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Politician Doesn't Want Madonna's 'Body' : Movies: Secretary of State questions letting pop star's 'Body of Evidence' film in Washington state Capitol, but landlord calls usage 'totally appropriate.'

April 23, 1992|JANE GALBRAITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Who's manipulating whom?

Madonna, usually the one to draw attention to herself by any means possible, is the target of a Washington state official in what some see as a political ploy to call attention to himself.

Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro, a Republican running unopposed for reelection, would like to yank the welcome mat out from under producers of Madonna's current movie, "Body of Evidence," which plans to film courtroom scenes at the State Capitol Building in Olympia. His view: Madonna and all other Hollywood interlopers are not wanted.

"As you know, the name of this movie is 'Body of Evidence' and the plot is that the character played by Madonna seduces a man to death. I am told by your staff that the movie is filled with sex and violence. Why should we condone or cater to anything of this kind?" Munro said in a three-page letter to K. Wendy Holden, director of the Department of General Administration, which oversees the use of state properties.

The moviemakers want to use the Capitol's marble-paneled senate chamber for courtroom scenes between Willem Dafoe--playing a lawyer obsessed with his client, Madonna--and opposing counsel Joseph Mantegna. Erotic love scenes involving Dafoe's character and the singer-actress are set to be filmed on a closed set elsewhere.

Despite Munro's objections, he does not have the last word on what productions can film in Washington. The Department of General Administration, the state's landlord, does. Its assessment: "We are not a censoring agency," said Christine Yorozu, a spokeswoman for the department. "We've checked over the script and we feel that since Madonna's got all of her clothes on in the courtroom scenes, the use of the facility is totally appropriate for us."

Now, all that's left to settle are the shooting dates. (Most of the film is being shot in Portland, Ore. Shooting in Olympia is scheduled for a couple of days at the end of April and early May.)

But Munro doesn't stop at Madonna. As far as Munro is concerned, all of Hollywood can stop at the state border.

"The real reason the film companies come here," he wrote, "is that:

"One, they have been tossed out of California;

"Two, they don't receive local cooperation in many states because they have become a big pain in the rear;

"Three, they come under very strict laws in California relating to child labor, animal abuse, etc. that do not exist in the state of Washington; and,

"Four, they can get away with murder in locations they often call 'hick towns outside of California.' "

Munro's views about filmmakers don't mesh with those of other Washington officials, however, especially those looking at the state's economic picture. The entertainment industry generated an estimated $100 million in gross revenues last year and helped push the state's ranking as a location site to 15th in the nation.

"Our state has fiscal problems just like every other state," said Jeff Goldberg, director of communications for the Department of Trade and Economic Development, which oversees the state's Film & Video Office. "I could hardly say we can afford not to encourage filmmaking here."

Besides, Goldberg added, "Madonna's fun. She's lewd and lascivious. She's entertaining. I even bought one of her records once."

Munro, reached for comment on Wednesday said, "The public policy issue is whether X- and R-rated movies should use public facilities. That's the main question. I'm just asking the legislature to look at it."

What's baffling to many state officials is why Munro, who is viewed as a "likable" and "popular" public servant running unopposed for his seat, has bothered taking such a public position in what many people feel is a frivolous issue.

Some observers suggest that Munro's motivations are political. "Munro's a conservative. He's just teeing off on this issue because it gives him a lot of press and he wants to set himself with his constituents," Goldberg said.

Another state official asking anonymity said she believed "he just wants something to talk about when he goes out to the hinterlands."

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