In deep with Madonna
From the Sunday Times:
Kirsty Wark tells how a call summoning her to New York brought her face to face with the world’s most famous adoptive mother
On Newsnight the last-minute interview is not so unusual, but Madonna cut it pretty fine. We had been trying for months, both for Newsnight and for a new BBC4 interview series, then 10 days ago her “people” got in touch and 24 hours later confirmed that she would do the interview in New York.
We dealt with Liz Rosenberg, her charming and savvy longtime confidante at Warner Bros, and the only condition was that they would control the location and the look (not the questions). You think we chose that backdrop of billowing silk and candelabra? The fact was that on the day of our filming, Madonna was also conducting a series of US interviews to promote her new children’s book, and the backdrop that so amazed everyone was designed rather like the book illustrations. When I saw it I realised that the art director at Warner Bros didn’t really have Newsnight in mind.
Why did she agree to talk to us? I think that with all the flak flying about her adoption of baby David from Malawi, she had to account for herself to the audience in the country where she lives – Rosenberg said as much – and the rumour going around Newsnight, completely unsubstantiated of course, is that her stepmother-in-law Shireen Ritchie, former chairwoman of the Kensington and Chelsea Conservative Association, had counselled Madonna to do it. If that was the case, I owe you a large Martini, Shireen Ritchie.
For the preparation, as well as ploughing through the usual cuttings files, my guided missile was James, my 14-year-old son who is living proof that Madonna appeals across two generations. We watched bits of the documentary from the tour before this one, I’m Going to Tell You a Secret, just to refresh my memory – it seems to play regularly in our house.
Like everyone else, I had been following the story of how Madonna flew out to Malawi and was apparently able to “choose” her child and fly him back to Britain in a matter of days. I spoke to a woman in Scotland who works with a number of different agencies in Malawi and knows the country and its culture well. One of the points she made was that it would be almost unheard of for a man to raise his children, so it was not particularly surprising to find a baby like David in an orphanage.
Check out the rest of this story on the online website of The Times Online.
Madonna talks to Kirsty Wark, this Sunday at 9pm on BBC4.