The brains behind ''Madonna Live'' discuss the agony and the ecstasy of keeping up with Mo

By Nicholas Fonseca
Updated August 21, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Madonna: Kevin Mazur/

Madonna Live: The Drowned World Tour

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Madonna fans who were too late — or too cheap — to score tickets to her latest spectacle are readying their remotes for ”Madonna Live: The Drowned World Tour,” the HBO broadcast of her hometown stint in Detroit airing August 26 at 9 p.m.

If all goes as planned, the show will look as flawless to popcorn-munching viewers as it does to the gay guys screaming in the front row. To avoid mishaps — and the wrath of the Material Girl — producer Marty Callner (who directed the Grammy-nominated ’93 HBO special ”Madonna Live Down Under: The Girlie Show), 51, and musical director Jamie King (the man behind her ”Don’t Tell Me” video), 29, are working harder than that mechanical bull Mo straddles on stage. EW pulled them aside to dish on the diva.

It’s five minutes before show time on Aug. 26. What is your responsibility at this moment?
Callner: To pray. [Laughs] Our main job is to capture and not comment…to faithfully re-create her vision. That’s more work than you might imagine.

How are you going to ”re-create her vision”?
Callner: The [number] that’s going to be really interesting is the section with the [”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”?style] flying. When she flies that first time, it just takes your breath away. Our biggest challenge is to translate that same feeling to a small box. The angle has to be perfect.

That sounds like a one-way trip to Rolaids hell. Why put yourself through the stress of producing live concerts?
Callner: I like them because they’re dangerous. Everybody’s waiting for the baton to drop. Everybody’s got to be their best. I like that.

So tell me all about working with Madonna. Isn’t she a bit, um, difficult?
King: She is such a perfectionist. She doesn’t miss a detail. She knows why that floor is slippery, she knows why that screen behind her is crooked. It’s crazy. It blows my mind. She knows everything about every little detail.
Callner: The fact that she works so hard inspires everybody else to work hard. I saw her in Paris, and it was so hot, I thought she was gonna collapse. She just kept trudging through it…up there dancing in heavy costumes under hot lights. You just say to yourself, ”Where does that come from?”

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When’s the next tour?
King: I don’t know. She’s like the Energizer Bunny. I wouldn’t be surprised if she went on tour [again]. She’s got the energy to do it. She keeps me on my toes, and I’m 29.

Madonna Live: The Drowned World Tour

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