photo of director John Schlesinger
blamed heart failure on Madonna
By Chris Hastings and Roya Nikkhah
Schlesinger, the Oscar-winning director of Billy Liar and Midnight
Cowboy, blamed Madonna's "outrageous" behaviour on the set
of a film they were making for contributing to his heart attack.
comments about the pop singer turned actress are contained in a collection
of letters and production notes bequeathed to the British Film Institute
by the veteran film-maker after his death in July 2003.
reveal that Schlesinger, who worked with Madonna in 1999 on his last
film, The Next Best Thing (released in 2000), became enraged by her
attempts to change numerous scenes. They also show that Madonna demanded
that special effects be used to "beautify" her appearance.
film, a comedy, Madonna plays a yoga instructor who becomes pregnant
after a drunken one-night stand with her homosexual best friend, played
by Rupert Everett.
after completing what was one of the unhappiest shoots of his career,
Schlesinger, then 73, collapsed on the doorstep of his London home.
He was diagnosed with heart failure and underwent a quadruple heart
before he was admitted to hospital had been particularly heavy and
he had complained of being "exhausted" before he left Los
Angeles at the end of the film shoot.
letter written from the Royal Brompton Hospital on December 2, 1999,
to Andrew Cannava, his agent, however, Schlesinger put some of the
blame for his collapse on Madonna's collaboration with Tom Rosenberg,
the film's producer, to change the film.
am f***ing angry with Tom being influenced by Madonna," Schlesinger
wrote. "We have tried all of these changes before . . . I do
not for one moment think that their behaviour has not added to the
reasons I have ended up here."
along with his production notes, complain that Madonna tried to influence
every aspect of the production, from the music to the final cut.
memo suggests that the actress, then 41, wanted producers to "beautify"
34 shots of her with computer generated imagery, the special effects
technique pioneered in fantasy epics such as Jurassic Park and Titanic.
It appears that the money was eventually found to improve just nine
of the scenes.
the singer, who appeared naked in her controversial 1992 book Sex,
also balked at the idea of appearing fully nude in the film. An unsigned
memo which relates to production meetings held in 1998 states: "Madonna
doesn't want her bare arse to be seen."
Madonna lobbied for the removal of a pivotal scene which she felt
was too "gay", much to the disgust of Schlesinger, who was
constant demands infuriated the director, who had previously worked
with such actors as Lord Olivier, Dustin Hoffman and Glenda Jackson.
In a letter to Mr Rosenberg on November 30, 1999, dictated from his
hospital bed, he wrote:
am outraged that Madonna is starting to express an opinion of what
works and what doesn't and what is too gay when she wasn't even
present at the previews. In any case, she is not the director; so
far as I am concerned I want the scene to remain as it is."
complained to Sherry Lansing, the head of Paramount, saying: "I
am lying here feeling very frustrated because the completion of the
film is taking place without me and it seems to me that Tom Rosenberg
is very much listening to Madonna's opinion, which is affecting the
cut and the choice of music."
six-page letter from Madonna, who was also executive producer of the
film's soundtrack, to Schlesinger in July 1999 reveals that she lobbied
hard for the inclusion of particular kinds of music in the film itself.
that she does "not mean to be presumptuous" or to "overstep
the bounds", before outlining the case for more Indian- influenced
music in the film. After reminding the director that she does have
a "lot of experience" in the field of film scores, she urges
him to listen to a selection of tracks that she has put on a CD.
if you don't like the music perhaps it will inspire you and get your
gears going . . . Please listen in a quiet place with no interruptions.
Turn off the phone, light a candle and think about the love story
of Robert and Abbie and their world and sadness and the hope. Enjoy.
I hope to hear from you soon." She signs off: "All My Love,
Best Thing, which cost $25 million (£13.5 million) to make,
was a commercial and artistic disaster, taking just $23 million worldwide.
Madonna's performance was savaged by critics and earned her a "Golden
Raspberry" award for worst actress. Entertainment Weekly said
that she could "barely muster even the rudiments of human expression"
and urged her to "quit while she is behind".
was discharged from hospital in January, 2000. The following December
he suffered a debilitating stroke. His condition grew steadily worse
until he was admitted to hospital in Palm Springs last July. He died
a year ago, aged 77.
Madonna's publicist, said last week that she was surprised by Mr Schlesinger's
remarks: "People say many, many things about Madonna but no one
has ever questioned her level of professional behaviour. I know Madonna
had great respect for John Schlesinger as a director. I believe that
John Schlesinger had control over this film and Madonna behaved as
a salaried actress."
for Mr Rosenberg said that the producer had found it an "honour
to work with Mr Schlesinger who he had considered to be one of the
greatest directors in the history of the movie business".
Blames Madonna for Heart Attack
Big News Network.com
director John Schlesinger, who died in July 2003, blamed Madonna's
demands for the heart attack that led to his poor health, it was reported
had a heart attack in 1999, soon after he directed Madonna in The
Next Best Thing, which the Oscar-winning director said in letters
and production notes contributed to his collapse, the New York Daily
am (expletive) angry with (producer Tom Rosenberg) being influenced
by Madonna. I do not for one moment think that their behavior has
not added to the reasons I have ended up here," Schlesinger wrote
from his hospital bed in 1999 while recovering from his heart attack.
implied that the singer/actress wanted producers to enhance 34 shots
of her with computer-generated wizardry, the Daily News said.
won an Oscar for directing Midnight Cowboy
Slammed Madonna's Movie Interference
movie maker JOHN SCHLESINGER criticised MADONNA - the star of his
movie THE NEXT BEST THING for her constant influence over his final
Schlesinger, who directed Madonna and RUPERT EVERETT in the flop 2000
romantic comedy - wrote in a number of recently-released letters about
how he felt the singer's attempts to change scenes, contributed to
wrote, "I am f**king angry with TOM (ROSENBERG, film's producer)
being influenced by Madonna.
have tried all of these changes before. I do not for one moment think
that their behaviour has not added to the reasons I have ended up
lobbied for the removal of a pivotal scene which she felt was too
"gay" - much to the distress of homosexual Schlesinger,
who dictated a furious letter to Rosenberg from his hospital bed.
"I am outraged that Madonna is starting to express an opinion
of what works and what doesn't;t and what is too gay when she wasn't
even present at the previews."In any case, she is not the director;
so far as I am concerned I want the scene to remain as it is."
was discharged from hospital in January 2000. He died last July (25JUL03)
at the age of 77.
Report: There's Something About Madge