Actors Michael Madsen & Ash Adams During LVFF Q&A – Part 2
During the Q&A at the Las Vegas Film Festival actor Michael Madsen told the audience that one of his favorite roles was playing an Irish American boxer in a film that never got distribution called “Strength and Honor” which is an emotional story about a fighter, who accidently killed someone in the ring. “You have to have a certain understanding or you can’t get away with playing it,” Michael explained. Gesturing to Adams, he continued, “Ash knows a lot about boxers in his own right, so he understands what I’m talking about.” Adams nodded as Madsen went on, “He doesn’t want to fight anymore and he finds out his son is sick and the only way he can save his kid is to fight to make enough money for an operation. I love the picture. I just do and that’s all. It’s sad that it never got out there, but you know thinking of favorite pictures is kind of like looking around for your old girlfriends. You know, once it’s done, it’s over. That’s it. I’m looking for the next best thing.”
Although he may be concentrating on the future, another special role that was mentioned was The Gent in “Hellride”, a part that Larry Bishop wrote for Madsen which was also prominently featured in the tribute video that Adams put together. “Of course, Larry told me early on that he wanted me for that part,” Michael recounted saying that when he first got the script it was very thick. “It was like Webster’s Dictionary, the damn thing. It made no sense. The whole thing didn’t make any sense at all, but I liked The Gent and I had a lot of ideas. It was my idea to wear the tux, the outfit and the whole deal, but let me tell you…It’s a wonderful thing when someone does that for you and he stuck by me because a lot of people were trying to push him in another direction for that character. He stuck with me all the way though, so did Dennis Hopper,” he said.
Ash asked him to tell us more about Hopper and Madsen recalled, “Dennis was a dear friend and I saw him about a month before he died.” At that point Madsen seemed distressed by what he described as “this old acting bullshit.” He said, “I heard that he (Hopper) had been pushed down on the street by some paparazzi that they were…towards the end of his life he was very weak and he had gone outside for a walk and they were chasing him and they had pushed him down. He hit his head and he was bleeding and they were taking pictures as he was laying in the street.” Hearing about the incident saddened Michael so much that he told his friend that he questioned what they were doing being actors. When Hopper asked him what he would have done instead Madsen told him he didn’t know and that maybe he could have been a carpenter. Hopper responded, “Uh huh, look what happened to him man.”
Another friend Michael lost who it still hurts him to talk about is actor Chris Penn, the person he dedicated “Vice” to. When asked about that relationship he said, “Well, we’d be here for a long time if I was going to tell you that story, but let’s just say I loved him very much and he was a tough guy. He had a big, big beautiful heart. He was like a big bear. He was a very talented actor, very troubled in a lot of ways. I miss him very, very very much and it’s hard for me actually to talk about him. I just…The best thing for me to do was to put his name at the end of that picture and I think that says about as much as I can say. He’s one of those people that you don’t really know how much they meant to you until they’re gone. You know what I’m saying. You go oh my God almighty… It’s not going to be the same anymore without certain people when they’re gone and I can say that about Chris for sure,” he told us.
A person asked how he determines who to work with and the types of projects he tends to accept and the actor admitted he errs on the side of caution in this area because he’s learned a lot over the years. “I recognize bullshit early on when I hear it,” he said. Although he knows that everybody has a dream he warned that when choosing projects you have to be wary of people you know are never going to reach their goals. “You have to be involved in everything: in casting, in locations, in writing, the whole schabang,” he warned. Despite his concerns about maintaining control the actor feels you have to trust your own instincts and believe in yourself. “If I were to listen to the people who told me I wasn’t going to make it, I wouldn’t be sitting here now,” he told us. Part of making it has also included being immortalized as an action figure, which he considered really cool until his kids got hold of it and hacked the legs off. He said with a laugh, “You realize that it’s just a toy. It’s cool though. It’s a voodoo doll basically. People will take it and do terrible things to it.. I’ve even done bad things to my dolls. I stomped on one of them recently.”
Perhaps the best insight into Madsen the man came when a woman in the audience stood up and asked him if there were any jobs that he just wouldn’t take even for his children to which he replied, “I’d take a bullet for them, honey.” A man who can portray good guys and villains while exuding the old fashioned male toughness he’s known for, there’s a loyalty and devotion to friends and family that may not always be visible on the screen, yet it’s definitely there and another reason for honoring Michael with the Las Vegas Film Festival’s Indie Icon Award for 2011.