25 september, 1957
When he was 6'2" and 190 pounds, Michael Madsen--the brother of actress Virginia Madsen--was equally adept at portraying heroic as well as villainous characters. There's something in the way he delivers his lines with an underlying aggression masked behind his gravelly tones that makes you feel very uneasy about his true intentions. Madsen first honed his craft at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, where he worked under John Malkovich, one of the theater's founders. His first few film roles were minor ones, in such projects as Against All Hope (1982), Racing with the Moon (1984) and The Natural (1984). His work received considerable notice after his knife-edged performance as deranged killer Vince Miller in Kill Me Again (1989) and then as Susan Sarandon's rough-edged boyfriend Jimmy in Thelma & Louise (1991).
His big breakthrough role came as the sadistic jewel thief Mr. Blonde in Quentin Tarantino's low-budget hit Reservoir Dogs (1992). Audiences were glued to their seats as Madsen playfully danced around a tied-down and terrified police officer, slicing him with a knife and splashing gasoline all over the petrified man, all to the cheery tunes of Stealers Wheel 's 'Stuck In the Middle With You.'
Not to be typecast, Madsen surprised many with his performance as foster parent Glen Greenwood in the hit family movie Free Willy (1993) before returning to another criminal role as bank robber Rudy Travis in the remake of the Steve McQueen heist flick The Getaway (1994), and then back again as Glen Greenwood in Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home (1995). Madsen continues to turn in edge-of-the-seat performances as morally bankrupt individuals on the wrong side of the law, as in his intense on-screen showings in Donnie Brasco (1997), Mulholland Falls (1995) and High Noon (2000) (TV). In 2003 he teamed up again with Tarantino in both volumes of Tarantino's magnum martial arts/revenge opus Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) as the coldly evil Budd AKA Sidewinder. In addition to his film work, Madsen has contributed dialogue to two of Sony PlayStations's biggest-selling games, Grand Theft Auto III (2001) (VG) and Driv3r (2004) (VG), as well as writing several books of his own poetry.
Although uncomfortable with fame, Madsen's star continues to shine in Hollywood and his droll yet captivating acting style is ensuring him a steady flow of work as one on the screen's favorite heavies.