Michael Madsen Is a Busy Bad Guy

The most threatening actor in Hollywood discusses his new projects with Quentin Tarantino and Ben Stiller.


Michael Madsen is a busy man. In addition to working on 10 independent features over the last few months, the quintessential Hollywood bad guy is preparing to team up for the fourth time with Quentin Tarantino on the highly publicized, post-Civil War drama The Hateful Eight. As though that isn’t enough, Madsen is also filming Big Time in Hollywood, FL, a Ben Stiller-produced series for Comedy Central set to debut in 2015. On that show, Madsen will play an alcoholic private eye, who he says is essentially a pastiche of characters he’s played in the past. That means that – like Mr. Blonde from Reservoir Dogs, Virgil Earp from Wyatt Earp, and Sidewinder from Kill Bill, Madsen’s latest wild-eyed, whiskey-soaked wacko will have that guttural snarl, that air of bemused malice. He will be, in short, a Madsen creation.

Hollywood’s go-to psychopath sat down with Maxim to talk about working with Tarantino, Stiller, and – because why the hell not – Justin Bieber.

You spent time at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago with John Malkovich and Gary Sinise. How did that come about and what was it like?
The reason I did it was because I had seen a performance of “Of Mice and Men” by John and Gary as George and Lenny and it was the first time I’d ever seen any performance live as opposed to watching actors in a movie. I had approached John after the show – just walked backstage… and I told him I was thinking about being an actor and he sent me a brochure for classes…. I went there for maybe four of five months and ended up doing a production of Of Mice and Men.

I’ve only seen John Malkovich once in the last 20 years since I left Chicago and I don’t believe I’ve ever run into Gary. I tried to call Gary a couple of times and I got no answer from him. Actually I don’t think he’s very fond of me for some strange reason.

Did you always want to act?
My big dream in life was to be Richard Petty. I wanted to run NASCAR. That was my big boyhood dream…. But I always had a thing about movies. I loved Humphrey Bogart pictures and James Cagney pictures. I had this idea in my brain that I could be an actor, but obviously, most people that I knew thought I was insane.

You’ve played no shortage of characters in or around the mob through your career. Why do you seem to gravitate toward these roles?
I understood the philosophy of the villain. I just kind of did. I quickly got the idea that bad guys don’t necessarily think that they’re bad.

Playing bad guys is fun. The reason is because you don’t have a lot of boundaries on you. When you’re playing a villain, you can pretty much get away with a lot of different antics and a lot of different dialog and a lot of different things…. If you’re the leading man or if you’re a good guy, you have some societal parameters on what you can say and do.

You’ve been in three Quentin Tarantino movies you’ll be in a fourth with The Hateful Eight. Talk about what he’s meant to you and your career.
In a way, he created me. He really did. He understood me as an actor. I understood what he wanted me to do, and we have a similar philosophy of film characters.

Does it concern you that The Hateful Eight script was leaked online?
When the day comes that people underestimate Quentin Tarantino, I think we all just ought to turn in our six shooters at the desk and tie up the horses and go away. Underestimating Quentin is a big mistake….He’s obviously going to rewrite a lot of stuff that nobody’s going to see or hear about until the film comes out.

What did you learn from doing the stage reading of The Hateful Eight earlier in the year?
It was a great way to begin a camaraderie between the actors. It was great to sit with Quentin and rehearse and go through the scenes and have him guide us through it. He becomes a Big Papa. He becomes the father figure of the situation. When you sit there and you listen to him, he has an infectious kind of energy that’s really kind of inspiring.

Talk about being in a comedy in the new Comedy Central show Big Time in Hollywood, FL?
I’m doing a parody of a bad guy in that show. I’m playing a dangerous guy, but it’s a spoof of a dangerous person. I’m actually making fun of all the characters that I’ve played over the years just by the fact that they cast me in the role.

I was actually kind of surprised when they called me for the Stiller thing because I didn’t imagine that anyone could perceive me being able to do that.

You acted in a Justin Bieber music video in which he tried to date your daughter and you told him to “hit the road.” If you had a daughter in real life, would you do the same thing?
Of course I would. I think that’s why they gave me the part.

You were on the reality show Celebrity Big Brother in England a couple years ago. Why did you agree to do reality TV?
If you knew how much money I got for that, you would have done it too.


9 thoughts on “Michael Madsen Is a Busy Bad Guy

  1. Will you be making a series? I really hope so soon needing my Michael Madsen fix

    • Personally I think there is one way that a sequal to Pulp Fiction could be plsoibse. I agree that sequels suck and should usually be avoided. However, I think that Q.T. could make a sequel to Pulp Fiction focusing on Samuel L. Jackson’s charecter, I can’t think of the charecter’s name off hand. You see in Pulp Fiction that he leaves because of devine intervention and i think this sets up for a good sequel that could show his further adventures after the events of Pulp Fiction.

  2. Look forward to seeing the complete project with Tarantino. Unlike most actors, I’ve never seen you in a bad film. There’s other great actors and from time-to-time, they have a bad one…not you.

    All the best. Can’t wait to see The Hateful Eight. By the way, my ex was the basis of a character in one of your films, Donnie Brasco… Nicky.

    • He just kinda threw that out in an interview retnlcey. It wasn’t an announcement of any kind whatsoever, just a musing. Artists tend to have dozens of ideas for projects they just don’t have time for and it’s what they tend to talk about. I think all Tarantino’s unmade movies come from musings during interviews. I mean, he’s never really announced that he was gonna make Vega Brothers, there was no official announcement for the animated Kill Bill prequels, etc. The only thing he technically announced retnlcey was Grindhouse.

  3. Pulp Fiction is too good of a movie to have a sequel. The movie laeves you wondering what happened to Jules, Butch and Marsalis(how medieval did he get?)Who really cares that’s what’s so good about the movie. It didn’t leave you in limbo, it gave you as much as you needed, and nothing more. I for one feel that Quentin can’t lose, but if he were gonna make a part.2it should have came out already. Kill Bill 2 will be enough. He ended Vol.1 like a soap opera on Friday afternoon, shitty part about that is that you wait till Feburary to see the conclusion. I’m patiently waiting for Vol.2 just as I did for Matrix-Reloaded. No Pulp 2, let it go down in history as on of greatest movies ever made.

    • i agree with the rest of you all, tarantino is a fukin great dioectrr and writer i love all of his movies will continue to be a big fan i have just recently jumped on the qt band wagon but i wish i would of been following him years ago ..i wish he had more acting roles is just me or in pulp fiction during the bonnie situation .is qt just fukin hilirious i could not stop laughin after his everyline . ahh here ya go mr. woolfe .ahhh fuk i luv it what u guys think?

      • O My God .I couldn’t ask for ayinhntg better than this. The scenes with Pai Mei in Vol. 2 were some of the best I have ever seen in ANY kung fu movie. Also, the fight scene at the end of vol. 1 still gives me goosebumps. Tarantino can singlehandedly bring these movies back if he wants. No offense to modern Martial art’s flicks that have been reduced to either period pieces where people float on top of water, or techno induced modern action movies. Knowing Tarantino he’ll probably bring back some old school cats to star in the film. Gordon Liu for sure, and maybe even Jackie Chan will take a pay cut and be a part of a cult film. Just the news of it is great though, I’m glad people are talking about it.

      • This boxset was puelsihbd in 2009 as a build-up to the Inglourious Basterds premiere. Inglourious Basterds was not included because it wasn’t even in the theatres yet.Also, Inglourious Basterds was not the only movie .

  4. You know. A vega brothers peqruel wouldn’t be a bad idea( aside from the fact that both actors have aged a lot since their respective roles). I’d be much more interested, however, in seeing a Gecko Brothers peqruel(From Dusk Till Dawn). Just a major balls-out texas style crime spree!

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