MICHAEL MADSEN ON CARS, TARANTINO, AND HOT SAUCE
In the span of just one year, Michael Madsen went from an orca-sympathizing father in Free Willy to an ear-chopping lunatic in Reservoir Dogs. He disappeared into each role, and we say that with high praise. How many other actors could pull off such a transition? The list is short.
The easy-to-talk-to, free-wheeling Madsen admits that Quentin Tarantino gave him his career—his roles as Mr. Blonde in Dogs and Budd in Kill Bill have attached a “tough-guy” image, but it’s one he doesn’t seem to mind much. He never expected this to be his life’s work, anyway. (More on that below.)
When you separate the man and the actor, you see a regular guy from the South Side of Chicago who’s a father and lover of cars. Earlier this week we learned just that, plus got to chat with Mr. Madsen on all things Tarantino, Caddys, and hot sauce.
When I was growing up a lot of the “cool” guys in school whose parents had money were driving around in their Trans Ams and their fancy hot rods. Me and my buddies were building Road Runners and Super Bees in our backyards. I was a Dodge boy. I mean we had grocery-getters. We were swapping motors with each other, swapping out transmissions from everything in a Plymouth and a Dodge interchangeably. That was my thing. I never really wanted to be a movie actor…Richard Petty was my hero.
Chicago is certainly not Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, but I’ve never been the kind of guy who walks around looking for trouble.
Right, but then…Then when we went out to shoot the strip club, [QT] handed me some hand-written scenes where he tells me to take off the hat. So you see, it was never in the script. It was never in there to begin with, but once I wore the damn thing, he wrote a scene where I had to take it off. It really kind of sums it up. I mean that’s the kind of genius that he is. He knew that I, Michael Madsen, wanted to wear the hat. So he let me wear it, but when he wrote a scene where I had to take it off, well, then I had to take it off! It wasn’t a debate anymore, but he realized that taking off the hat would emotionally show on screen in my character.Because I’m not that good of an actor, I couldn’t have pretended, ‘Oh, I don’t want to take this hat off.’ I didn’t want to take it off. You can see it on my face. That’s the thing with me and him. He really knows how to get me to come across in a scene, and he knows what to do to make it happen.
That’s the kind of genius that Quentin is.
That scene turned out to be kind of an interesting moment for Budd, because he feels real bad when he takes that thing off, you know? It gives his character a conscience. It actually makes him likeable in a really strange way. Considering the things that Budd does, the fact that you actually like him because you feel sorry for him because he had to take his hat off is really kind of mind-boggling.
What’s your biggest vice?Wow, that’s a big one. It’s funny, the answer to that question would change like four times over the years. I would say…I don’t have any negative vices. I’m not running around doing any bad things anymore.
I gave the car to my older sister, and she kept it in her garage in Wisconsin for 10 years. When I got it back, it had flat tires, and rats had eaten its interior.
We guess that’s one way to live your life.
Well we can put it this way: I’ve had a lot of them over the years, but right now, I’m vice-less.
How does it make you feel that anytime we hear “Stuck in the Middle With You,” it makes us think of you cutting off that dude’s ear?Well I’ll tell you the true story. When we shot that picture, that scene was going to have The Punishers. It was gonna be “Ballroom Blitz.” Quentin did not have the rights to “Stuck in the Middle.” But when we shot that scene—we did that four times, from like four different angles—I knew that he really wanted “Stuck in the Middle,” and so I actually sang it in the wide shot. I sang it to a play-back because they had a boombox on the set and they played it for me. But the truth is, we didn’t actually have the rights until later.
I’d love to have a hot sauce empire.
One last question and we’ll let you go. What does America not know about you?
I feel lucky and I’m very conscious of being lucky. I say my prayers at night. I’m a complicated cat. I’m bewildered how I got into the film business. I mean, I’m a juvenile delinquent from Chicago. I was a blue collar kid, and I loved movies. The chances of me being able to do this were probably a billion-to-one.
2 thoughts on “MICHAEL MADSEN ON CARS, TARANTINO, AND HOT SAUCE”
hellonice tgpeyo :-)
Great job on this. My wife and I were just watching Kill Bill after renltcey watching Sergio Leone movies, so this subject was heavy on our minds. The remote collaboration thing is happening pretty often with me as well. I’m helping an editor in LA with visual effects on a Moby music video via dropbox too.