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Madonna: I couldn't decide whether to be a nun or a movie star

Published 07/10/2016

Gillian Anderson reads a letter during the third night of the Letters Live series at the Freemason's Hall, London.
Gillian Anderson reads a letter during the third night of the Letters Live series at the Freemason's Hall, London.

A job application from an unknown Madonna hoping for a starring role in an erotic thriller drew applause from literature lovers tonight.

The 19-year-old was a drummer in 1978 and keen to make headlines in the movies when she wrote a covering letter asking to appear in A Certain Sacrifice - her first film role.

She told first-time filmmaker Stephen Lewicki that she knew she wanted to be "a nun or a movie star" by the time she was in fifth grade.

The personal text, written decades before Madonna would go on to be the Queen of Pop, was read to an audience at the Letters Live evening in central London which celebrates remarkable letters and the enduring power of correspondence.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Jude Law and Gillian Anderson are some of the performers who have taken to the stage since the event was launched in December 2013.

Madonna states that her career began "in petulance and precociousness" in her home town of Detroit, Michigan.

She says that during high school she became "slightly schizophrenic as I couldn't choose between class virgin or the other kind - both of them had their values as far as I could see".

Madonna developed a "great dislike" for her high school classmates and teachers but loved drama class.

This was where for "one hour every day all the megalomaniacs and egotists would meet to compete for roles and argue about interpretation."

She added: "I secretly adored each moment when all eyes were on me and I could practise being charming or sophisticated, so I would be prepared for the outside world."

Madonna recalls that her "infinite impatience" spurred her on to graduate from high school a year early and move on to study music, art and dance.

"I seemed to turn just about everything into a theatrical production," she adds.

Madonna tells Lewicki that she did unfulfilling dancing tours in Italy, sang in a New Wave band, worked with a filmmaker and modelled for artists and photographers before being spotted by French record producers in May 1979.

She worked across Europe but did not really like it.

Paris had a "sterility" and so she headed back to New York to play the drums, take dance classes and wait for her 20th birthday.

Madonna signed off the letter with her personal detail - including her height at 5ft 4ins, her weight at 102lbs, plus stating she had brown hair and hazel eyes. She got the part, the audience heard.

Madonna would go on to be one of the most powerful names in the modern-day music industry, as well as a dancer, businesswoman and actress.

Madonna tweeted on Friday: "Dropped my first single 34 years ago today!! Music Saved My Life!"

The audience chuckled at some of the letters and were moved by others, including a message from singer Joan Baez to the US Internal Revenue Service in 1964 where she states: "I do not believe in war."

This was after US president Lyndon Johnson had ordered the bombing of North Vietnam.

Judge Rinder stepped away from his twinkle-toed performances as part of this year's Strictly Come Dancing line-up to perform a number of readings.

These included a letter from would-be US student Paul Devlin who spotted a grammatical mistake in the rejection letter he got from Harvard.

Devlin wrote back saying: "I must inform you I am unable to accept your rejection at this time."

Other universities who dared to reject him got a similar cheeky response. The letters became a hit and were reprinted in the New York Times in 1981.

More laughter came as Sanjeev Bhaskar read letter from Hollywood comedy actor Groucho Marx making fun of the overly-controlling Warner Bros studio.

Marx, one of the Marx brothers, tells Warner Bros: "We were brothers long before you were."

Gary Kemp, John Bishop, Barry Humphries, Eddi Reader and Miriam Margolyes were among the other performers who took to the stage.

The Ministry of Stories, First Story and Help Refugees are among the charities supported by the five-night event.

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