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Among her many achievements, Madonna, who turns 60 on Aug. 16, once starred in the top-grossing documentary of all time. Though the record has since been broken by ?docs on subjects as varied as penguins and Justin Bieber, when Madonna: Truth or Dare was released in 1991 and ?grossed $15 million ($28 million today), it was a box-office behemoth.
The film got its start when Madonna approached Alek Keshishian — then 26 and with several award-winning videos for Bobby Brown under his belt — about doing an HBO special on her Blond Ambition tour. After shooting in Japan, Keshishian says, ?he found the backstage scene to be ?”a Fellini-esque dysfunctional family” and persuaded her to focus the film on that, with the performances ?interspersed.
“She’s a person of instincts,” says Keshishian. “It didn’t take much convincing.” The backstage glimpses are so revealing that Madonna’s then-boyfriend Warren Beatty remarks on camera about “the insanity of doing this all in a documentary.”
While The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a good review, it was more excited by the Cannes screening, which it described as “near ?riots.” The French police were so worried about fans storming the Palais des Festival that they penned hundreds of VIP ticketholders, including Spike Lee and studio execs, behind metal barriers, ultimately denying them entry. “The theater was about a third empty,” says Keshishian, who was seated with Madonna. “I remember thinking, ‘That’s odd.'”
This story first appeared in the Aug. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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