Guy Ritchie Still Loves Madonna

Guy Ritchie Still Loves Madonna
Guy Ritchie and Madonna
Jason Kempin/WireImage

10/07/2009 AT 02:00 PM EDT

Less than a year after he officially split with his wife of eight years, Madonna, Guy Ritchie can't seem to quite escape her orbit.

"And, of course, here you go: I still love her," the director of the upcoming Sherlock Holmes tells Esquire. "But she's retarded, too," he adds.

Still, admiration is apparently the foremost of the emotions he feels for his ex-wife, and he would confidently bet on her in a match up against any number of twentysomething pretenders to her throne as queen of pop.

"She's a manifester, if there ever was one," he says. "First-rate manifester. Madonna makes things happen. Put Madonna up against any 23-year-old, she'll outwork them, outdance them, outperform them."

That's not enough, however, to cause Ritchie to include any Madonna songs on his iPod: the Material Girl's repertoire is conspicuously missing from his playlists, he says.

But then again, Ritchie, 41, always thought of Madonna firstly as his wife. And so, for a time, did their shared hometown of London.

"Madonna, when she came in here, it was old-school London," Ritchie says. "No one bothered her. 'Hello, darling. How are you, darling? What can we get you?' It was fundamental, old-school. It didn't matter who she was. She was my wife."

And, he implies, she was also at last partially responsible for his biggest flop, 2002's Swept Away, which starred Madonna as a shipwrecked trophy wife – and was a critical and box-office disaster.

"My sensibility is accessible. The first two accessible movies I made, Lock, Stock [and Two Smoking Barrels] and Snatch, they are accessible," he says. "The next two aren't accessible ... Swept Away, which, well, everyone gets confused on, because of Madonna."

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