Michael Madsen (born September 25, 1958) is an American actor, poet,
and photographer. He is particularly well known for his "tough guy" image on
Madsen was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Elaine (née Melson), an Emmy-winning poet, television producer and playwright who often works for PBS, and Calvin Madsen, a firefighter. Madsen's mother left a career in corporate business to pursue a writing career. Madsen's paternal grandparents were Danish and his mother has Irish and Native American ancestry. His sister is actress Virginia Madsen. He also has an older sister Cheri, who owns a restaurant with her husband and three children. They live in Wisconsin.
Madsen was nine when his parents separated and he frequently had to change schools. As a youth he began to steal cars and participate in other minor felonies before he was sent to prison for a short time. Madsen's acting career began at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, where he served as an apprentice under legendary actor John Malkovich.
In 1982 Madsen was cast by Edward McDougal for the lead in a small independent film "Against All Hope," his first movie. He then played a small role in the studio picture WarGames in 1983. In that same year, he appeared in a small cameo bit part in the 1983 nuclear television thriller "Special Bulletin." The next year, Madsen was cast as a psychopathic gunman who took Mary Beth hostage in the Cagney and Lacey Episode 'Heat' (first aired October 22, 1984). He moved to Los Angeles and appeared in other films, including as arrogant baseball player Bump Bailey in The Natural (1984), a deranged killer in Kill Me Again (1989) and as the tough but touching boyfriend of Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise (1991).
Then came a memorable role as the razor-wielding, sadistic ex-con and jewel thief "Mr. Blonde" in the bloody Quentin Tarantino crime story Reservoir Dogs. The film brought Madsen attention among critics and fans. During a scene in which Madsen's psychopathic character Mr. Blonde tortures a police officer, actor Kirk Baltz ad-libbed a line about being a father to a young child. Madsen, who himself had just become a father, was so upset that he found it very difficult to finish the scene. On some copies of the film's DVD, as Baltz completes the line, a voice can be heard off-screen saying "Oh, no, no ..." The ad-lib exacerbated Madsen's original reluctance to do the scene, due to his real-life aversion to violence.
Subsequently, Madsen was cast in a variety of major studio films, including Free Willy, Mulholland Falls, Wyatt Earp, Species and with Johnny Depp and Al Pacino in the critically acclaimed Donnie Brasco.
Since the mid 1990s, Madsen has appeared more often in lower-budget films released directly to video or television. Notable exceptions include his featured role in Tarantino's Kill Bill, in the James Bond adventure Die Another Day and in the film version of the Frank Miller graphic novel Sin City. He appeared in Scary Movie 4 in 2006 parodying Tim Robbins's character from War of the Worlds. He was also in the film 44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shoot-Out in 2003.
Madsen has been in a few television series, including the short-lived Vengeance Unlimited and most recently as "Don Everest" in the poker-themed ESPN series Tilt. He was in Michael Jackson's 2001 music video "You Rock My World" and has provided voice work for several video games, including Grand Theft Auto III, True Crime: Streets of L.A. and Driver 3. He provided voice work for the movie version of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as Maugrim the wolf, captain of the White Witch's secret police.
Michael Madsen also provides narration for Animal Planet and is heard in the Playstation 2 game Yakuza, where he voices the role of Futo Shimano, the violent and unforgiving leader of a Yakuza family. Most recently he played Sam Spade in Yuri Rasovsky's sonic dramatization of The Maltese Falcon, which also features Sandra Oh and Edward Herrmann. The production is scheduled for audiobook publication in November 2008.
In August of 2008, Madsen co-starred in Coma, a web series on Crackle.
Madsen recently went to Mexico City to co-star in boxing film Chamaco with Martin Sheen and Kirk Harris for director Miguel Necoechea.
Madsen is also expected to reprise his role as Bob in Sin City 2, which is currently in pre-production and has a release date of 2010. Fellow cast members include Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, and Clive Owen.
The actor appeared in Every Time I Die's music video "Kill The Music" and recorded a public service announcement for Deejay Ra's 'Hip-Hop Literacy' campaign, encouraging reading of screenplays by Tarantino.
Madsen has written several books of poetry: Burning in Paradise (1998) and The Complete Poetic Works of Michael Madsen, Vol. I: 1995-2005 (2005) Signs of Life (2006) and American Badass due out in 2009.
Madsen's first marriage was to Georganne LaPiere, the half sister of Cher. He remarried, to Jeannine Bisignano, with whom he has two sons. Since 1996, he has been married to Deanna Morgan, who was previously married to musician Brian Setzer of Stray Cats fame.
The actor lived in a Malibu house that once belonged to Keith Moon, the original drummer of The Who, and it was at this house on December 26, 2004 that David Carradine and his last wife, Annie, were married by their long time friend and attorney, Vicki Roberts.
Michael Madsen is an accomplished American poet. He has been writing poetry for over 10 years. Michael began his writing on match books, napkins and hotel stationary in between his time working on movie sets and traveling around the world. In 2005, 13 Hands Publications compiled all of Michael Madsen's poetry and released "The Complete Poetic Works of Michael Madsen, Vol I: 1995-2005" The book has been an international success and is the only authorized compilation of Mr. Madsen's poetry. The original books released were "Beer, Blood and Ashes" (1995), "Eat The Worm" (1995), "Burning in Paradise" (1998), and the now out of print "A blessing of the Hounds" (2002), "46 Down; A Book of Dreams and Other Ramblings" (2004) and "When Pets Kill" (2005).
Michael Madsen's friend and fellow actor Dennis Hopper described his poetry as a throwback to the Beat Generation: "I like to call him an "anachronistic Beat. A true existentialist, I like him better than Kerouac: raunchier, more poignant, he's got street language, images I can relate to, blows my mind with his drifts of gut-wrenching riffs; this actor is a poet and he is cool, of course, he is Michael Madsen." Michael notes his influences for his style of poetry as being Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski. Michael's new book of poetry entitled "American Bad Ass" is due for release in 2009.
Michael Madsen is also an accomplished photographer. In 2006 he released his first book of photographs from his travels around the world. The book, called Signs of Life, also contains some new selections of his poetry. He dedicated this book to the memory of his good friend and fellow actor Chris Penn, who starred with Michael in Reservoir Dogs. He currently has limited edition prints of his photography available at Celebrities gallery in Maui Hawaii.
This Michael Madsen Biography Page is Copyright © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub