The good villain
Hollywood actor Michael Madsen who is noted for his bad guy roles, is in the capital city to film a Malaysian movie.
IAM seated next to Mr Blond, and I’m scared that he might take out a razor and slice my ear off. He’s a big guy; his hands are big. And all the time, I hear Stealers Wheel’s Stuck In The Middle With You playing in my head.
I can’t help it. That was such an iconic scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. Michael Madsen has had so many memorable scenes in other movies, but the torture by Mr Blond is probably the one that gave him cinematic immortality. His character is cool, charming, humorous and so detached that it makes him even scarier.
A cult movie icon, Madsen is currently in Kuala Lumpur for a role in Malaysian production, Prince Of The City. Produced by Axis Line Entertainment, the movie also stars Julian Cheah, Aaron Aziz and Jehan Miskin. The shoot is underway and will be completed on Oct 14.
Seated in Overtime, a restaurant-cum-club in Pavilion KL in the capital city on a late evening, Madsen is cool and laid-back, like many of the characters he has played.
In his trademark raspy voice, he describes the day he’s had: “We had a five-day scene to shoot. It took a long time, about five to six hours. But there were a lot of tricky shots. We were in a small space, so it took a long time to shoot.”
Madsen plays Ben Carlton, a shady New Yorker who helps Cheah’s lead character, Prince Amara, to clear his name after the later is framed for a murder by his own brother.
Madsen reveals how he ended up making a movie in Malaysia.
“Julian had been thinking of me for this for a long time,” he explains. “If somebody has that kind of faith and belief in you, you gotta wanna show up and do the right thing. I was supposed to be here like a week ago, but my schedule kept changing and I didn’t think I was going to make it.
But he waited for me. In Hollywood, man, nobody does that. You don’t show up on time for something, they’d just move on. But he waited for me, and I really respect him for that. He didn’t have to do that, but I’m glad it worked out.”
Over his long career, Madsen has played a lot of bad-guy roles that it’s sometimes easy to forget just how varied the characters are which he has brought to life on screen. He has played a father in Free Willy and a cop in Species, among others. In Prince Of The City,City he once again takes on a villainous role, but one with a difference.
“This has a different kind of ending,” says Madsen. “I thought it’s an interesting way to end it. It’s not the usual kind of ending, it’s not predictable. I don’t get tossed out of a window or anything.”
But that wasn’t the only thing that drew him to join this production. “I always like to get out of the United States. I always like to shoot stuff in this part of the world, making pictures,” he adds.
This is not the first time Madsen has been to South-East Asia. Three years ago, he had a role in a Philippines production, Road Raiders, directed by Cirio Santiago (who sadly passed away shortly after the film was shot). He returned to the Philippines last year to promote the sci-scifi thriller Outrage directeddirected by another Filipino, Ace Cruz.
“The time I’ve spent here, it’s always been good,” says Madsen. “I like the weather.” Doesn’t it get a bit too hot sometimes? “Yeah, but I have a girl on the set who waves her notebook!” he says with a laugh. “Puts some breeze in my face which is very sweet.”
In Prince Of The City, he dons a suit for both interior and exterior scenes. I tell him that wearing a suit in our weather can be hell.
“That’s why they have fans. And everytime I have a break, I make it into the air-conditioned room!” he says with a laugh again.
Then he lets us in on the secret of playing bad guys: “If you’re gonna play a criminal ... the real person doesn’t really think of himself as a criminal. He thinks that everything he does is all right. You can’t start thinking that you’re doing the wrong thing, you have to think that you’re doing the right thing.”
But he does admit that he is getting bored of bad-guy roles. “Unless it’s written really well,” he says. “And this one (Ben Carlton) is written well, with good dialogue. Kelvin (Wong) for his first screenplay, I thought he did a good job. I usually reinterpret things, and I never really say exactly what is written. But I make sure that I stay on the right subject. I think I’m a leading man trapped in a bad guy’s body.”
But despite having sliced someone’s ear off on-screen, Madsen has said before that offscreen, he dislikes violence.
“I don’t appreciate violence towards women and children,” he explains. “And I don’t play parts where I do anything to women and children. When you watch TV, there’s a lot more violence going on in the world, a lot worse than there is in any movie. This is entertainment at the end of the day. I don’t really have any political viewpoints on this, but I think it’s a part of life. But I don’t seek it.”