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Hollywood Flashback: Mary Lambert Reflects on Making of Madonna’s Controversial “Like a Prayer” Music Video




12:30 p.m. PDT 04/08/2021


Seth Abramovich

The 1989 Vatican-banned video of the pop star featured the singer dancing in front of burning crosses, suffering stigma and kissing a statue of a black Jesus coming to life in a church.

Lil Nas X’s music video for “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” with its glistening pole to hell and sexy satanic lap dance has reignited the culture wars in a way not seen since the 1980s. Back then, Madonna’s video for “Like a Prayer” was the controversy to be conquered.

It featured the then 30-year-old singer dancing in front of burning crosses, experiencing stigmata, and kissing a statue of a black Jesus coming to life in a church. (The “Saint,” as he was portrayed in the script to appease production managers, was played by actor Leon, who also plays a young man wrongly accused of a crime in the play.) debuted on MTV on February 23. 1989 and was the fifth that Mary Lambert had designed and produced for the pop star.

“I wanted to explore the correlation between sexual ecstasy and religious ecstasy,” said Lambert, 69. THR, adding that “the idea of ​​a black Jesus scared many people.” This character “came from Madonna who told me she wanted to” fuck a black guy on the altar “,” Lambert remembers. “I said, ‘Well, why can’t it be a black Jesus? Let’s just go all the way. ‘ She liked it. “The flaming crosses evoked the“ idea of ​​appropriation, ”Lambert continues,“ that the Ku Klux Klan could take a cross, a sacred symbol for many people, and appropriate it in a way that aroused fear and horror. and promote race. hate. I wanted to turn it around. “

The backlash for the video was intense: the Vatican banned it and Pope John Paul II urged fans to boycott Madonna in Italy. “I don’t remember anyone standing up for him,” she said. “Except the general public.” A well-tamed Pepsi commercial for the song (and done for four times the budget) was quickly ripped off. “I was very proud of it,” Lambert says.

As for Lil Nas X’s effort, Lambert is impressed, calling it “an amazing visual poem, kind of a folk tale about devil fuck, basically.”

This story first appeared in the April 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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