Madonna won't have a chance to test the commercial stigma of the NC-17 movie rating after all.
Her movie "Body of Evidence," which had been slapped by the film industry ratings board with the adults-only NC-17 label, will be edited to meet standards for the more commercially acceptable R. Persons under 17 can attend R-rated films if accompanied by an adult.
In "Body of Evidence," which MGM will release in January, Madonna co-stars with Willem Dafoe as a woman on trial for the murder of her lover, an elderly man who dies while the two are having sex.
In one scene, sources say, Madonna ties up Dafoe, speaks of her love of sadomasochism and drips candle wax down his torso.
When initially hit with the NC-17 rating last August, the producers of "Body of Evidence" expressed the belief that if anyone could challenge the commercial viability of the rating, it was Madonna, whose reputation for pushing the limits of sexuality is rather notorious.
But, the film's executive producer, Steven Deutsch, said, "Nobody knows how large an audience there is for an NC-17 film." Only Universal Pictures among the major Hollywood studios, has released a film with the NC-17 rating, which was instituted in 1990 to replace the X rating--Philip Kaufman's "Henry and June."
"Madonna could have overcome a lot of the stigma of the NC-17, but what we became aware of was that in the audience's mind, there is still no difference between the NC-17 and the old X," Deutsch said.
The cuts required for an R rating were not as extensive as the producers had feared and thus contributed to the decision. Only "minor portions" of scenes were cut, he said.
Producer Dino DeLaurentiis and MGM co-chairman Alan Ladd Jr., said in a statement on Thursday: "The controversial nature of an NC-17 rating will only draw attention . . . and we feel strongly about the picture being judged on its merits rather than its rating."
Meanwhile, New Line Cinema, the distributor of Louis Malle's "Damage," which opens in Los Angeles and New York on Dec. 16, said it will challenge the ratings board's NC-17 rating in the hope that it can obtain an R. The film stars Jeremy Irons as a member of Parliament who has an affair with his son's fiancee.