Michael Madsen: American Bad Ass

Photos by Dana Fineman

There are a few words that come to mind when thinking of iconic actor Michael Madsen; intense, raw, and authentic.

Born and raised in Chicago by working class parents, a firefighter father and a mother in the arts, Michael, a typical scrappy young boy openly acknowledged  his trouble-prone youth in the streets of his tough Chicago neighborhood.  “My mother used to say I was born with two black eyes”.

In his early 20s and inspired by his hero, American Nascar driver Richard Petty (a.k.a. “The King”), Michael took a job as a tow trucker driver and a mechanic building race cars never imagining that his destiny would lead him to Hollywood and a successful acting career.

With 328 movies under is his belt to date, there is no question Madsen is considered a seasoned professional. Best known for his raspy voice and quintessential bad ass roles, Madsen had made himself known playing dark characters in Quentin Tarantino films. 

Madsen’s first role in a Tarantino film, was as Mr. Blonde, in the epic movie Reservoir Dogs alongside such greats as Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth (who was unknown at the time).

Mr. Blonde’s character was known as “the psycho”, freshly out of prison with an axe to grind, which Madsen depicts so well. His roles naturally have an intense, authentic edge to them which is why he was initially perplexed when cast in the 1993 movie Free Willy as the loving dad Glen Greenwood, however, the experience, which he would later come to understand, opened him up in different ways both personally and professionally.

His working relationship with Tarantino spans over two decades with Madsen cast in major roles; Kill Bill, The Hateful Eight and a cameo appearance in Once Upon a Time in America.

In a recent interview exclusively with Cali Mag, Madsen was fresh off the set of his latest movie where he moves in a completely new direction in character. 

Known for his typical big screen bad boy persona, Madsen is switching gears this time playing the the role of a Samurai (Japanese warrior). Always confident in his craft, Madsen was thrilled by the new direction telling Cali Mag the most difficult part of the role wasn’t learning how be an authentic Samurai, it was getting used to  wearing a kimono andChinese underwear that threw him for a loop.

The last few years have been challenging for Madsen battling addiction with alcohol and he says looking back, alcohol was like “rocket fuel” for him and surprisingly, he was able to accomplish a  tremendous amount of work while drinking heavily. Madsen has since re-entered rehab and is focused on healing for himself and his family.

When talking to him,  it is evident that Madsen is first and foremost a family man and you get the sense that nothing is more important. Married to beautiful model Deanna for 26 years, Madsen and his wife raised five boys in the idyllic coastal community of Malibu. Remembering his simple upbringing in Chicago, Madsen says raising his family in Malibu is a far cry from where he grew up on streets of Chicago. Madsen also opened up for the first time since the tragic loss of his 26-year-old son Hudson Madsen, a heroic Afghanistan veteran who made it to the rank of Sergeant and a beloved member of the Malibu community. Madsen says it’s been traumatic for the whole family.

Although the last few years have been tough for him, he says “I have been really lucky and blessed with all the films I have done and all the people I have met. I have been all over the world for god’s sakes. What does an auto mechanic from Chicago have the right to travel around the world making movies…I still don’t know”.

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Madsen also says he likes to keep his ego in check and “If you walk around telling yourself that you are talented, then it becomes dangerous and egotistical because you start walking around a room thinking you deserve this and that and people will turn on you in this industry and can’t wait to knock you down. When you see the deterioration of people it’s really sad, you have to keep your pants up. You really do”.

Michael Madsen and wife Deanna in Malibu.

After getting treatment for his alcohol abuse, he says his path to regeneration was enlightening for him, He looked deeply into the relationship with his father and even discovered recently he had a brother that he did not know. After his parents divorced, his father was living with a woman and they had a child. Madsen, almost mystified that his father took it to the grave, met with his Spanish newfound brother who is 10 years younger than him not long ago. He says “The father/son relationship is really heavy”.

Looking forward to the future, Madsen shares with Cali Mag the upcoming release of the documentary made in France about his 35-year career titled “American Bad Ass”. The film features appearances by John Travolta, Charlie Sheen, Robert Forster, Paul Sorvino, Daryl Hannah, Ron Perleman, Roger Donaldson and of course, Quentin Tarantino.

Madsen says the project took three years to make and is the most authentic representation of his career “It’s the good, the bad and the ugly, no whitewash bullshit. It’s not a fucking Pop Eye cartoon. It’s real and it’s heavy. If I got struck by lightning, I would thank God somebody made that thing.”

Director of Lifestyle and Beauty, Tara Owens

British born Beauty and lifestyle editor Tara Owens has amassed over 20 years of experience in fashion, beauty and lifestyle. At the age of fifteen, Tara started modeling and went on to travel the globe working with the most coveted publications and beauty brands the world has to offer. In 2017, Tara became a beauty entrepreneur in her own right and co-founded niche perfume brand Seren Apothecary. Tara continues to educate readers worldwide forecasting lifestyle trends and writing about emerging beauty brands. When she is not working she is traveling, around competing with her reining horse Eddie.

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