originally published on Queerty, July 11, 2015
In the many decades since gay stories have been honestly depicted on the big screen, there are still just a handful of films that can be thought of as transformative viewing experiences, which caused viewers to reflect and change their lives.
Among them are The Boys in the Band in 1970, Paris Is Burning in 1990, Brokeback Mountain in 2005, and for many queer people the 1991 documentary Truth or Dare is firmly entrenched in that short list.
Director Alek Keshishian’s behind-the-scenes look at Madonna during her wildly successful and chaotic Blond Ambition tour offered the superstars legion of fans an unvarnished peek at her singular version of celebrity and became not only one of the most vivid concerts films ever made, but also the most successful documentary released up to that time, grossing nearly $30 million.
Even more provocative to the entertainer’s legion of queer fans was the intimate, yet matter-of-fact glimpse into the lives of her seven backup dancers (six of whom were gay) who became a surrogate family as they trotted around the globe Keshishian’s camera offered. Perhaps Warren Beatty, who was dating Madonna at the time, summed up the atmosphere most expertly with his famous commentary “what point is there existing if it’s off camera.”
Madonna didn’t censor her behavior, of course, and neither did her dancers, who queened out, made out and showed off in front of the ever-present cameras. The plum directorial assignment had landed in the lap of the then-24-year-old Keshishian after Madge had seen an innovative pop opera adaptation of Wuthering Heights, that used her music and songs by Billy Idol and Kate Bush to propel the story along, he made while still a student at Harvard. He was soon flying first class around the globe recording Madge’s every fascinating move. Now approaching its 25th anniversary, Truth or Dare will be screened July 13 during L.A.’s Outfest as part of its Legacy Project, which preserves films that offer indelible images of LGBT people.
Queerty chatted with Keshishian about how Madonna chose him to make the film, the chaos of shooting the life of a superstar and their relationship today.