Madonna memorably made her film debut in the 1985 comedy “Desperately Seeking Susan”, and a new interview with the movie’s director suggests that she has the son of the head of the movie’s studio to thank for it.
In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter‘s “It Happened in Hollywood” podcast, “Desperately Seeking Susan” director Susan Seidelman reveals the convoluted circumstances that led to Madonna’s casting in the film, in which she starred alongside Rosanna Arquette.
According to Seidelman, execs at Orion Pictures, which produced the film, was looking to give the role of hip NYC club kid Susan to a relatively unknown actor on the rise, with the likes of Kim Cattrall and Melanie Griffith considered. However, Seidelman kept hearing buzz about Madonna, who was then on the cusp of topping the pop charts with such hits as “Into the Groove” and “Like a Virgin” and have her music videos played in heavy rotation on MTV.
“I wasn’t that afraid to work with a musician, a non-trained film actress who really just had an interesting buzz,” Seidelman said, via THR. “She was playing at different clubs. This was the early days of MTV. There weren’t that many rock videos yet but she had one of the early music videos on MTV. I think it was ‘Lucky Star’. I could see that the camera liked her.”
However, studio head Mike Medavoy was nervous about giving such a key role to an up-and-coming singer without acting experience.
“Fortunately, Mike had a teenage son at the time that watched MTV and thought Madonna was ‘cute,’” Seidelman recalled, a vote of confidence that persuaded Medavoy to let Seidelman film Madonna for a screen test.
Seidelman set up a small crew in NYC’s Union Square Park to shoot some footage of Madonna. “No one was even really paying attention to what we were doing,” she recalled. “I do remember there was one pedestrian that walked by and said, ‘Oh, look — there’s Cyndi Lauper!’”
As it turned out, during the film’s production, Madonna’s career exploded. This, Seidelman explained, led to some issues as filming progressed.
“Our first [shot] is when she’s walking down the street eating cheese doodles on St. Mark’s Place. No one paid attention to us. Very low-key — no security, entourage, nothing,” Seidelman noted. “By the end of the film we did need security.… Her life had really skyrocketed in that period of time.”