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“At dinners and parties,” Madonna recalls, “I found that whenever I brought up the topic of Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, it was like throwing a Molotov cocktail into the conversation.” Of course, the same story could be told about the speaker herself.

Few people remain neutral about Madonna Louise Ciccone, the pop-music supernova whose concert appearances still draw legions of fans and, sometimes, controversial headlines (as this year’s “MDNA” tour has repeatedly proved). Musically, she’s an icon. This week she was named the best-selling female singles artist in U.K. chart history. In the cinematic realm, however, the 54-year-old is still somewhat of an underdog.

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