Michael Madsen of Driv3r

Featured interview by Russell Frushtick, contributing editor

Michael Madsen is a scary man...well, at least on film. Who knew that a little ear severing would do so much for someone's career? More recently, Madsen has been doing some work off screen, specifically voice-overs in video games. He was wise guy Toni Ciprianni in Grand Theft Auto 3 and played the broken down cop, Rafferty, in True Crime. His latest role is that of Tanner, the protagonist of DRIV3R, and a major badass to boot. We took a break from the hustle and the bustle of Atari's launch event for the game and sat down for an up close and personal chat with Mr. Blonde, himself.

UGO: So you've done some work before in video games with True Crime and GTA 3-

MICHAEL MADSEN: Yeah, but this is the only one that's really, you know, I don't do like ten lines or twelve lines in the video game. You know, I like to get more involved in the voice over thing, and these guys let me play the hero of the game [Tanner], so it was a little more interesting for me.

UGO: You think there's something to this convergence between Hollywood and video games?

MICHAEL: Yeah, yeah, I think there is, man. I mean it's, you know, if I go to do a voice over for something, I don't have to shave when I go to the studio. And it's kind of a collaboration with the animation and the director, the way that they set it up. And I like being in the booth with the headphones on. You know, it's cool, man. It's a way to make an artistic contribution to something without the pressure of being in front of the camera.

UGO: How did being the main character of a game differ from your past experience in supporting roles?

MICHAEL: Well, they brought me in more with more of a collaboration of what the game was about. The other ones that I did it was just like a blind reading, hired to recite dialog. You know, they brought me in more with what the game was going to be about. So it made it more artistically fun to do.

UGO: Who would win in a fight, your character from DRIV3R or the GTA guy?

MICHAEL: You mean Ray Liotta?

UGO: Uh...sure!

MICHAEL: I could kick his ass in about ten seconds.

UGO: What about Tanner vs. Mr. Blonde?

MICHAEL: I might have a little more trouble with Mr. Blonde.

UGO: OK, and what about Tanner vs. Budd from Kill Bill?

MICHAEL: Budd...wow. I think Budd might give...wow! I think Budd and Tanner might be an idea for a whole new game.

UGO: And what about the dad from Free Willy?

MICHAEL: Oh, I think the dad from Free Willy ought to stay out of the video game business.

UGO: If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be and why?

MICHAEL: Immortality. So I can watch all of my sons grow up, and give them everything they need for the rest of their lives.

UGO: Are your sons into video games at all?

MICHAEL: Yeah, very much. They all play them, they've got a whole bunch of them. It's part of the reason that attracted me to this in the first place. I thought my boys would get a good kick out of hearing their dad's voice in a video game.

UGO: What's your favorite movie car chase of all time?

MICHAEL: Bullitt. Never been duplicated. Often tried but never achieved. There's a simplicity of that car chase. In fact, it was filmed here in San Francisco and I know that Steve [McQueen] wasn't supposed to do some of the driving because the insurance company didn't want him in the car, so him and Bud Ekins [Bullitt's stunt driver] went out at 6:30 in the morning and shot a bunch of stuff, and that's where most of that footage comes from. And I'm good friends with Steve's son, Chad, and Chad is a great driver in his own right. I just think, The French Connection got pretty close. But everyone's been trying for years to duplicate that chase scene and they're never going to do it. It's never going to happen. It was the greatest car chase ever shot and will probably always remain so.