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Strange, and all those years we thought Madonna knew exactly what she was doing. She still defends even her worst career missteps, like her 1992 book, Sex, a collection of kinky erotic photos, which finally pushed her provocative public image one notch too far. "If you read the text, it was completely tongue in cheek," she says. "It was a joke. Unfortunately, my sense of humor is not something that a mainstream audience picks up. For me all it did was expose our society's hang-ups about our sexuality. Yes, I took a beating, and yes, a lot of the things that were said were hurtful and unfair. And yes it made my life really difficult for a while. But there are no mistakes. It was a great learning experience."

She is still learning. A couple of years later she appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, unleashed a flurry of four-letter words and spent the next few months trying to repair the damage. Meanwhile, her bumpy movie career--which has wavered between big roles in bad films (Shanghai Surprise) and smaller parts in an occasional decent one (A League of Their Own)--got even bumpier. In 1993 she starred in Body of Evidence, a steamy courtroom drama that bombed with critics and audiences. She complains that the script was changed so that her character, a sex-obsessed vixen on trial for murder, was killed in the end. "In all the movies of the '40s the bad girl has to die," she says. "What I loved about the role was that she didn't die. And in the end, they killed me. So I felt that I was sabotaged to a certain extent. For some reason, when that movie came out I was held responsible for it entirely. It was my fault. Which was absurd. Because we all make bad movies. I mean, Diabolique came out and Sharon Stone was not held responsible for the fact that it was a crap movie, you know what I mean?"

Her next film, Dangerous Game--a grim, low-budget curiosity about a seedy film director whose movie about an abusive relationship is seeping into real life--got even less attention. This time, says Madonna, she was "sabotaged" by the director, Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant), who re-edited the ending and took out most of the humor. "The movie had such a different texture and meaning and outcome for me. When I went to see a screening of it, I cried. Because I really think I did a good job as an actress. I don't think it should be called Dangerous Game. It should be called The Bad Director."

Still, she admits she has "made a lot of really stupid decisions" in her movie career, and she clearly hopes Evita will put all that behind her. Two future movie projects have already caught her eye: a biography of Tina Modotti, the photographer and political revolutionary, and a movie version of the musical Chicago (in the role Bebe Neuwirth currently plays in the hit Broadway revival). "While I'm still very interested in making music and writing music, I want to concentrate on film more. I'm very interested in directing. I know that sounds very trite and boring, but I'm going to. I just have to do it when the time is right."

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