You know Michael Madsen as a bad ass. The bad guy with the raspy voice who is ten times cooler than any one person should be allowed to be. He hacked off a cop's ear in Reservoir Dogs. He chased after Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin in The Getaway. He's in Kill Bill. And ironically, the man himself is a compassionate human with a large number of regrets. Madsen gets into these here.

MICHAEL MADSEN: I donít have a clock in here, so I donít know what time it is. I just got off the phone.

CHRIS NEUMER: No worries.

MICHAEL MADSEN: All right.

CHRIS NEUMER: Iíve got to tell you, I am so pissed off that youíre out in Malibu. I just got back from there yesterday. I was interviewing Altman at his place up there. And I got back late last night and got the call this morning that I was going to talk to youÖ and you were in Malibu. I was like, "Are you kidding me?" I couldnít believe it.

MICHAEL MADSEN: (laughs)

CHRIS NEUMER: After all that travel, here we are doing a phoner.

MICHAEL MADSEN: Yeah, we could have chilled out out there.

CHRIS NEUMER: I figure though that if this is the worst thing that happens to me today, Iím doing all right.

MICHAEL MADSEN: You know, thereís a lot of crap going on in this world.

CHRIS NEUMER: Thatís what Iím saying. Youíre in Malibu right now?

MICHAEL MADSEN: No, Iím back in Hollywood in my office.

CHRIS NEUMER: And I know youíre originally from Chicago. Where in Chicago?

MICHAEL MADSEN: Well, my father was a fireman and he was at 81st and Ashland, and we kind of moved around all throughout Chicago. After that we lived on Belmont and Clark, near Wrigley Field, then we moved out to the suburbs: Evanston. My dad later was in Blue Island and Evergreen Park.

CHRIS NEUMER: You guys really did jump around a lot.

MICHAEL MADSEN: Yeah, we were all over the place.

CHRIS NEUMER: That must have been hell in high school

MICHAEL MADSEN: (laughs) My high school days were kind of a blur. All I wanted to do was race cars and I fell asleep in Driverís Ed class. I wasnít a great student. I played football for a while, that was about it.

CHRIS NEUMER: Which school did you attend most? Which one were you talking about?

MICHAEL MADSEN: Evanston.

CHRIS NEUMER: I went to Oak Park, so Iím interested. If youíd said Fenwick, weíd have to have words. And then you were at Steppenwolf for a while too, werenít you?

MICHAEL MADSEN: Yeah, I was. I went there for a little while. I took scene study classes there for a little while and did one showcase with an invited audience and did one production of Of Mice and Men with them. Interesting groups of guys, Terry Kinney and Jeff Perry.

CHRIS NEUMER: You got in right when it was getting started.

MICHAEL MADSEN: Yeah, it was definitely in their infancy. A lot of big talent over there. John was, at that time, just stepping out. He was just at the time that I was there; he had one foot out the door. He actually sent me a brochure to study with them in scene study class. In fact, I saved it and I still have it, but it was postmarked on my birthday, which I thought was ironic at the time.

CHRIS NEUMER: How was he aware that you were interested in acting? John Malkovich just didnít, out of the blue, happen to send you a brochure, did he?

MICHAEL MADSEN: I had gone with a friend of mine to a production of Of Mice and Men that John was doing with Gary Sinise. John was playing Lenny and I had been so impressed by what I saw, being that I had been a somewhat of an insane idea in my mind that I wanted to be an actor, that I had gone back stage to talk to John after the production and I mentioned to him that I had thought about acting and he asked me to write down my address on a piece of paper, which I did, never expecting to hear from him. A couple of weeks later, I got a thing in the mail, so I realized that he was a little bit more than someone who was concerned about themselves. He had taken the time to answer this kid who had wandered back there.

CHRIS NEUMER: And expressed an interest in getting involved.

MICHAEL MADSEN: Thereís something there, there really is.

CHRIS NEUMER: Itís always nice when people take more than just the required interest in you, especially to help promote the art.

MICHAEL MADSEN: To this day, I continue to be amazed by people who follow through with what they say theyíre going to do.

CHRIS NEUMER: Hey, I was just in LA, I know what youíre saying. I couldnít even get my waiters to bring me the correct food that Iíd ordered. I was amazed trying to do some research on you, how little there is out there on you.

MICHAEL MADSEN: The problem is that most of the things Iíve talked about have been recycled over and over and over and over and over again. Everyone just thinks that Iím a tough guy from Chicago and itís like "Okay, itís just so tired already." Itís just been over talked about, itís like, Good God, you know? I suppose I havenít gone into too much depth with anybody aboutĖI think part of the problem is that I never get asked any provocative questions. Not that I want toĖitís not that I want someone to make a biography about me, but I think that itís kind of hard anyway, but how much does one need to have out there about them anyway?

CHRIS NEUMER: The only interview I found with youĖand Iím always skeptical of things like thisĖwas where the guy was saying that you had lost your virginity at the age of 13 to a 28 years old woman.

MICHAEL MADSEN: Yeah, thatís true. I wrote a book of short stories and poems and that short story is in the book about that. With the wayward woman and thatís where it came from.

CHRIS NEUMER: With that one bit of information under my belt, I felt prepared to do the interview. I thought, "Now that I know this, we can talk acting." Nothing about preparing for a scene or actingĖ

MICHAEL MADSEN: I was watching TV while I was fucking her, I remember that.

CHRIS NEUMER: Thatís going to be a pull quote right there.

MICHAEL MADSEN: Kind of strange.

CHRIS NEUMER: So you were thinking about voiceovers thenÖ

MICHAEL MADSEN: (laughs) It was just one of those things that sticks in your mind for some reason. I remember, for no particular reason.

CHRIS NEUMER: One thing, and I assume youíre doing this interview for the Reservoir Dogs DVDĖ

MICHAEL MADSEN: Yeah, I guess.

CHRIS NEUMER: I hadĖ

MICHAEL MADSEN: Itís the only reason that anyone wants to talk to me recently, soÖ

CHRIS NEUMER: Yeah, that was my point. The very day that Artisan was pitching me on this interview, I had read a quote of yours in the Sun Times where you were saying that all anyone ever wanted to talk to you about was Reservoir Dogs and the scene where youíre cutting the guys ear off.

MICHAEL MADSEN: You know what? Iíve made a lot of pictures and Iíve done some pretty good pictures and I never considered the scenes in Dogs to be that violent. For some reason, Iím getting ready to make another picture with Tarantino, and so weíre going to be reunited again and weíll see if lightening strikes twice. I have to believe that an actor is only as good as the filmmaker heís associated with. Out of the sixty five pictures that Iíve made, I think that there are only five that are any good, you know?

CHRIS NEUMER: With a statement like that you have to elaborate. Which movies?

MICHAEL MADSEN: (laughs) I.. okayÖ now that Iíve said it, let me think. I liked Donnie Brasco. I think Donnie Brascoís a good picture, but I donít think it was released right. I think that they should have handled the release of that a little differently. I liked The Getaway, I think The Getaway is pretty good. It was exciting. I donít think that itís comparable to the original by any stretch of the imagination, but I still think it stands on its own.

CHRIS NEUMER: The chase scene in that was pretty good.

MICHAEL MADSEN: I think it was a little bit more exciting than given credit for. I like a picture that I made with Val Kilmer many, many years ago called Kill Me Again. Of course I liked Thelma & Louise, which is one of the few times Iíve played a sympathetic male character.

CHRIS NEUMER: Ironically, that was the film I was introduced to you on. So after that, I couldnít understand why this good hearted person had turned into this chain-smoking bad guy.

MICHAEL MADSEN: Well, the only other time I was able to do that was in Free Willy, I was the father in Free Willy. And to be honest with you, Iíd much rather ride off into the sunset a little more often in acting. If somebody would get me on the screen with some of the actresses who are currently enjoying cinema success, I wish that some of the studios could realize that pairing me up with some of them would work.

CHRIS NEUMER: And that in your bad guy roles youíre just acting.

MICHAEL MADSEN: Iím just, you know, the whole bad guy thing is kind of a been there done that kind of thing and I think Iíve made my mark with that. Not that I donít want to do it anymore, but I do have to say that it rare that you read anything or get offered anything that is good.

CHRIS NEUMER: Thatís something that Iíve heard from a lot of different actors and other film people that Iíve spoken to. Thereís almost an ongoing trend now that if you canít find what youíre looking for, you write it yourself.

MICHAEL MADSEN: Well, Iíve written a screenplay about Pretty Boy Floyd, the bank robber during the thirties, and Iíve been trying to get it done for the last four years. Of course, you know, itís virtually impossible because no one wants to make a bio pic, as they refer to it, and there seems to be kind of a reluctance of anyone to take it on because they donít understand the popularity or what would be the popularity of that character, but I think that theyíre missing the boat. Charlie Floyd was not only romantic, he was a folk hero. I think itís just going to be a matter of, I need to have a few pictures come out and be successful and then itíll be a lot easier to make Charlie Floyd.

CHRIS NEUMER: Success always begets success. Hopefully Kill Bill willĖ

MICHAEL MADSEN: And then of course everyone wants to take credit for it. No one will ever remember that you couldnít get them to answer the phone when your pictures were tanking.

CHRIS NEUMER: I feel you there. It seems interesting that the ear scene is the most talked of in your career andĖ

MICHAEL MADSEN: Kind of ironic, isnít it? If a family is walking down the street and the kids recognize me from Free Willy, the parents donít want the kids to go near me because they know me from reservoir dogs. (laughs) Thereís kind of a dichotomy.

CHRIS NEUMER: Itís a great image: two kids trying to run over to you and their parents yanking them back.

MICHAEL MADSEN: Itís Mr. Blonde! Get away from him! Listen, you know, Reservoir Dogs is a classic film. Itís Tarantino at his best and in his beginning and I think it stands on its own. I think it gets better with time and I think it gained a lot of steam over the years. Every time I see it, I see things that I hadnít seen the last time I watched it.

CHRIS NEUMER: Thatís the mark of a good film.

MICHAEL MADSEN: Yes it is. Iím anxious to get back to work with Quentin again.

CHRIS NEUMER: I think everybody in America feels the same way, or at least seeing what the work results in. I had wanted to ask you what other scenes in your body of sixty five works, what other scenes have stood out in your mind?

MICHAEL MADSEN: A lot of thins Iíve done have been cut out of pictures Iíve done for various reasons, for time or for intimidation or for story or plot, upstaging or for whatever you may want to imagineĖ

CHRIS NEUMER: By upstage, you mean you were just too good for the scene?

MICHAEL MADSEN: Sometimes there are scenes that are done that become a little bit more focused than the filmmaker or film produced would have liked to have for a supporting actor or supporting character. So they are decided to be not in the picture. Itís a storyline kind of thing, I suppose itís all in the eye of the beholder.

CHRIS NEUMER: Thatís why I was asking you. In this case, youíre the beholder.

MICHAEL MADSEN: Right. I think some of the other films I mentioned, the other ones I think are good, have scenes that are to me, just as interesting as Mr. Blonde, but you know, itísĖIíve still got a few left in me, I suppose. Maybe I have yet to do something that is as memorable.

CHRIS NEUMER: Itís always interesting to talk toĖI was speaking to the actor Michael Gross a while back, he played the dad on Family Ties, and he was complaining about how everyone sees him as the dad on Family Ties, and I pose the same type of question to you. Everyone sees you as Mr. Blonde, and I can see how playing Mr. Blonde might be an anchor around your neck, but on the other hand do you look at it as a blessing that opened up a lot of other doors for you?

MICHAEL MADSEN: I think any actor who has any role that they are remembered for is a positive thing. Itís obviously not something to be angry about. Iíve been able to play many other parts, like I said, if youíve done one picture in your whole career that youíre remembered for, I think youíre blessed.

CHRIS NEUMER: And youíve got at least three of those.

MICHAEL MADSEN: I hope so.

CHRIS NEUMER: I was just thinking of the five you had mentioned.

MICHAEL MADSEN: In my own egotistical fanaticism, I suppose I believe that the five I mentioned are good, but everyone has their own opinion.

CHRIS NEUMER: Youíve been quite prolific of late. I havenít been able to keep up with all the titles that youíve been credited with working on. IMDB has you credited with 26 films since 2000.

MICHAEL MADSEN: A lot of the ones on the Internet are pictures that never got made. A lot of the other ones are pictures that Iím in for about five minutes. And pictures that I was taken advantage of by independent filmmakers who use my name to promote their garbage. And by guys who I worked two days for and went straight to video and people who I tried to do favors for and get their movies made and I ended up getting listed as being in the movie when in fact itís just a walk on or walk through. A lot of those are kind of evasive in their reality of how much I was involved.

CHRIS NEUMER: How do you work with that now?

MICHAEL MADSEN: The way I work with that now is I donít do it anymore. I donít get involved with those kinds of things anymore. Iím trying to be careful with the projects I get involved with.

CHRIS NEUMER: going deeper, what kinds of projects are you now trying to get involved with?

MICHAEL MADSEN: Iím doing a western right now. Iím shooting a great big French Western right now called Blueberry that is being shot in Mexico and Paris and Spain. Iím halfway though that right now and when Iím finished with that Iím going to do Tarantinoís picture. I did the Bond thing and I got a big comedy that I did for David Zucker called The Guest that should be coming out pretty soon. Those are the thingsÖ

CHRIS NEUMER: And those donít seem to be small indie films where you can get taken advantage of.

MICHAEL MADSEN: No, no. those are full on.

CHRIS NEUMER: So Michael Madsenís name and face will definitely be getting some air time soon.

MICHAEL MADSEN: (laughs)

CHRIS NEUMER: I remember reading that you had gotten involved with Wyatt Earp because youíd never done a western beforeĖ

MICHAEL MADSEN: The thing with Wyatt Earp was, I think every guy in that picture did it because they wanted to walk down the streets of the OK Corral. Thatís part of history. Thatís a historical event that actually happened. I remember standing on top of the street with Dennis Quaid on the morning that we started to shoot this sequence and he said, "Letís face it, what weíre about to do is the reason that weíre all here." And he was right and we all knew he was. It was kind of ironic, if any of us had known how far it was down to the OK Corral, then we would have taken the horses.

CHRIS NEUMER: It was that far?

MICHAEL MADSEN: I might have even grabbed a cab. Having seen the movie, it was a long boring exercise in nothingness, soÖ But I still have to say that doing something that was historically accurate and had to do with history was very appealing to me.

CHRIS NEUMER: It just seems interesting that you pick the genre youíre getting into and not the part, because you were originally supposed to play the Dennis Quaid, right?

MICHAEL MADSEN: When I met Larry [Kasdan], I wanted to play Doc Holliday, thatís true. I went to himĖI was shooting The Getaway and had come back to Los Angeles for a few days, I was halfway through The GetawayĖI heard someone was making a western, Iíve played a lot of gangsters and bad guys and I wanted to do a western and I wanted to be in Wyatt Earp, but I wanted to play Doc Holliday, having watched Kirk Douglas play Doc Holliday in Gun fight at the OK Corral. Which is one of the male performances of that genre that was ever put on film. I donít think anyone is ever going to repeat that. Dennis didnít even come close. Not that thereís anyone else, not even Victor Mature. Nobodyís ever done that and nobody ever will, but I wanted to take my shot at it. So when I saw Larry, I told him that I wanted to play Doc Holliday. For whatever reason, I ended up as Virgil, which was fine. I went to where he was buried, I did the best I could with the part, but it was what it was at the end of the day. These things are out of your control.

Chris Neumer
(c) Stumped, 1998-2003

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