How big of a mess is Madonna’s Wallis Simpson film, ‘W.E.’?


Suddenly, Madonna is everywhere and everyone is talking about her. These are some new photos of Madge in Paris, where she was flea market shopping and hanging out with Brahim, her young lover who has surprising staying power, it seems, because they’re still together, despite gossip to the contrary. But little Brahim isn’t why people are talking about Madge – they’re discussing her second directorial effort, W.E., the film that Madge not only directed, but researched and wrote, all about Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII. I covered various parts regarding the project last year – Madonna couldn’t get the cast she wanted, and Madonna herself gave a quote about how she didn’t believe Edward and Wallis were Nazi sympathizers (which is a historical fact, not a theory).

Anyway, according to critic Roger Friedman, W.E. is actually… good. He hasn’t actually seen the film, though, so his piece reads partially like an industry-heavy fluff piece:

Well, I may have to eat my hat. The inside word from The Weinstein Company is that Madonna’s effort as a movie director, “W.E.,” is really really good. Gregg Kilday is reporting that the Weinstein Company has bought the rights to Madonna’s movie. Now I’ve called some people I know–not Harvey or Bob–and they’ve told me the story. They bought the movie outright–no one else saw it. Madonna showed it to TWC first probably because Harvey Weinstein released her “Truth or Dare” twenty years ago. And the people who saw “W.E.,” including Harvey and Bob, loved it.

My first question: does it have any reference to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as Nazi sympathizers? I am told it’s at least mentioned. But this is also what was said: “It’s a smart and thoughtful and incredibly stylish. A performance by Andrea Riseborough that’s Oscar worthy. I don’t know how the f— she [Madonna] did it. It’s an art picture, there’s no question about it. It’s a picture for women. Bob and Harvey really loved it.

This is a lot like Tom Ford’s directing of A Single Man. We were impressed with her.

Everyone’s been talking about her in house for two weeks. She’s gotten it all up there on the screen. It’s hard to tell a good story. She managed to do it.”

My sources say this is all really true. They even say that they know there will be skepticism, but that once people see “W.E.,” they’ll get it.

I know, this is insane. People who read this column probably think I’ve been abducted by aliens. I can only go by what I’m told, though. And if “W.E.” is really so good, I’ll be the first to say it. The sales price, by the way, is said to be less than $5 million. More likely in the $4 million range.

[From Showbiz 411]

Sounds interesting, right? Not so fast. How is it possible that Madonna, a brilliant pop artist and business woman, and one of the worst actresses in the world suddenly a great writer-director? It has to be a fiction, right? Well, there’s another take on the situation – you can read the full story at the Mail, but the highlights are below. Basically, there are just as many sources saying that W.E. is a mess, that Madge still sucks, and that the historical revisionism of the Nazi-sympathies of Wallis and Edward are blatant and disgusting:

…The bad news for Madonna is that the buzz from a top secret test screening in New York last week is not entirely positive. I’m told that the film doesn’t make much sense – and looks more like a Chanel perfume advertisement than an £18 million movie ought to. Harvey Weinstein — who has bought the distribution rights — was observed looking ‘thunderous’ and ‘sour’ as the preview audience marked their scores on approval index cards. He is in the process of re-editing the film to try to make it more commercially viable, and says that it won’t be ready to show to critics ‘for several months’. The opinions of the New Yorkers who saw the film will be taken into account as he seeks to give Madonna a rare hit in the movie business. He is known as Harvey Scissorhands for his love of cutting films to make them more commercial. As he said in an interview: ‘I’m not cutting for fun, I’m cutting for the s*** to work.’

Madonna, now 52, whose control freakery is legendary, must be hating this part of the process. But, it seems, the film needs it.

‘It’s not a complete embarrassment for Madonna, and some of the sequences are spectacular, but some key elements are never explained,’ said my source at the screening last week. ‘It’s all about a woman, Wally, who is obsessed with Wallis Simpson, but we never find out why she cares about her in the first place. The script is really very so-so. It tries to suggest that Wallis Simpson gave up a lot to be with Edward in 1936, particularly her chance to have children, but the idea is never developed. It’s all about the surface and the styling. There’s no real narrative, and no heart.’

Another source, who saw the film at an early screening for potential distributors this spring in Berlin, said more simply that it was ‘just terrible’.

It’s a labour of love for Madonna, who has said that she is obsessed by the subject of the love affair between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. She began researching the project while she and Guy Ritchie were still married, and he is supposed to have given her some advice in the early stages. She asked surviving friends and associates of Simpson, including socialite Nicky Haslam, to help her with information about her. Her chief collaborator, though, was Alek Keshishian, a long-standing friend who was behind the camera in the documentary In Bed With Madonna. The two wrote the script together. The film stars Australian actress Abbie Cornish as a New Yorker who becomes fascinated by an auction of the possessions of the Duchess of Windsor, as Wallis Simpson became known.

Mrs Simpson is played by Andrea Riseborough and Edward by James D’Arcy. James Fox plays George V and his son Laurence plays Bertie, Edward’s younger brother (later George VI).

Production values on the £18 million film are high, with clothes made by Galliano and Issa and jewellery recreated by Cartier. The source who saw the film in New York says: ‘The cinematography is spectacular, as is the production design. On further reflection I have to say the movie seems to be way too preoccupied by props and set decoration — martini shakers, glasses, snifters, desks, furnishings of all kinds. There is certainly more style than substance, but you know people have such low expectations of Madonna that the critics might give her a pass and it might work in her favour.’

[From The Daily Mail]

The Mail goes on to list all of the problems that happened during production – an experienced producer and an experienced casting director quit on Madge after a few weeks, and complained in the press about her lack of collaboration or delegating on the film. Several actors pulled out of the film at various stages of preproduction – Margo Stilley, Ewan McGregor, and Vera Farmiga amongst them. W.E. was supposed to be ready for the Cannes Film Festival in May, but is now headed for a Fall release. I can’t say that I’m really looking forward to seeing it, but the promotional tour should be a hoot. I imagine Madonna will be acting like she’s the greatest AUTEUR in the world, and she’ll expect people to fall at her feet with gratitude for the historical rewrite on Wallis Simpson.




Photos courtesy of Pacific Coast News and WENN.

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35 Responses to “How big of a mess is Madonna’s Wallis Simpson film, ‘W.E.’?”

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  1. brin says:

    Sounds like a bomb.

  2. Praise St. Angie! says:

    her cheek implants are terrible.

  3. Waldemar says:

    Because the Daily Mail is known for its unbiased and female friendly reporting.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect much of the movie either, but really. Put Madonna’s name in connection with anything celluloid related and it is bombed. Bombed without a question. Let’s just wait and see what the reviews are and then bring in the hate.

  4. werty says:

    why is she posing like a gangsta (2 pic) . oh no is that her new “style” oh god dont tell me i dont wanna know.

    *Runs away*

  5. Thea says:

    Okay she has had her run for what about 30 years now. She needs to go and make room for someone with some talent.

  6. Ja says:

    I tend to believe DM on this one. I bet Harvey will cut miles off the crap before he’s happy enough to let it out. Just my opinion thou.

  7. ol cranky says:

    anyone else have to do a double-take at Madonna’s film white-washing Wallis & Edward being Nazi sympathizer complemented by a wardrobe by Galliano? That’s a bad joke in the making

  8. Jaded says:

    Jeez, when will this f*cking woman get over herself and realize she’s not the most important thing in music, acting, directing, writing, whatever. She’s nothing more than a shameless famewhore who shits all over people to get her way. Makes me sick. I hope this film is a colossal fail and she gets laughed out of the screening room.

  9. constance says:

    With the success of the King’s Speech and it’s level of cinematography, writing, and cast, I have trouble coming up with an honest positive predisposition for going out to watch this film. I have a feeling, it’s going to be “deep and sensational” (in her own words.)

    I want to see many red carpet lols for the tour. She loves to put on a show.

  10. Laura says:

    Dear lord, those cheeks in the first picture! How do these celebrities not know how terrible/silly they look??

  11. danielle says:

    Hmmm, Madonna directing a movie that’s all style and no substance? Shocking!

  12. Bill Hicks is God says:

    @ol cranky: I certainly did.

  13. Micki says:

    This is going to be such a pile of crap! The remarks of the late Edward VIII about Hitler are so well documented in UK and in Germany that I wonder what exactly she “researched”.
    As for Wallis Simpson-at the time of her wedding with Edward she was a second time divorsee without children.So she sacrificed something she didn’t have/didn’t want prior Edward and he sacrificed only his…crown and throne for her. Trust Madonna to make me vomit.

  14. Jana says:

    Wow, all the hate on here for a woman in her early fifties still pushing through with her career and or new paths. It is a big risk for her to do this, and most stars would not do it for fear of failing. I applaud Madonna for still following her passions and “not going away,” as her stadium shows indicate she is still very much beloved. As a woman, whether I like this movie or not, I still admire her for pushing forward on a project she believed in.

  15. Nancy says:

    The Daily Fail is a POS rag that has never had one nice thing to say about Madonna so if that’s gonna be your source then good luck. Most of the preview screenings people have seen had nothing but positive things to say about it even that Roger Friedman guy who doesn’t like Madonna, and Harvey Weinstein sure as hell would not have acquired it if it was trash.

  16. elizabeth says:

    @ ol cranky
    When Edward was crown prince and then (briefly) king, the British government deliberately withheld important documents from him because they were afraid he would leak the info to other Nazi sympathizers and it would get back to Hitler. Pretty sad to whitewash that out! This is why I rarely see Hollywood “history” films – they don’t tell the truth; they just tell a story.

  17. Snappyfish says:

    I have read some fascinating books about Wallis so I hate to admit it, but I will see this film if ever released.

    Madonna looks more & more likeva cartoon character

  18. jocular says:

    Andrea Riseborough is a fantastic actress hopefully this film is the vehicle to get her the acclaim she deserves. Madonna may have been around for 30 years but good for her for taking on a venture in a new field. There are very few female directors I’ll happily support those that are trying. Men have dominated this industry for long enough so here’s hoping for more and more women who get to the top of this game such as Katherine Bigelow. Btw A Single Man was great.

  19. Amandahugandkiss says:

    I like Madonna- she’s amazing. I’m glad to see her continually trying new things.

    But she’s crazy if she thinks anyone would agree that Wallace and Edward weren’t nazis.

  20. jover says:

    Agree with most everyone esp. jaded and elizabeth; while I’m no madonna fan i’ll give her props for doing research on a quasi-historical bio film although she does have the time and money to do this; at least this isn’t a blow them up, tart them up Bay CGI crapfest – really, how many of today’s young hollywood celebutards know anything about history or this period, other than like yeah, there was this guy Hitler, and he was like an awesomely mean bad dude. How many young people today in general even know what, for example, Treblinka, refers to? But madge, don’t whitewash a known historical fact.

  21. the original bellaluna says:

    She’s like an older version of the Goopster – full of herself and thinking every f’ing thing she touches is platinum. (Because gold is for the little people, dahling.)

  22. Trillion says:

    Maybe she’s just courting controversy because she can’t seem to help herself. Same whitewash tx of her fascination w/ the Perons.

  23. MLC says:

    The Daily Fail HATES Madonna and basically created a story based on a random fabricated comment online on some gossip site. That is their “source.” The poster who posted that “review” also got some basic information wrong that anyone who actually saw the film would know. All the actual reviews from people who actually saw the film we very positive. Harvey would not pick up this film as quickly as he did if he thought it was a disaster. Also, the Mail spun a lot of quotes and information. Ewan was never attached to the film, Vera was pregnant, and the cast have constantly talked about how great their relationship was with Madonna, yet none of those quotes were ever reported. It’s also rubbish that Madonna removes whatever Nazi ties Wallis and Edward had. See what Liz Smith, someone who actually saw the film, had to say about that.

  24. Deb says:

    The story of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII is incredibly fascinating. Now it is about to be ruined by Madonna. Madonna should stick to what she’s good at: singing and dancing.

  25. Trillion says:

    just make that “dancing”…

  26. Tara says:

    Why is it I never noticed Madonna has cankles?

  27. pnwperson says:

    She’s still alive?


    I thought grandma died a couple years ago.

  28. Jake Mendez says:

    Madonna wants to do a movie about the Nazi sympathizer, because Madonna is a woman that likes power and these stupid power stories. This is not the movie for a woman to make. This story is controversial, but a lot is known about the Edward and Walli marriage. This is bad controversy, not a constructive, nor prosperous. I can’t wait for the movie audiences and the English people to mock her as well as their American counterparts.

  29. lrm says:

    You know, not every movie set in a particular period, about a particular persona, not the time period or politics itself, but the persona, has to be a freakin’ history channel documentary, people!

    When did the cinema become so PC?
    Suddenly, if it’s not educating the masses about global warming and racism, it’s not worth seeing?

    I think Madonna is fascinated by women of power-ie, peron, simpson,madonna herself. LOL And rightly so….she is interested in the mystique of simpson’s time and a particular angle on her life…
    She is not focusing on what a horrible person Wallis was-so what???

    She’s taking an angle on her, as a character.

    Again, it is not hollywood’s job to be the mouthpiece for sudan, serbia or true nazi history.
    IF a film does provide fact, great.

    But just b/c most people are practically illterate now a days, and have no clue about history or care to read to find out, does not mean films are required to fill in the pieces for us.

    Film was meant to be an escape and entertainment at one time, and a veiled mocking of the elite at others….True, i t has become a great avenue for enlightment and truth, as well. But films that sway from the total truth also have a place.

    Honestly, I am SO freakin ‘tired of the constant PC mindset about every damn thing in life.

    I don’t want everything I do or see to be an infommercial for what I am supposed to think or know about the entire world and it’s history!

    I love that Madonna is pursuing this…..and am not surprised, either, that it’s all ‘style’ and lacks substance. Did we expect more from M?
    Not really….
    If I want to know about Wallis, then I will not trust one hollywood film to inform me.

    And if viewers come away from this film not knowing *everything* about that time period, c’est la vie. Either they will search for it elsewhere, or they will remain ignorant, as when they went into the film.
    This will hardly be Madonna’s doing, for better or worse.

  30. Crystalline says:

    @lrm, There is something horribly wrong with basically celebrating the couple who would’ve happily handed over England to Hitler. People aren’t upset that this isn’t a historical lesson and they aren’t being PC, they are upset because Madonna has chosen a couple who supported the nazis and has decided they deserve to be celebrated as symbols of love. There isn’t terribly much more you can do to disrespect the victims of the Holocaust.

    By the way, this PC nonsense is getting old. Desiring respect for different groups, lifestyles, cultures, and histories is not being “PC”. Its being a decent human being.

  31. Micki says:

    @Irm:Let me turn your argument the other way. Yes; I agree that too many people are “practically illiterate or have no clue”.What I find worse is they have no interest whatsoever to fill the gaps even roughly.
    Noone expect to be educated by a fiction films BUT if you watch such with INTENTIONALLY WRONG HISTORICAL STORYLINE and don’t bother to check the facts what will stay in your mind???
    Imagine US school kids watching a movie: how the Americans under Washington swam across the Atlantic and attacked UK and THUS they gained their freedom.
    Your opinion?

  32. Mairead says:

    @LRM, are you serious?

    Not being told lies about historical events or ‘personae’ is sod all to do with “being politically correct” and everything about not misleading the public. Nobody expects film-makers (or historic fiction writers for that matter) to instill a full understanding about a complex event, but they shouldn’t give a completely false account to people who don’t know any better and actually do a disservice to the person you are trying to lionise or criticise. We expect events to be fudged, but we don’t want our intelligence insulted.

    Case in point, the film The Changeling interacts with The Chicken Coop Murders. By completely whitewashing the murderer’s mother out of the story, the writer and Clint Eastwood missed a real trick. It was about a mother wanting justice for her missing son, but it could have been so much more if it had focussed on an interaction between Christine Collins and the other mother who was presumably trying to protect her son. Instead They wind up with an overly-long film that banged on for the final hour about mostly nothing.

  33. Alex says:

    Madona coolest !!!!!!!

  34. mob says:

    i love Madonna,not because she “is” or she “is not”,but because she`s always like “pain in the arse” type thing,as she once said “i`m like a cockroach,you can`t get rid of me” and that what she`s about,at least she`s working on something not posting or writting [like most of us] some really dumm comments.

  35. morganas says:

    people will aleays come with trash at you no matter you`re old,you`re young talented or not,taking in fact Madonna,I respect her for being stuborn and never giving up,because you`ll never satisfy everybody so the only way is to piss off such people,which she constantly does and I would do the the same `cause most of them are full of envy,hatride and doesn`t deserve to be treat well and she`s a great artist,I can`t lie to myself you can like her or not,the fact is as she worked hard enough to be where she is i think W.E. will be a great great movie … although i`ll repeat myself-i hate her cheek inplants though,that she should change while she still can