Hollywood Is Singing Again
by Sylvia Stoddard
Acclaimed director Alan Parker brings the powerful tale of Argentina's controversial and charismatic Eva Perón to the big screen in Cinergi Pictures' potent and entertaining film adaptation of the international hit musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. In a tour-de-force performance, Madonna portrays the poor but ambitious Eva Perón who succeeds beyond anyone's wildest expectations when she marries the rising political figure and future president, Juan Perón. Antonio Banderas also stars as the film's narrator and chief critic of the Peróns' administration.
Alan Parker is the perfect choice to bring the award-winning musical to film. Parker, who has directed such Academy Award-nominated films of real-life stories as Midnight Express and Mississippi Burning, has also helmed the musicals Fame, The Commitments and Pink Floyd-The Wall. Parker describes the film as "an extraordinary classic story of a girl who comes from nowhere, meets the most famous man in that country and then becomes one of the most powerful and famous people in South America and indeed the world and then dies tragically young."
One of the reasons for Evita's popularity is its rags-to-riches story of the "Cinderella of the Pampas." After a sold-out triumph on Broadway and London's West End, five companies of Evita played simultaneously throughout the United States. For a decade, Evita was performed somewhere on the planet every night.
As the film's director, Parker's job was incredibly complex. First, he had to record the music in advance in London. "I had to make dramatic choices before I even filmed it," he says. The company began shooting in Argentina, where he notes, "There is no objective view of history with regards to this woman." After filming in Argentina was completed, the "giant traveling circus" (Parker's name for the production team) moved to Budapest and then on to London.
Music superstar Madonna worked extraordinarily hard to get the starring role. With a tenacity Eva Perón herself would have applauded, Madonna clung to the idea of playing Evita onscreen for seven years. She finally wrote an impassioned letter to Alan Parker and won the coveted role.
"I was very passionate about playing the role because Eva was an amazing, fascinating, confusing, infuriating, incredible woman," she says. Madonna did a great deal of research prior to going before the cameras, and spent three months in intense vocal and dance training.
The film traces Eva's rise from her dirt poor beginnings. Arriving in Buenos Aires at age 15, she struggled for a few years, became a rising radio star, then met Colonel Juan Perón. They became a team and within a year, Perón ran the country and she was by his side-- glamorous and adored by the people.
Eva and Juan Perón's most powerful moments occurred during the times they faced their supporters from the balcony of the pink government house, the Casa Rosada. Both of them could whip the mob into a howling frenzy of love and support. This was also the most powerful moment for Madonna while filming. "I felt sort of possessed by Eva because I was standing where she once stood and there was an electricity in the air and an excitement. I looked down at the thousands of extras, and for a moment, I felt what Eva must have felt. It was a surreal experience."
Eva Perón once wanted desperately to be a film star. Through the efforts of Alan Parker and Madonna, she has become one at last.
© People November 1996