"Her problem now, if she wanted to appear in more films, is that she's getting a little long in the tooth, and Hollywood is rough, even for established actresses. Jessica Lange and Michelle Pfeiffer, who have real credentials, have trouble finding roles," says Christopher Sharrett, a professor of film studies at Seton Hall University.
As the pop diva celebrates her birthday tonight by performing at London's Wembley Arena, she remains a lightning rod for controversy. The mock crucifixion that has become part of her stage show inflamed religious leaders after a performance earlier this month at Olympic Stadium, just a few miles from the Vatican.
Still, even in her incarnation as the Material Mom, after nearly a quarter century of stardom, she thrives on her role as a provocateur. And even if big screen success has eluded her, she's succeeded in almost every sphere of entertainment, even writing best-selling children's books.
Madonna does have one cinematic project in the works. She'll voice the character Princess Selenia in the animated adventure "Arthur and the Invisibles," due out next year.
Of course, even if she never takes part in another live-action feature, Madonna will alway have an influence on Hollywood simply by being a larger-than-life icon. At the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards, she struck a pose as Marie Antoinette in a rendition of her hit "Vogue."
Now, Kirsten Dunst is tipping her cap to that performance, striking the same pose in the pages of Vogue magazine to promote her role in Sophia Coppola's upcoming "Marie Antoinette."
"We live in a society that deeply values celebrity and fame," Madonna said in her recent ABC Radio interview, trying to answer what drives her to keep working so hard.
"It's a question I ask of everybody, you know, 'Why are we running around like hamsters on those weeks? Why do we kill ourselves working so hard? What's it all about?' I do ask myself those questions."