“There’s a pressure to outdo oneself with every music video,” admits the director Jonas Akerlund. He’s known for his longtime working relationship with Madonna. But lately, his music videos for Lady Gaga have been earning the most attention, including “Telephone,” the controversial blockbuster that has Beyonce and Gaga raising hell as pop music’s answer to “Thelma and Louise.” Akerlund opens up about his work.
Would you say that the music video has made a comeback?
It’s funny because I kind of lost interest in them for a while because it seemed like the market didn’t need music videos. We were making them and they were never shown. Young artists like Gaga and the Internet helped change the life of music videos. She brought it back to the ’90s when it was fun and people watched them and actually talked about them.
Many claimed that your music video “Telephone” was based on the movie “Kill Bill.”
“Kill Bill” was never an inspiration. The only reason why people say that is because we had the car that was used in the movie. We were meant to have a different car. But just a few days before the shoot, Quentin Tarantino offered to let us use the one from “Kill Bill.” The whole comparison was kind of a compliment but there’s a lot more to say about that video than just the car.
Were you surprised when the video ended up being as controversial as it was?
You never expect that. What we knew was that we didn’t care about the rules — meaning, the format and how people are going to see it and the MTV rules and the censorship rules. The fans will go online and find the video. It’s funny because it has been shown all over the world. The only place where it has not been shown because of the rules is MTV America. Luckily Gaga’s management was strong enough to say f— it. And creatively that gave us more flexibility.