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The Power Madge-Film Director
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Madonna is such a slave-driver that she made a star actor learn to play the bagpipes, shoot, and dance like a professional - only for the scenes to end up on the cutting-room floor.
The singer-songwriter turned film director is already a notorious perfectionist but today James D'Arcy, who plays Edward VIII in Madonna's new film, W.E, revealed the extraordinary "mind-bending" lengths she goes to in order to extract the best.
D'Arcy, 36, whose character renounces the throne for love of American divorcée Wallis Simpson, told the Standard: "Because Madonna is not on very friendly terms with the word 'no', what happens is that reality starts to bend. You do things you didn't believe you were capable of and that is very exciting."
D'Arcy went clay pigeon shooting three times a week and danced every day in preparation for filming. He even mastered the bagpipes in only six weeks, despite his teacher insisting a year would be required.
However, no one seeing the finished movie, which premieres in Kensington tonight, will get an inkling of these newly honed talents as virtually all the relevant scenes have been cut.
Some actors might be cross at the wasted effort but D'Arcy insists the singer's gruelling demands brought out the best in him.
"I suspect with all of life I usually start from a position of fear and don't think I can do things. And the big trick seems to be to acknowledge that that is how you feel and do it anyway. What's really inspiring about Madonna is she helps you park the fear," he said.
"She doesn't pay any attention to it in her own life and she won't let you either. So you just do the thing that seems impossible and then it becomes possible. She expects a lot - but most directors do."
The film has been re-edited since first seen at the Venice Film Festival where many critics hated it. It stars Andrea Riseborough as Wallis Simpson, the woman who sparked the abdication crisis. An interwoven contemporary love story features Australian actress Abbie Cornish.
D'Arcy said he admired the way Madonna, 53, had written W.E. from a female perspective.
"There aren't that many films about strong women - and made by a strong female director as well. I felt it was rather an honour to be part of that endeavour."
Despite chiselled cheeks and received pronunciation, D'Arcy, a LAMDA drama school graduate, was raised on his widowed mother's NHS nurse's salary in Fulham.
His current appearance is more skinhead than royal, as his head was shaved to appear alongside Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant in the film adaptation of the David Mitchell novel Cloud Atlas, which finished filming just before Christmas.
The title of the film, W.E., incidentally, reflects the lovers' initials.