Pop idol-turned-director Madonna was in center of attention with her first-ever trip to the Venice Film Festival on Thursday to promote her Wallis Simpson-based drama, charming a standing room only press conference with provocative remarks and sparking an unusual rush to the front as reporters tried to get the autograph or snap a photo of the Material Girl.
Only Madonna's second directorial effort, "W.E.," which tells the parallel storied of Simpson's marriage that forced British King Edward to abdicate the throne, and a contemporary story of a woman obsessed with Simpson's life, had two packed press and industry screenings ahead of Thursday's night's main event in the Palazzo del Cinema.
In the press conference, Madonna arrived with the film's main actors, but most of the questions were directed at her. Asked if she had placed limits on herself in her role as a director, Madonna said, "Since I've arrived in Venice I haven't placed any limits on myself." Another questioner asked her if she'd abandon her "throne" as a popular culture icon for a man or a woman, as Edward VIII did for Simpson, she replied, "I think I can have both, or all three: throne, man, and woman."
Even the questions to cast members were centered on Madonna, such as how Madonna's philosophy was reflected in the film and what it was like to work with the pop icon. In regard to the last question, Andrea Riseborough, who played Simpson in the film, said working with Madonna was "a f--king wonderful experience.
"I've never worked with a director who so effortlessly, cleanly, and with great clarity was able to make a great piece of art," Riseborough said.
Madonna said she worked on the project off and on for seven years, and said that she abandoned earlier plans to make the story a straight Simpson bio-pic because "truth is so subjective." By adding the contemporary story line, she said she was able to tell the story through that character's eyes.
The press conference was one of the few in recent memory in Venice in which late-arriving journalists were turned away at the door because of a lack of space inside, and the moment it was closed around 50 reporters rushed to the front to get close to the singer, who then got a similar treatment from hundreds of fans gathered outside the building.