Madonna fired off a sarcastic, angry letter to indie producer Joe Roth last week, upset over his purported “reservations” about her ability as an actress to handle the lead role in “Angie, I Says.”

The handwritten letter, which the star’s New York-based publicist Liz Rosenberg verified “Madonna wrote and is not ashamed of,” was anonymously leaked to the press on Friday. Rosenberg, however, contends that it was “a personal letter Madonna faxed to Joe Roth (on Dec. 4) and was not something meant for the media or public.”

Using the sign-off “Dita”–the alter ego name she affects in her newly published book “Sex”– Madonna wrote the letter apparently in response to last week’s press reports about her sudden dropping out of the planned production of “Angie, I Says.”

Adapted specifically for her by screenwriter Todd Graff from Avra Wing’s novel, Madonna had long been attached to the project at Fox, developing it with Roth, his production prexy Roger Birnbaum and producer Larry Brezner. As reported, the trio requested the project out of turnaround from Fox and Roth set it up at Disney under his new indie deal (Daily Variety, Nov. 23).

The reason cited for Madonna’s departure from the Jonathan Kaplan-directed project was that the March start date of “Angie” would conflict with her starring role in Abel Ferrara’s movie “Snake Eyes,” which her company Maverick plans to roll in February.

Insiders said Madonna was giving Roth “attitude” about the dates and wanted him to push back the start of “Angie” until after “Snake Eyes,” something he was unwilling to do since, as he earlier stated to Daily Variety, “We want to shoot this back east in the winter and have it come out in the winter” (Daily Variety, Dec. 8).

Roth and his producing partners reportedly had some trepidations that the yet-unproven actress could do the demanding role justice if she weren’t able to meet the four-week rehearsal schedule required for “Angie.”

Madonna wouldn’t agree to juggle the “Snake Eyes” schedule and bowed out. The role was then offered to her “A League of Their Own” co-star Geena Davis, with whom discussions were still ongoing as of late Friday, though sources believed she would pass on the project and Marisa Tomei would be in first position, if not Demi Moore.

In her letter to Roth, Madonna writes:

“After directing ‘Coupe de Ville,’ and being involved with projects like ‘Revenge of the Nerds,’ ‘Young Guns,’ ‘Exorcist III’ and ‘The Fabulous Stains,’ you are certainly qualified to speak about the art of acting and great filmmaking.”

She goes on to say: “I can understand why you had reservations about my ability. I can see why you would think Geena Davis the better actress for the part. After all she’s Italian and she has an edge. How foolish of me to think I had the ability to play a vulnerable character unlike anything I’ve done to date. I should just stay in the gutter where I belong working with low lifes like Abel Ferrara and being hated by the general public.”

In closing, Madonna added, “I’m just grateful that I had the chance to inspire the writer to write the screenplay that is sure to make you and Roger and Larry 3 very happy fellas in Hollywood.” It’s signed, “Love & kisses, Dita.”

Thought it was a hoax

When contacted about the letter on Friday, Roth said, “I assumed the whole thing was a hoax, so I didn’t pay much attention. Madonna made herself unavailable for this movie, and that’s her business.

“I’ve never met the woman, so I don’t really know what she’s talking about if this (the letter) is real — maybe someone told her something. She had the role and chose not to do it. We put her in the picture at Fox, allowed her to be attached during the development. We wanted to make this picture in the winter and she put another picture in front of it.”

Even after being informed by Daily Variety of Rosenberg’s confirmation that Madonna had indeed written the letter, Roth said he still wasn’t convinced the whole thing wasn’t a hoax.

Rosenberg said Madonna was unavailable to elaborate on the matter, that “the letter speaks for itself.”

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