"W.E.," Madonna's debut as a feature film director, tells a tale of two women: Wally (Abbie Cornish), a 1998 New Yorker researching what she thinks is a grand historical romance; and Baltimore's own Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough), the divorcee whose amorous hold on King Edward VIII caused him to renounce the British throne.
The Weinstein Company -- the same company that distributed "The King's Speech" -- will book "W.E." into theaters later this year.
Madonna says, "W.E.' is about the nature of true love, and the sacrifices and compromises that are often made."
The Weinstein Company's press release adds that Madonna follows Simpson and Edward "from the glamorous early days of their romance to the slow unraveling of their lives."
"I'll leave that to 'W.E.' and Madonna," said "King Speech" screenwriter David Seidler when I interviewed him last fall. But he went on to say of Wallis and Edward, "Americans are romantics and they absolutely love the idea of 'the greatest love story ever told,' a king who gives up his throne for the woman he loves. And you Yanks have bought into this hook, line and sinker. I don't believe it for a moment that this was the greatest love story ever told. I think it was the most selfish love story ever told."
Seidler said, "You get Wallis Simpson coming out of Baltimore. If you read her history, as I have, she's clearly a very ambitious woman, from a humiliatingly down-at-the-heels family, which she wanted to rise above."
Seidler underlined that the official opposition to her and Edward's marriage was not a result of her being an American. "That really was not that big an issue. After all, Jennie Churchill was an American and she had been accepted completely. It was because [Edward] was the head of the Church of England, which at that time absolutely did not recognize the marriage of a divorced woman. And she was now going to be divorced twice."
To Seidler, Simpson's flirtation "with the romance and power of the 'men of action' of fascism and Nazism" also influenced her relationship with Edward.
"There's no question there was a very strong sexual attraction between Wallis and [Edward], though I must say it was not exclusive on Wallis' part... Von Ribbentrop, who was Hitler's ambassador to the Court of St. James, was sending her, apparently, bouquets of seventeen carnations a day. (The reason he sent seventeen was that is was apparently the number of times they had slept together.) She convinced [Edward] that as an act of will he could have his way. He, after all, was king. Who was going to tell him what to do? Certainly not an unwashed politician like Stanley Baldwin, who came up from the British working class."
But "Baldwin, who understood the situation perfectly, said no, you're a constitutional monarch, and you do what people want you to do, which is unite them in the face of this horrendous conflict that's coming." Baldwin's pleas fell on Edward's love-deafened ears. "So that's why I have painted them the way I have. From my point of view, that's the real story."
Photo of Madonna at "Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular" by Daniel Boczarski for Getty