sniff Madonna's stardust as she breezed by. Which meant anything else would be a cause for joyous celebration. We also chit-chatted with a sexy, dark-haired (they have those there?) Swede named Pablo (they have those there, too?) who shoots for Vogue. He was much nicer than you'd expect for a Vogue shooter, and him saying, "One shot for Vogue?" had the effect of a brick wall, stopping nearly every celeb who breezed by. (Patti Smith was not impressed, but I was fucking impressed that Patti Smith walked past me, let alone that she was attending a movie by Madonna.)
The carpet got off to a slow start, but the tip sheet was insane! Check out all the names:
The first star on the carpet seemed to be one of the film's two male leads, dreamy James D'Arcy, who looks even better with a shaved head that he does with his foppish blond Edward 'do.
Big, unaffiliated stars slipped past most of the press, namely Ewan McGregor (who was at one point attached to do this film), Julia Stiles (who was having absolutely none of any press except for a shot for Vogue), Andrew McCarthy (who gamely answered my question about a fantasy Madonna collaboration: "A duet, of course!"), a stunning Lucy Lawless with equally stunning Liam McIntyre (she gave me a great answer, he sort of avoided making eye contact rather than give us a "no") and then still others who I only saw fleetingingly like Diane von Furstenberg, Guy Oseary (Madonna's manager said he was too stressed to answer my question), Donna Karan, Calvin Klein (big kiss for and from Madonna and some conspiratorial chatting amongst them, perhaps about hot young guys!), Lady Bunny (I was impressed, too), Zac Posen, Ivanka Trump (pretty, actually) Jack McCollough & Lazaro Hernandez (hotness) and several people even I didn't recognize. (Not Z-listers, more like fashion A-listers.)
David Harbour (who plays Wallis's second husband, aka the British Marianne Gingrich) was stand-offish, not too thrilled that I asked him how he liked the finished film when it turned out he hadn't see it. (Sorry! I'd just assumed.) James D'Arcy and Andrea Riseborough (whose surname Madonna says almost like she's saying Edgar Rice Burroughs) were kind enough to answer a question or two. Andrea asserted that the interplay between Wallis and Wally in the film was a motivating factor for her interest in the script and that Wallis would have been pleased with W.E.I missed getting sexy-as-hell Oscar Isaac due to his arrival coinciding with some craziness on the carpet.
Lola snuck by, as did Madonna's squeeze Brahim, who looks like the hottest 16-year-old you ever allowed yourself to admit was hot. I attempted to ask him his favorite part of the movie, but he's not stupid and ignored me.
When Madonna came in, there was a huge commotion and the carpet disintegrated in a way I've never seen one do...people just stepped out from behind the barrier and clamored in a cluster near Madonna. Seasoned TV reporters abandoned their set-ups and were craning to do iPhone pictures and video. It was madness. "GET OUT OF THE WAY!" a female red-carpet shooter wailed like a dying dog. Apparently because someone was in the way.
Madonna looked stunning. It wasn't a youthful look, but it was a high-glam look, a throwback to a '30s vamp, very Mae West or Gloria Swanson. The black gown was just amazing, and she was extremely expressive on the carpet from a distance, stopping to talk to most of the media.
As she got closer to us, it seemed like a fantasy that we'd get her, and Liz Rosenberg forewarned us it wasn't gonna happen. But when Madonna came by, Liz said, "Madonna, say hi to Matthew..." and that was my opening to say hi and grab one question. I decided to keep it about the movie, so asked her why she'd felt it was important for Wallis and Wally to speak to one another/interact. Madonna gave a sweet answer and then answered a quick question for Hard Candy Music about how she would term her next era of music. "Love!" she cooed.
Then she posed for Vogue (Hard Candy and I took the opportunity to get quickie shots of ourselves with Madonna behind—this doesn't count as a pic-with, but was cool!) and blew through the doors to the lobby.
At this point, I had to go outside to grab my guest, Jason (if my partner had gone and had to stand outside like a fan for two hours...I just can't imagine), then we were told we could not enter because "talent" was in the lobby. (Madonna.) The guard was nice, saying he had to listen to the people who paid him, to which I replied, "Is that a subtle way of asking for a bribe?" He laughed. He said Madonna was a bitch based on the demands made for the event; he was hardly the suave, sexy Russian Oscar Isaac plays in W.E.!
Finally we were let in, but as we dashed upstairs and into the theater, Madonna was literally being introduced. I was panicked...we had front-row seats, but most of the seats were filled and it was hard to see which numbers were ours. At that moment, Madonna was announced and slinked down the far aisle. Again, unlike I've seen at most film premieres, everyone stood and mobbed around the area where she'd be arriving—she only had one security guy with her!
I parked in the aisle while Jason found our seats. From this vantage point, I was able to get (some) great footage of Madonna's 13-minute introductory speech, which was the evening's highlight. In it, she thanked all involved at length, accidentally called Oscar Isaac "Oscar Isaacs," started to get emotional when she admitted how tired she was due to her Super Bowl preparations and then really got teary when thanking her late mother for giving her life and the ability to make a film about "the journey of a female soul." It was a wonderful prelude.
She then departed for her seat and we sat down to enjoy W.E. It was my third time seeing it and it's so bizarre how many small tweaks (and a few meaty additions) have piled up from the first test screening to the final product. I'll have a review out next week. The audience gave it solid applause after. I spoke to a few people who said it wasn't as terrible as reviews had led them to believe, some who said it was pretty good and got a thumbs-up from a pretty discerning Broadway producer.
As we exited, we walked past Carlos Leon, Lola's father, and saw Julia Stiles again, hanging tight with W.E.'s David Harbour. Outside, all of Madonna's most famous fans were gathered, and they told me she'd done a nearly unprecedented signing session for three or four people before the crush got overwhelming and allowed herself to be whisked away. Got to chat with adorable Ari Gold (Sir Ari to you) before Jason and I went to a diner to compare notes.
It was so much fun—but I'm glad this is not an every-night thing for me. It's a rush, then you're spent, and this female soul is dragging right about now.