‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ Turns 30: An Oral History of the Downtown Classic
Carrie Rickey from Yahoo! Movies was on the Desperately Seeking Susan set in 1984 and interviewed the producers, director Susan Seidelman, and the movie stars Rosanna Arquette and Madonna. Last week, in anticipation of the 30th anniversary of the film’s release on March 29, 2015, Carrie spoke again with everyone but Madonna – “who’s busy with her new tour”, Carrie explains – about the movie and their memories of two young women out to take a much grittier Manhattan.
Here are some excerpts – read the full article on Yahoo! Movies.
I liked the way [the Rivette fim] plays with reality in an offhanded, barely perceptible way. [In Susan] the two women from different realms are curious about each other. … Each is drawn to look beyond her own world and experience the world of the other.
Leora Barish (screenwriter)
I loved the idea that the producers, director, screenwriter, and studio executive all were women. I liked the fact that Roberta had a character arc, that she changed and grew.
I shared a lot with Susan. She charms her way into every situation, gets guys to take her to dinner and girlfriends to let her stay in their apartments. She borrows their clothes and trades and swaps and barters. She’s a clever con artist and doesn’t let you know when you’re being conned.
Madonna (on set in 1984)
Orion’s idea for posters included one with Madonna standing in front of a brick wall and Rosanna peeping over it. Another had Madonna’s face reflected on a toaster and Rosanna’s on a piece of toast popping out. “We didn’t make Mr. Mom,” I said. All the people in the room were middle-aged men who didn’t get the movie. What about those pictures Herb Ritts took of Madonna and Rosanna? A marketing guy looked at the slide and said, “If you put two women on a poster, people will think it’s a lesbian movie.”
Midge Sanford (producer)
When Susan came to me, obviously, I loved the title. I knew I could have fun and deal with themes that were important to me, namely: living and exploring the person you want to be and changing your lifestyle to something more interesting and fulfilling.
When I first got involved, the characters were of a different generation. Susan was more of a hippie traveler — Diane Keaton in an embroidered shirt. The downtown Susan story, pyramid jacket, and Nefertiti earrings came later. During the first casting talks, Keaton and Goldie Hawn were considered. When Susan was restyled as a New Wave/punk figure, we considered Melanie Griffith, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ellen Barkin, and Kelly McGillis.
I pulled for Madonna — I knew her from living downtown. Studio execs had never heard of her, so [director of photography] Ed Lachman and I went to Union Square to shoot her audition reel. I remember someone walking by, pointing at her and saying, “That’s Cyndi Lauper.”
On the first day, when Madonna walked down the street, only a few people turned their heads. By the last week of shooting, Like a Virgin had dropped and we needed security. Her rising fame overshadowed many aspects of the film.
Susan said you can be a woman filmmaker and make a commercial movie and said that you can have female leads in a movie and that men would see it.
Susan Seidelman (director)
It was an asset to work with so many first-timers because people were not set in their ways. I didn’t get this concept of a 1940s screwball comedy shot in the 1980s. As I saw it, Madonna’s world was dark and foreboding; Rosanna’s was one of light and pastels.
Ed Lachman (director of photography)
The first day we shot on 2nd Avenue and St. Marks Place – this was my first day on a movie set – we removed the people on the street and replaced them with people who looked exactly like them. When Madonna sashayed down St. Marks, it was like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.
The eight-week shoot was finished before Thanksgiving in 1984. There was almost no postproduction time. Orion wanted a March opening because people there thought Madonna’s career might be over by the time it came out.
Reid Rosefelt (unit publicist)
Read the full article by Carrie Rickey on Yahoo! Movies.