Michael Madsen Is Sick Of Being Made To Play The Villain

When you think of Michael Madsen, what's the first image that comes to mind? Is it Reservoir Dogs' Mr. Blonde dancing to "Stuck in the Middle with You" while holding a severed ear? Maybe it's the washed-up assassin Budd burying Uma Thurman's The Bride alive? Whatever Madsen character you're seeing, there's a good chance he's not a hero. Madsen has made a career out of playing black hats and evil men.

According to Madsen, that has more to do with Hollywood typecasting than any preference to play sleazy roles (via The After Movie Diner). Before he made a name for himself by embodying quietly lethal but outwardly slick antagonists, he dreamed of portraying the good guy. But after his role in "Reservoir Dogs," every script that followed wanted to bring out the worst in Madsen. His notoriety hinges on the unsavory characters he's played — he's even been introduced as Mr. Blonde during a Chicago Cubs game. Although he excels as a niche villain, that's not the only part he wants to play.

The origin of his villainous typecast

Madsen started his acting career by playing an unlikable character onstage. After seeing "Of Mice and Men" in 1980, he ran into the 27-year-old John Malkovich, who asked for his address and promised to send him a brochure for acting classes. Although he thought Malkovich was just trying to get rid of him, the actor did send him the materials (via The Independent).

Months later, Madsen was playing Carlson on the very same stage. Anyone who has either read or seen the 1992 film (also starring Malkovich) of John Steinbeck's novel should recognize the significance of Madsen portraying that character. It's Carlson who callously suggests and then carries out the killing of Candy's beloved dog — prescribed because of the animal's smell and old age — and it's something not easy to forget or forgive. From his first role, Madsen has played characters designed to upset audiences.

Ridley Scott wanted him as a bad guy for Thelma and Louise

Fast forward 11 years, Madsen scored an opportunity to star in Ridley Scott's cult-hit "Thelma and Louise." Again, the director had him in mind to play the least sympathetic character in the film, Harlan. Madsen told After Movie Diner:

"They wanted me to play the guy in the parking lot who gets shot by Susan Sarandon. I didn't want to play that guy. They were laughing at me. 'You don't want to do this Ridley Scott movie?!' I said 'No man! I don't want that f***ing part! What am I gonna get out of that playing the rapist?' He said, 'Who do you want to play?' I said, 'I'd like to play Jimmy. I want to be Susan's boyfriend.' He goes 'Oh man I don't know if that's gonna work out.'"

But then Scott had Madsen take Sarandon out to lunch. Ultimately, there was enough chemistry between them that Scott changed his mind. "It was one of the only times I got to play a sympathetic character because everyone wants me to be the bad guy," Madsen told the outlet. 

A year after "Thelma and Louise," he starred in his first (of many) Quentin Tarantino films, "Reservoir Dogs," as the infamous Mr. Blonde. Following the critical success of the film, Madsen played a variety of villains, including (but not limited to) a thief/kidnapper in "A House in the Hills," a deviant backstabber in "The Getaway," an alien-hunting mercenary in "Species," and a cowardly cop in "Sin City."

Madsen has played some heroic figures

But to say Madsen has never played the hero isn't correct — he hardly gets offered those kinds of roles. Throughout his prolific career, there are several times he played a good guy. He effuses tenderness as Glen Greenwood in "Free Willy," is a badass vampire hunter in "BloodRayne," and voiced Kilowog in "Green Lantern: First Flight." Whenever Madsen gets a chance to play someone the audience roots for, he doesn't squander it. He even played Virgil Earp in the Kevin Costner-led "Wyatt Earp," a role he took after turning down a part as Vincent Vega in "Pulp Fiction." (That's how badly Madsen wanted to play the hero!)) Sadly, the Lawrence Kasdan-directed film flopped  — had it not, maybe the perception of Madsen would have changed.

In 2015, he returned to the Tarantino verse with "The Hateful Eight." Sure, Joe Gage, an outlaw, seems like the textbook definition of a bad guy. However, Madsen doesn't play him like one. If anything, he's stoic — a far cry from his menacingly-gleeful Mr. Blonde. You might think that's the closest Madsen will get to playing someone halfway decent in a Tarantino film — but you'd be wrong! During "Once Upon A Time in Hollywood," Madsen has a cameo as Sheriff Hackett. While he's only on-screen briefly, he doesn't kill a single person! Honestly, that's as close as you get to a hero in the violent world of Tarantino films.