Love her or hate her, its been well-established that Madonna can do pretty much anything she puts her mind to (Superbowl halftime anyone?). For the second film that she wrote and directed, “W.E.,” the Material Girl delves into the scandalous love story between American divorcee Wallis Simpson and British King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne so that he could marry Simpson in 1936.
Being as busy as she is, it was very certain honor when Madge took the time to offer her leather fingerless-gloved hand to a group of journalists while promoting “W.E.” In her very precisely annunciated almost-British accent, here’s what Madonna had to say about the film and lurking around her neighborhood in London “like some strange stalker.”
How did you become interested in the story of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII?
I first heard about them in high school as part of my English pre-war history. Doesn’t everybody hear about Edward the VIII’s abdication in a broad-stroke kind of way? But I didn’t really think about it again until I moved to England and I was desperate to get to know the country that I’d just moved to. I didn’t really want to feel like a foreigner. I was very intrigued by the royal family and the history of the monarchy, so I started reading about Henry the VIII and then Elizabeth I and sort of leading up to the Victorian era, then essentially all the way up to George V and then Edward VIII.
Wallis Simpson is a very controversial figure. You must’ve felt akin to her because she was a woman who was ahead of her time.
That’s obviously a big draw. I read a lot of her letters, I felt like I could’ve written some of those letters, like, ‘can’t a girl just get a break?’ I think there was some kind of symbiotic connection to her character.
You bought Sir Cecil Beaton’s house, who photographed Simpson for her wedding.
Yes, another strange connection. Also in London, my house is right around the corner from where she lived with Ernest, so I used to wander around and loiter, hang around that building like some strange stalker, trying to imagine the prince-mobile driving up and parking out there for his 6 o’clock cocktail and what it all must’ve been like at that time.
Why was it important for you to explore unconventional relationships?
Well because really, that’s what the world is made up of. I don’t know why everyone’s bamboozled us all into thinking that conventional relationships actually exist. Do you know of any? Is anyone at this table involved in a conventional relationship? So really, what I was interested in is what we’re all interested in.
Do you think “The King’s Speech,” which was about King Edward VIII’s brother, ended up helping this film?
It does because it introduces the idea and it shows the other side of the story, because it shows the guy who is suddenly thrust into this role of king when he had no preparation for it whatsoever. … While I’m happy about “The King’s Speech” because it really does set up my movie in so many ways and it gives people a reference point, the one thing – aside from the fact that I didn’t like the way Wallis Simpson was portrayed – was that they didn’t portray how close the brothers were. They really were very close and it was a heart-breaking experience for both of them when he was exiled and they weren’t allowed to communicate anymore.
Do you ever watch old videos of yourself? If you do, how does it feel?
I don’t like to watch myself and I certainly don’t watch any old things. I’m very much “done that, moved on.” I don’t even want to see something I did last week.
You’ve had such success with music, why do movies?
Because I’m a storyteller and I love film. I’ve always loved film. I wanted to direct something for a really long time. I did do something before that to prepare myself for this. I’ve grown up around directors and I’ve been involved with directors and I’ve learned a lot from directors and I’ve been very informed and inspired by film so to me it’s not such a big leap.
You’ve collaborated with so many great artists. How do you choose who to work with?
I have a lot of friends who are DJs and I have a lot of friends who are musicians and I go out and I listen to music and I dance and I hear things and I say “ooh what’s that? Who did that remix?” And I have a teenage daughter.