Don't get Madsen, get even...

By Jesse Nash

For a man once voted the second Greatest Movie Villain of all time for his vicious role as Mr Blonde in 1992's Reservoir Dogs, Michael Madsen is obviously not a man to cross.
But for the last few years, Michael, 46, has been engaged in a difficult divorce from his second wife, actress Jeannine Bisignano, and a long custody battle for his sons.
Now he has returned to the screen in Kill Bill. Playing one of the deadly Viper Squad who tried to wipe out Uma Thurman on her wedding day, it is a role perfectly suited to Michael's tough guy image and moody looks.
We spoke to him about the bitter break up and how his life is now back on track with the release of the second volume of Tarantino's epic.

What's your view of Kill Bill, Michael?

MM:Kung Fu is an unusual subject for Quentin. I happen to think that Quentin Tarantino and Kung Fu is kind of a crazy combination. Nobody was prepared for this movie. It's like nothing you've ever seen before. People think they know Quentin, but this is something else.

It's been a tough time for you over the last few years.

MM:I've been spending a lot of time in court trying to get custody of my sons, and it's a terribly time-consuming thing, and it takes a lot of emotional energy. But I needed to do that.

So, you're suing your second wife?

MM:No, I'm not suing anyone. It's custody, and it's something that I got involved in because I had to, you know.

There is an 80 per cent divorce rate among celebrity couples. Does that surprise you?

MM:No, it doesn't. I thought that it was more like 90. I think that it turns into some kind of a circus. I had very bad representation, and I got a very bad deal. I had a horrendously raw deal.

Do you blame the lawyers as much as the marriage?

MM:Even more so, I think. I have some pretty good lawyers now, but back when I was getting a divorce, I didn't understand what was going on. So I had to spend the next six years trying to straighten everything out, but it's over now and things are much better. I can start refocusing on my career again and maybe get going. I know that Kill Bill with Quentin Tarantino will do it for me again.

Are you married now?

MM:Three times. I've got four boys, four sons. Well, I have one stepson, he's 15 now, my oldest is 12 and then I've got an eight-year-old, a seven-year-old and a five-year-old.

So, you've got all boys?

MM:Yeah, they're like a tribe of wild Indians.

Do they want to be actors? Do they want to be in the business?

MM:Well, one of them wants to be an actor.

What are their names?

MM:Calvin, Hudson, Christian and Max. Actor Harvey Keitel is Max's godfather. We were getting him christened, when the Father gives Harvey the baby. He's holding my son and the Father's got the water and he's going to dump it on Max's head. We're standing there, the Father looks at me and Harvey, and says, "Do you renounce Satan?" and I didn't say anything. I looked over at Harvey and he looked back at me. Then we turned to the Father and he said, "I need a verbal response". And I go, "Well, yeah", and Harvey goes, "Right, yeah, we do". That was a pretty funny moment.

How did you guys become friends?

MM:I met him when I was doing Thelma And Louise, but our scenes together in that movie got cut out to make more room for Mr Pitt. We became friendly on the set. I think that I aggravated him a little because I was trying to make a little more out of the scene than it was. But we still formed a friendship.

I've been told that you can be an intimidating character?

MM:Yeah, I guess that I can be moody. I'm a moody guy. You know, I would enjoy directing, I really would, and I think that the best kind of director is one who will just leave you alone and just let you get on with it.

Was there a moment when your parents said that they were proud of you?

MM:My mother, Elaine, is pretty happy about things. You know, it's nice that both my parents are still alive and it's nice that they've lived long enough to see my success.

Was there a time they didn't have that faith in you, then they saw something on screen and that changed?

MM:Well, my dad, Cal, wasn't really enamoured with the idea of me becoming an actor. He was a Chicago fireman for 30 years. I remember that he went to see the movie The Getaway and there's a scene where I get shot by Alec Baldwin, I fall off the cliff, but I'm not dead because I have the bullet-proof vest on.
My dad goes to see the movie, and I call him up afterwards, and I say, "Hey, what did you think about that picture?" And he goes, "Well, it was alright kid, but you didn't really have much in there." And I say, "What do you mean?" He goes, "Well, Jesus Christ, the guy shot you, you fell off the cliff, and that was it." And I said, "What do you mean?" He says, "Well, I walked out. I'm not going to sit in there and watch those other jerk-offs." I say, "Oh dad, if you would have glanced over your shoulder as you were running out of the door, you might have seen my thumb twitching because my character was still alive."
He was like, "Yeah, whatever. I suppose that I got to spend another $5 to go see the goddamn thing again now." I said, "Oh dad, just wait for it to come out on tape."

How old are your parents?

MM:My dad is 75, and my mom is like 60-something, and it's nice that they have survived long enough to see me do something with myself.
I've read Dustin Hoffman mention the fact that his dad wasn't able to see him in the The Graduate because he had passed away. I've thought a lot about that over the years and how fortunate I was that they were able to see me do something because now I look at my sons all the time, and I really...

You understand that paternal feeling?

MM:Yeah, I would like to know what they're going to do. I would like to go into a space capsule and come back to Earth in 40 years and see what all my boys are doing, see how all my sons are and what they're up to. Sometimes it makes me really sad because...

You know that you're not going to be there for it?

MM:No, it's the inevitability of everything, you know, it gets to me sometimes. I'm one of those morbid people that sits around brooding on things like that, you know. I'm still waiting for the spaceship to come down and give everyone one of those pills that makes you live for ever, you know.

Would you like to live for ever?

MM:(Laughing) Yeah, I think so.

Is that because you're having a good time?

MM:I'm happy with what God gave me.

You say that you're a tough guy, but inside you're a big softy.

MM:Yeah, I'm a big teddy bear, it's true. I'm just a family man.