Michael Madsen is a natural storyteller. Sure, most actors may have a knack for it, but the way Madsen builds a story up and lays the punch line makes you feel like you're sitting across from Frank Sinatra and he's telling the Rat Pack about his latest escapade. Whether it be about how Quentin Tarantino wrote on-the-spot dialogue for a character in order to convince Madsen to take off his cherished hat in "Kill Bill," or his first meeting with David Carradine, Madsen has the ability to make you feel like one of the gang listening in as he tells a story about a favorite pal.
Don't take our word for it, here's Madsen in his own words for you to judge for yourself.
How a Hat Gave Larry Bishop a Role in "Kill Bill":
"That whole scene [with Larry Bishop as Budd's boss] was made up anyway on the spur of the moment. It was definitely not in the screenplay. I wanted to wear that freakin' hat, and Quentin did not like that hat. I mean, I owe half my performance to that hat and I was stuck on the damn thing. I bought that hat in Mexico when I was making 'Blueberry' and I had become kind of attached to it emotionally. And so, when we started 'Kill Bill,' damn, I was going to wear that Stetson. And I was going to convince Quentin, [but] he never really liked it so he wrote a character into the story who was going to tell me to take it off. It's mind boggling when you think about it. I realized it by having him tell me to do that, it kind of gave my character a conscious and it gave me somewhere to go with Bud -- so it's kind of an interesting thing that happened."
On Playing the Villain:
"I don't necessarily like playing the villain. I'd much rather be the guy who rides off in the sunset over the hill after saving the people in the town from the bad guys. I'd like to make a picture like 'Roman Holiday,' I'd like to do a remake of 'Shane,' but unfortunately I'm not really looked upon that way by the powers that make movies, so ... I have to put a roof over my children's head and I have to take a job where I can get it and every once in a while I get something like this, where even though it's a villain, at least it's well-written, at least it's going to be well made. It's a lot easier to swallow that when you know that it's going to be well made. There's nothing worse than playing a villain in a bad movie. Being a bad guy in a bad movie is a major drag, oh my God."
Being Passed over for Mel:
"I remember I went to a story meeting one time for the remake of the Western 'Shane.' And I was with the producer, you know. And the whole time I was there I was thinking that he was thinking of me to play Shane, you know? That's why I'm here at this meeting. And it just went on and on and he was telling me about all of his ideas for 'Shane' and I was like, 'Yeah, yeah,' and I was recalling scenes from the original film and all that -- I really believed it. [laughs] At the end of the meeting, I had to stick my big foot in my big mouth and I said, 'So, uh, who are you thinking of for Shane?' obviously. And he goes. 'Well there's only one guy that could do it -- Mel Gibson. I really hope Mel is interested in the screenplay.' I go, 'Oh, my God, my God -- I've been sitting here for an hour talking to you man.'
Meeting David Carradine:
"I don't know, six or seven years ago I was kind of on a downswing in my career, and I guess maybe David was too and there was a low budget director who gave me a role in a movie that he said David was in -- that never got finished, by the way. We only shot for two or three days and that was about it, but I had to do this scene with David and he played this character in a white suit, and he had long cigarettes -- he had a whole character that he developed, and I had a beard and a moustache for my character. I hadn't even read the script, ok? It was one of those jobs. And the script didn't make any sense anyway. And in the scene, he and I were supposed to be talking about this character named Larry. So I was like, 'So, what's become of Larry?' And he says, 'Yeah, they shot him. It's over. Yeah. Yeah. Poor Larry. He's done.' And I was like, 'Yeah, yeah, right. Well, uh, I've got to get going, you know?'"
"So I get up and I was out in my trailer and I was thinking, 'G**d**n. I'm making a movie with David Carradine and it's "Kung Fu."' You know? And I realized that I'm being really disrespectful and I'm being really ignorant right now. This is my career and I'm working with David. G**d**n, I'm going to read this thing man and I'm going to understand who everyone is and I'm going read this thing and I'm going to know what I'm doing when I get back on that set. Even though I know this thing's going to go straight to video, no one's going to see it; I'm going to rise to the occasion. For the $10 I got to make it, I'm going to do a good job. And, by God, I sat there and it took me an hour and I read the script from cover to cover and I was like, I sort of knew what was going on. And I went back to the set and it was David's shot and it was his coverage and we had to sit at this table and he had this cane -- he had this whole thing going on -- then I set down at the table and they're setting up his shot and he had a very quizzical look on his face and I go, 'What's the matter?' And he leans over to me and he goes, 'Michael.' And I go, 'What?' 'Who the hell is Larry?' True story."