VENICE, Italy -- There may be few people better suited than Madonna to tell the story of the two-time American divorcee for whom Britain's King Edward VIII abdicated his throne.
The star herself acknowledges the parallels with Wallis Simpson, the central figure in her sophomore directorial effort, "W.E.," which made its world premiere out of competition at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday.
She ticked off their common traits: Americans married to Brits. A shared love of fabulous clothes. A sense of adventure. Tenacity, resourcefulness and resilience. But on a deeper level, Madonna can relate to the limitations imposed by enormous fame -- or, in the case of Simpson, notoriety.
"I think once you become famous, you have to pretty much relinquish the idea that people are going to see you for who you are, or look beyond the surface of things," Madonna told a small group of reporters. "I think that was a source of great frustration for Wallis Simpson and for Edward VIII, because after he abdicated, they didn't really have the opportunity to defend themselves. "So hopefully, I have been able to do that for Wallis Simpson through my film."
Madonna spent several years researching before sitting down to write the film with Alek Keshishian, director of her "Truth or Dare" documentary. What emerges is a sympathetic portrait of the oft-maligned Simpson that attempts to show what the American divorcee -- and not just the king -- sacrificed to marry in 1937. "I think she felt an existential loneliness," Madonna said.
"W.E." -- short for Wallis and Edward, who are portrayed by Andrea Riseborough and James D'Arcy -- tells Simpson's story through the eyes of a modern-day namesake who seeks solace from her unhappy marriage in the details of what in its day was considered the romance of the century.