Madonna had asked me to do a documentary of her BLOND AMBITION TOUR and I was interested, but not really interested, in following her around the world for a year. Vince Paterson had mentioned to her that I could do a great job, but I suggested David Fincher, who she was seeing at the time, and she said she wanted me to do it. I hung around the rehearsals for a few weeks seeing what was happening as the performance would be an integral part of the film.
During these times we discussed a lot of stuff and the subject of LEE MILLER came up, probably because she was a Madonna-like figure of the twenties and I had the rights to her story and was writing a version of a screenplay. I wasn’t trying to subtly ‘pitch’Madonna, I just thought Lee Miller would be an inspiration as a successful creative woman in less than ‘supportive’ times.
I showed her a lot of the great photographers of the time, MAN RAY, HORST, HOYNINGEN-HUENE and the painter TAMARA DE LEMPICKA.
Well, after a while, I told Freddy that I couldn’t do the film due to all my other commitments He pounded the lunch table (but we remained friends). A little time went by and Madonna’s VOGUE video emerged, beautiful, but…she had used all the materials from our conversations about LEE MILLER, mostly pictures by HORST. The video was beautiful, stunning. The imagery and choreography unique and beautiful. I was amused rather than chagrined. Fincher, the director, was known for liberal ‘borrowing’ from other sources. Her video, EXPRESS YOURSELF, was dependent a great deal on the epic silent film METROPOLIS. Vince Paterson threw in a few Michael Jackson dance moves in there as well. The video was brilliant. I guess ideas get better with age.
HORST eventually sued her for the uses of his imagery. I don’t know the final result, but she then had to settle with GUY BOURDIN’S estate for similar ‘copyings’ in another, later video. I may have introduced her to GUY as I always admired the audacity of his work.
Picasso may have said it best, “Bad artists copy, great artists steal.”
The LEE MILLER project eventually went away when I discovered a far more interesting character of the period, NANCY CUNARD. Lee Miller had a small part in the new epic, but the ‘new epic’ is still sitting around waiting for the breath of life.