An actor with a bad-guy persona but a comedian’s delivery25 july 2011, 11:31
Michael Madsen has played bad guys in most of his Hollywood films, so it would be easy to assume that in real life he’s a guy with an edge.
But he fired off quip after quip at the press conference he gave at the recent Astana International Action Film Festival.
In fact, the man who played a killer in “Kill Bill” and “Kill Bill II” was so funny in Astana that I was thinking he ought to try comedy gag writing.
A question that journalists around the world ask the 53-year-old is why he plays bad guys in so many movies. His playful answer in Astana: “I’m actually a leading man trapped inside a bad guy’s body.”
Asked if he’d like to portray good guys more often, he said: “I definitely don’t want to be 75 years old with a 45 (pistol) in one hand and a cigarette in my mouth.”
He pointed out several times in the press conference, however, that he’s played good guys in a number of movies – just not as many times as he’s played baddies.
He contended that “there’s a very fine line between who’s good and who’s bad anyway. Some bad guys don’t think they’re bad and some good guys don’t think they’re good.”
The only sure-fire way to distinguish the good guy in a film, he said, is “I guess it’s the guy who gets the girl in the end – and it’s not usually me.”
At one point in the press conference, Michael decided to have fun with his young Kazakh translator.
“How do I know you’re telling them what I’m saying?” he asked her with a smile.
Then he turned back to the journalists and said: “You know, this would make a funny comedy -- an American actor telling all his ideas and meanwhile a translator is telling (journalists and the public) something else.”
Asked why he has appeared in so many films – the exact number, he said, was more than 130 -- he replied: “I’m always hungry, and I’m unemployed. And my kids are hungry . Papa’s got to feed his babies.”
The six-foot, two-inch actor said he has five sons – all of them taller than his 186 centimeters.
When a journalist asked whether he’d tried any careers besides acting, Michael said “I probably worked 25 different jobs,” among them auto mechanic, truck driver and plumber’s apprentice.
What he learned from those experiences, he said, is that “I’m not qualified for anything else” but acting.
Acting, he said, has been “a wonderful adventure. It was either that, or jail.”
Michael spent considerable time answering a reporter’s question about the two “Free Willy” movies he starred in.
He played a good guy in the movies – the foster father of a 13-year-old boy who wanted to see a aqua-show killer whale freed.
Viewer enchantment with the films led to a groundswell to free Keiko, the whale whose real-life story was behind the movies.
The problem, Michael said, is that Keiko kept turning around in the ocean and heading back to his aqua-park home.
“I think he took one look at the big world and said, ‘Screw it – I’m going back to my tank to have scantily clad women’” feed me every day.
Michael said he had mixed feelings about animal lovers’ good intentions to free Keiko because “he got an infection in the open ocean and it ended up killing him.”
His implication was that the whale might have been better off in captivity.
Despite the tragic real-life outcome, Michael said, he enjoyed playing the foster father in both of the Willy films, although “in the second one all the whales were robots covered with rubber” instead of living, breathing animals.
Michael was too savvy to get caught up in a controversy that journalists raised at the press conference about the British rock star Sting cancelling an Astana concert at the last minute.
A reporter wanted to know Michael’s reaction to the cancellation, which Sting’s Web site said was in sympathy with an oil workers’ strike in western Kazakhstan.
Michael, who was asked about the controversy shortly after it surfaced, replied that he hadn’t talked with Sting about the issue, or read anything about it.
Then, in a reference to the fact that huge Sting posters had been splashed across Astana to trumpet the concert, Michael quipped: “Maybe he didn’t like his billboard.”