After I was a part of a recent round table with Madonna, I only quoted a few lines pertaining to her answer to my question about her jewelry after the event ended. Now that The Weinstein Company's Academy Award-nominated W.E., directed and co-written by Madonna (where is Alek Keshishian in all of this?), is releasing Friday, it's time to publish Madonna's answers to the various questions thrown at her by the inhabitants of what came to be known as "the gay room."
Keep in mind, my latest bright idea is that she film a special for LOGO called Madonna vs. 20 Gay Guys, where we—I mean they—pepper her with absolutely any questions they like and Madonna agrees to answer them all for an hour. In real life, our round table was like that, except no one dared ask scand'less stuff, like about her brother's book or Lady You-Know-Who-Ga.
What, in her research, surprised her the most about Wallis Simpson?
Madonna: I think that the discoveries Wally makes in, in her journeys and her investigations were essentially mine. Because I started off...my point of view from the beginning, when I first started studying the story, when I first heard about the story, was, "What a magnanimous, generous, romantic gesture Edward VIII made towards Wallis Simpson." And, you know, and, really, I thought the same thing that Wally says when she's looking in the mirror and trying on the necklace: "What must it feel to be loved that much?" So as I started to unravel the story and read the letters and go on the journey that I went on the write the script, I realized that...it wasn't this fairytale romance as I had imagined it would be. And I found the thing that I discovered the most about Wallis Simpson was really how much she tried to avoid the actual marriage taking place and how she saw the writing on the wall, and how she tried her best...to get Edward slash David to see the writing on the wall and what they were both in store for. And I think she was very astute in her observations but obviously she couldn't talk him into her point of view. He was just...cuntstruck, as they say in England.
Did she consider not making W.E. a split modern/historical tale?
Madonna: No. No. I wasn't interested in making a straightforward biopic. I don't think it's possible to tell the story of one, you know, person from beginning to end in two hours. That's actually an unfair challenge to give oneself and also I think truth is so subjective and every, each of us could read the same five books about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and we would walk away with a different interpretation, it would mean something different to us, it would impact us in a different way. And so it was important for me to establish that, as much as I did all the research that I did and as close as I tried to stay to the truth and as authentic as I wanted to be, it was important that I tell, that I be clear that it is a point of view. I never intended to, to just, tell the story of Wallis Simpson.
Any similarities between Wallis and Evita?
Madonna: Well, I think what they have in common is what many people have in common who are public figures who become iconic and who have some kind of historical impact, uh, especially women, strong women; I think people have a tendency to feel intimidated by the strength of these women and in order to, in order to, I don't know, accept, in a...accept—actually, the word "accept" is wrong, because I don't think they're actually accepted. I think in order to deal with them, I think a lot of people who write history books and humanity in general have a tendency to diminish women or undermine their accomplishments or try to portray them as heretical, evil, um, (in) possession of some kind of, uh, sorcery, ambitious, you know, to undermine their strength or their accomplishments or their intelligence.
So I think they have those things in common. Now, I'm not saying Evita Peron was not without flaws or Wallis Simpson was this perfect, holy human being, but I do think that they were both dealt in a very unfair way in the history books.
Has Madonna felt vilified in this way?
Madonna: Well, sure. Yes, of course. I mean, I don't think it's just me, I think it's strong women in general. Why...? Because...it's just the nature of, it's the nature of the universe. It's the nature of the world we live in. We live in a patriarchal society. And, um, strong women...they're held under a microscope and they're judged and measured in a different way. It's just the law of the universe, it seems, right now.
Does Madonna hope her own life might inspire someone they way Wallis's inspires Wally's?
Madonna: Well, I think that the Duchess is really Wally's spiritual guide, so to speak. And even though, she came from a different era where women didn't have the same kind of choices and opportunities, um, still, we as women are all raised on this fairy tale idea that, you know, no matter how many opportunities we have education-wise, job-wise, that we still are raised to believe that our knight in shining armor is going to arrive on his beautiful white stallion and he's going to sweep you off your feet and take you off into the twilight and you're going to live happily ever after and you will be saved by someone, and this is something that I think we all have to deal with when we grow up, that, that, one person isn't gonna be all of those things to us, and that ultimately we have to make our own happiness and find our own happiness and when we can, own that, and take responsibility for our own happiness, then we can find a mate for ourselves and I think, or a companion, or a significant other or whatever you wanna call it, but, uh, I think that that's certainly what the Duchess imparts to Wally and I hope that I can inspire other women to think that way, other young women to think that way with my own life and my behavior.
The perspective from which the film tells the story of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Madonna: From the Duchess's perspective. Because all of the stories that you read, and, and you know, most of the, most of the, um, the perspective on the story is, "Wow, look what he gave up for her?" And it's told from the male point of view. And I think that when Wally starts to make all these discoveries about the Duchess, she appeals to Mohammed al-Fayed as an outside because he lives as a foreigner, and as an outsider in England, not really accepted by society. And really, my movie, each character is an outsider. Everyone's living in a kind of alienation—Wally's living on the Upper East Side, but she doesn't fit in; Evgeni is a Ukrainian immigrant who doesn't, you know, he's working as a security guard but he's really an intellectual and an artist and he doesn't fit in; the Duchess doesn't really fit in, Wallis Simpson doesn't really fit into the world, you know, into this aristocratic world that she's found herself in; and Edward doesn't really fit into the Victorian world that he was raised in. So, it's you know, how all these people who feel like outsiders try to come to terms with and find their way in the world.
I think a lot of people can relate to it. I think a lot of us feel like we don't fit in. Strangely enough. That we don't fit into the conventional norm or what society expects from us. And I think more and more and more, um, people are, you know, redefining what makes a family, what makes a couple, what makes love, what is romance, what are soulmates, all of these things. We're reinventing this because, you know, family is what you, what you make it. I'm sure everybody sitting at this table, you know, has friends that they feel like are their brothers and sisters versus their actual brothers and sisters and their brothers and sisters. You know what I mean? It's funny how things turn out that way. Sometimes your parents aren't really the people that nurture you; you have other role models in your life that become your mother and your father. I think it's unusual when the family that you're born into is actually the people that feels like your family.
Does she consider herself "the Queen of Re-Invention?"
Madonna: [Playfully] Please don't throw those tired old clichés at me.
How she would define the current era of her career.
How does she feel about her kids having nothing to rebel against?
Madonna: Not that this has anything to do with my film. But it's an interesting question. I don't think that I'm a conventional parent. I realize that to a certain extent my children are raised with privilege—they have housekeepers, I didn't; um, they go to private schools, well, actually my daughter goes to a public school. But, um, you know, there are a lot of differences. On the other hand, my parents raised me in a very conventional way and I rebelled against it. And, and now my children come to me and they often want to do things because everybody else does them and I say to them, "That's just the worst reason I've ever heard for doing something." And I encourage them to question things, to question their behavior, to take responsibility for their behavior, to think outside the box, and they will have a different set of challenges. They will be compared to me and I will be some kind of a benchmark that they have to live with and deal with and they are going to have to find their way in the world and they will have a different set of challenges. o, we are all born with our challenges and born into our challenges, so I don't think for a second that life is going to be so simple and easy for them.
Is her obsession with Wallis Simpson fulfilled by W.E.'s completion and release?
Madonna: I'm done with my deep research, but I feel, you know, I feel, I feel like a strange...I still feel a strong connection to her and I feel like she's always gonna be a part of me. And people also come to me and bring me information about her. I'm still uncovering little gems about her. People come to me and say, "Oh, look at this little note that we found in this handbag that was auctioned off twenty years ago..." You know? People are still bringing me little bits and bobs and things like memorabilia and stuff so I'm still discovering things about her and I'm sure I will for the rest of my life.
I was actually going through my papers in my boxes in my files the other day and I found an astrological reading that someone had done for me thirty years ago and I was reading it and it got, and the woman was, she was talking about, um, some aspect of my personality and she quoted Wallis Simpson. And so I thought, "How weird...she was already a part of my life." That was a little foreshadowing. And I'm saying that happened thirty years ago, so who knows what's gonna happen thirty years from now and how she will come in and out of my life again.
[The quote] was what I ended up using when she gets—there's the birthday party [in the film] and she gets a cross, it's part of the Cartier montage—and it says, "All for love and the world well lost." So—interesting...!
Does she know what her next movie will be?
Madonna: No...Super Bowl!
W.E. is in select theaters Friday, February 3. Try your hand at winning a copy of its exquisite score here.