Eleven years ago, pop queen Madonna set tongues a-waggin' with her racy documentary Truth or Dare.
Madonna gets naughty with a bottle of mineral water! Madonna hops in the sack with a multitude of sexes! Madonna mocks Kevin Costner for calling her show ”neat”! On May 10, 1991, the documentary Truth or Dare opened, promising the seemingly impossible: Madonna, raunchier than ever.
It also arrived just as she was nearing the height of her notoriety. In the previous seven months the star had caused a commotion for sporting a lingerie-and-American-flag getup in an MTV ”Rock the Vote” ad, for her erotic ”Justify My Love” video, and for taking Michael Jackson to the Oscars. A warts-and-all movie confessional — rare from a diva of her stature — made total, perverse sense.
Doubling as executive producer, Madonna tapped 25-year-old Harvard grad-cum-Bobby Brown video director Alek Keshishian to shoot a traditional concert film tracking her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour from Japan to America to Europe. But Keshishian insisted on having full access. ”Madonna is a control freak, but she gives up control to other control freaks,” Keshishian says. ”I felt I was either going to get fired, or else I was going to earn her respect. But it seemed like there was no point in any middle ground.”
The result — including rousing performances of songs like ”Holiday” and ”Express Yourself” — finds an often unlikable Madonna in a variety of priceless predicaments. She struggles through awkward reunions with friends and family. She plays den mother to a catty entourage. She bosses around then-boyfriend Warren Beatty. She comically fails to seduce a Spanish actor so unknown to Americans at the time that the credits misspell his name: Antonio Bandares.
Although many assumed that this candid footage was sometimes staged and included only at Madonna’s discretion, Keshishian, who had final cut, begs to differ: ”The old adage that truth is stranger than fiction really is true in this movie.” And the truth pays off.
Made for $4 million, Truth or Dare — or In Bed With Madonna, its title abroad — earned $15 million; excepting IMAX films, it’s the second-highest-grossing documentary ever, after 1970’s Woodstock. And while its star went through one career transformation after another in the decade that followed, Truth or Dare may soon enjoy a new incarnation on the small screen. A TV game show based on its slumber-party namesake (and produced by Madonna’s Maverick Entertainment) is in development for NBC, to air as early as this summer. Let’s just hope no one calls it ”neat.”