'I’m magnificent!' Madonna says initially when asked what she’s like as a director. Then she gets serious. 'I don’t know - I’m pretty methodical and detail-oriented, very specific with everybody from the camera crew to the actors to the costume designer to the hair and makeup people. I was very specific with everybody all the time. I love giving actors as much information as possible and helping them as much as I can and then leaving them alone if they want me to.'
She learned that she is resilient, which one would think Madonna already knows. 'Yeah, but now I really know that,' she says, pointing out that she wrote a script that takes place on two continents and in two time periods with two sets of actors. It’s a pretty complicated undertaking for a novice director.
Making a movie is never an easy process, and yet Madonna keeps at it, sometimes with little success. Early press releases for W.E. touted it as 'Madonna’s directorial debut,' a misrepresentation that has since been corrected. But for most of the world, it may as well be. Hardly anyone saw the last one she directed, 2008’s Filth and Wisdom.
'Madonna is self-aware enough to know that there are people who actively dislike her, who don’t know her and yet presume that they do and pass vitriolic judgments against her,' says Alek Keshishian, who ought to know. He directed Truth or Dare 21 years ago and teamed up with Madonna again on W.E., for which they’re co-screenwriters.
'I was like 23 years old when she called me to do Truth or Dare,' says Keshishian, who went on to direct the film With Honors as well as numerous commercials. 'We always remained in touch.'
Though he’s used to being in the director’s chair himself, Keshishian recognized that in this situation Madonna’s in charge. It’s a characterization she doesn’t attempt to dispute. 'Yeah, yeah, for sure,' she says, shedding a bit of light on their method. 'We’re like two schoolchildren. I would look away, and then I would look up at the screen and he would have typed something completely X-rated and pornographic.'
But Madonna would never participate in that, right? 'No, no,' she says, grinning broadly. 'Well, he would drag me into it. And then I would be like, ‘OK, OK, let’s stop this, we have to get back to work.’ And then he would get on his BlackBerry and I’d scream at him, and then I would have to go and do something with one of my kids and he would scream at me, and we would accuse each other of being unprofessional.'