Michael Madsen Interview

On Kill Bill: Volume 2

Michael Madsen hasnít always played bad guys, but that seems to be what we remember him for. Heís been in kidsí movies like Free Willy and played sympathetic husbands in films like Thelma and Lousie. But we only seem to remember him torturing cops and cutting off ears.

In Kill Bill: Volume 2, Madsen plays a different sort of villain.

As Budd, he is part of the Deadly Viper Assassin Squad, but heís sort of let himself go. Working as a bouncer in a strip club, he slacks off, drinks, and loafs around. In person, Madsen is soft spoken and contemplative. Hear all his thoughts in this interview.

Were you happy skip all the fight training?
MM:I was very happy to skip all that. I almost had to do it because he wrote me a different role in the beginning. I was going to play a character named Mr. Barrel and I help Uma with the Crazy 88. My mask it on a stick. That was my thing, Mr. Barrel's mask is on a stick. It was my idea actually. He's constantly talking, talking, then he puts it up. Then I had to do sword stuff. But then before they left for Beijing, Quentin rang me up on the phone one day and he goes, "You need to come up here. I want to tell you something." So I went up to his house and he said, "You know, I think that I want you to play Budd." I said, "Oh my God, Jesus, it's a much bigger part." In my mind, I'm thinking, "Damn, I don't have to go through all that training." So we read some Budd scenes and he changed his mind and I was cast as Budd. The character, Mr. Barrel was written out of the script.

How accurate was the film's portrayal of strip club life?
MM:Well, pretty accurate.

Did you do any research?
MM:I haven't been in one of those places in a while being that I'm married now and very happily. I don't think my wife would appreciate me being surrounded by naked women spreading their legs in my face, but I certainly in my younger daysÖ for goodness sake, haven't you?
Yes, but I've never been a bouncer. I've met a few of those guys. Very rough characters.

Is Mr. Blonde still your defining image?
MM:It's followed me around for a long time. I feel fortunate because if any actor has one movie that people remember, I think he's very fortunate, because let's face it. There are an awful lot of actors who have made an awful lot of films that are not memorable. So I feel blessed with that, but at the same time, I think it's really time for me to get off of it. I'm kind of hoping that from this day forward, people will say, "You're the guy from Kill Bill." It's progressive.

Will you have a Budd action figure?
MM:I don't know. I hope so. I got a big kick out of the Reservoir Dogs characters. It's really strange. I have four sons and they all got the Reservoir Dogs action figures, the G.I. Joe size ones. And it's a very strange thing to see yourself laying in the corner with a leg gone. I pick it up and I'm like "All right, get in here." They all come in, they're like, "What, Dad?" I'm like, "What happened to my leg?" I'm walking around the house looking for it. My son, Max, goes, "Dad has himself in his hand. Dad, you're holding Mr. Blonde. You have you in your hand." I'm like, "Yes, son. Oh my God." On bad guys and The Vega Brothers

You have so many credits every year, how often do you work?
MM:Well, a lot of those things are movies that I was only in for about 10 seconds and then they took my name and put it above the title. A lot of those things I did when I was going through a very heavy-duty custody battle with me ex-wife and I really wasn't paying attention to things I was choosing. I was only trying to keep a roof over everyone's heads. I was taking care of three different families, once upon a time, and the hemorrhaging of cash was unbelievable. I really had to take what came my way no matter what it was. I learned a big lesson from that. And there's an awful lot of things on that [data]base that I never did. There's an awful lot of projects listed that I'm going to be in that I never heard of. But you become a victim of that and there's nothing you can do about it really. If you meet somebody in a restaurant and they say, "Listen, I wrote this script. It's called The Headboard. Would you like to read it?" And if you say to somebody, "Call my agent," as soon as you walk away, they're going to go, "That guy's a d*ck. What a pr*ck. What a motherf*****, man. I bet he didn't say that to Quentin Tarantino. Call his agent, who does he think he is?" So I don't want tobe that way. I don't' want to be that guy. So I say, "Well, sure, I'll read it. Yeah, g*ddammit, I will." And I try to look at people's stuff. God forbid there's some great piece of material that I miss or that I don't do because I say, "Call me agent." So, I look at a lot of stuff, but the problem is once you take something from someone and look at it, the next thing you know, you're on the database connected to it and they're going out telling people, "I got Mike Madsen." You find out there's people raising money with your name. There's a guy who was working in a law firm, my attorney's office a couple years ago who ran off with $275,000. He ran off to Florida and I had to get the cops after the guy. He had bank accounts in Tampa, Florida where people were sending him money because he told them I was attached to the screenplay. It's just horrendous. You try to be nice and you get taken advantage of.

Do you have to stop being nice?
MM:You're damned if you do and damned if you don't. If you get out of here, they say you're a pr*ck. If you indulge them, you get robbed.

Will The Vega Brothers still happen?
MM:Well, I know Quentin wants to make it and I know he went through a period of time where he wasn't going to make it, because let's face it. John doesn't look the same as he did in Pulp Fiction. I sure as hell don't look the same as Mr. Blonde. So he was having a hard time with the concept of making a prequel. But he ran off to Mexico for a couple days and I don't know what he did when he was there, but when he got back, he called me. And he goes, "Michael, I changed my mind about The Vega Brothers, I think I figured out how to do it." And I said, "Really?" And he goes, "Yeah, listen to this." And he gave me the plot of how to actually do it. And I couldn't tell you because I couldn't tell you the way he explained it. Only he could tell it and make it make sense. It made sense to me but I would have trouble relating it to you. He does want to make it. I think we're going to do the war picture first.

Will you do a cameo in Species III?
MM:Hehe, no. Natasha is. I know, she told me that. I said, "Why?" We never should have did Species II, man. That thing is horrifying.

What reason did she give you?
MM:I didn't press her for that reason.

So are you okay with being a well known bad guy?
MM:Well, when I first started off being an actor, I really wanted to ride over the hill into the sunset after having saved the townspeople. I really would much prefer to be the romantic leading man and I tried to do that in Thelma and Lousie and thought to some extent I was successful, but I went ahead and did Reservoir Dogs after that and that was the end. So nobody ever gave me a shot to do anything like that. It's a little bit bewildering. I've got a few years left, so I'm thinking that maybe the best years of my career are still ahead of me. Maybe if I can convince enough directors. It's not easy because it's not just the director. There's the producers, and there's casting directors and there's financiers. They're all a bit myopic and a bit "That's who he is and there's nothing else he can do. Let's call on Hugh Grant."

At least they're still thinking of you.
MM:Yeah, but I really would rather not spend the rest of my career playing villains. It's not the way I want to go. It's not what I have in mind for myself and my sons are getting a little tired of seeing me die on screen. Like, "Dad, are you going to get killed again?" ~ Fred Topel