“Can’t we get this crane any higher? Why won’t this crane do as I say?!”
That was a frustrated but still merry Madonna last Friday in Central Park, directing the final day of shooting her labor of love, “W.E.”
Madonna as director seems to have found herself – another reinvention. She was dressed in running shoes, an unglamorous tracksuit, with her hair pulled up and sporting prim eyeglasses. She wore no makeup. For all the unflattering photos the tabloids and gossip sites love to use, she looked quite fresh. (Maybe not working out as much helps?)
Madonna was in full control but apparently getting along with her entire crew, many of whom were British. (Take that, Guy Ritchie!)
“She’s nothing like I expected,” said one member of the crew. “Not only does she know what she’s doing, she’s nice about it. And when she doesn’t know, she doesn’t pretend – she listens and absorbs.” Another said: “This has been a good experience for her, I’d say it was No Drama Madonna.”
Two of Madonna’s female stars were on hand, Abbie Cornish, looking sexy in stiletto heels and a cinched trench coat, and Andrea Riseborough, who was costumed and made up to resemble the late Duchess of Windsor, in a gray suit. The likeness was uncanny. (The movie switches back and forth between the love story of Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII – who gave up his throne for her – and a modern-day tale of a girl who identifies with the Duchess.)
At one point, a nearby band was noisily rehearsing for a concert in the park. Madonna pulled off her headphones, jogged toward the Bandshell (followed by 15 crewmembers and about 200 onlookers). She asked the band if they could hold off for about an hour. “I’ll be done by then, I promise.” She returned to the set giggling, “You know what they were called? Ween. I don’t know, I think I’m just overtired, I find that hilarious.” One of the crew asked how she’d gotten them to stop. “Well, I had to beat them up. We had a big rumble. Everybody knows what a tough broad I am.”
Yeah, tough. All five feet four of her. She looked more like an elf than one of the most iconic showbiz figures of all time.
Then it was back to business. The troublesome crane? Madonna eyed it warily. “It was so expensive. I’m going have to tour again to pay for that damn thing.” Then she grinned. “Hmm … you know, Ween has a crane, and I think theirs is bigger. I wonder if they’d do a girl another favor?”
In the end, the sweeping skyline shot that Madonna wanted simply couldn’t be achieved. She took it like a trooper and mingled with her “guys” until all the equipment was packed up and ready to go. She said, “You know, it’s funny, this is the last day of shooting, and we’re shooting the last scene. The first day we shot, in England, we shot the very first scene of the movie. Everything else was out of sequence, the way it usually is when you make movies. It’s unique for it to happen this way. I hope it’s a good sign.”
I asked her if she’d enjoyed directing and if she missed performing and recording. “I loved it. It was the most consuming, difficult thing I’ve ever done.” (If a task is not difficult, Madonna cannot relate.) “As for the rest, I’m sure I’ll perform again, but this job isn’t over. Now comes the editing!”
Madonna – her own story is far from over.