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Madonna Films “Evita” From Famed Balcony

March 10, 1996

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ Madonna, earlier rejected by Argentina’s president as ``unsuitable″ to portray legendary first lady Eva Peron, was cheered by thousands of movie extras Sunday as she stood on the balcony Peron made famous and sang ``Don’t Cry for me, Argentina.″

Below, on the Plaza de Mayo, some 4,000 extras responded with cheers of ``Evita, Evita.″

The extras, dressed in period clothing, marched past the balcony of the Government House carrying blue and white Argentine flags, party banners and signs reading ``Long Live the New Argentina,″ ``Peron is the People″ and ``Long Live the Fatherland with Peron.″

The Plaza de Mayo, which faces Government House, was sealed off for the filming of the movie version of the musical ``Evita,″ scheduled to continue throughout the night.

``Madonna is all right, but from the bottom of my heart I’d rather see an Argentine actress playing the role,″ said Blanca Otermin, 65, and a Peronist since 1945. Her husband was a policeman on duty in the plaza and her 33-year-old daughter was an extra.

Many Peronists had been appalled at the idea of Madonna in the role of Eva Peron, fearing that her raunchy stage antics would cheapen Evita’s image.

Since Madonna’s arrival, graffiti such as ``Evita Lives! Get out Madonna!″ has been scrawled on walls. Several Argentines auditioning for parts as extras said they received anonymous death threats.

Permission to film on the famed Government House balcony was first refused and then granted by President Carlos Menem, who originally described Madonna as ``totally unsuitable″ to play the woman many Argentines consider a saint.

The presidential office had no comment on its change of heart, which followed Menem’s 90-minute Feb. 23 meeting with director Alan Parker and cast members Madonna, Jonathan Pryce and Antonio Banderas.

At the meeting, Parker and the cast were reported to have given assurances they would not cause offensive in their film version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which painted Evita as a power-hungry populist.

The balcony scenes, featuring Madonna and Pryce, who plays Juan Peron, depicted a 1952 speech in which Evita, dying of cancer, tells an adoring crowd she cannot accept their wish that she be Peron’s vice presidential candidate in upcoming elections.

``I give up all the honors, but I will never give up my battle in favor of my people,″ the real-life Eva, who died five months later, told the disappointed Peronists.

Although the real Eva appeared many times at Peron’s side on the Government House balcony, she gave her that speech from a stage at the Ministry of Public Works, 12 blocks away.

In 1993, Menem granted U.S. director Oliver Stone permission to film from the balcony. Days later, faced by indignant Peronists, he backed down and the movie was scrapped.

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