PARIS (AP) — There’s more than meets the eye with actor Michael Madsen, known for his cold-blooded and violent roles in films like “Reservoir Dogs.”
In an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, Madsen showed his little-seen soft side, saying he writes poetry, loves children and still misses his “inspiring” friend Dennis Hopper, who died of cancer in 2010.
The American actor is in the French capital as the president of the first Champs-Elysees Film Festival that opens Wednesday and runs one week on one of the world’s most famous avenues.
Quentin Tarantino’s 2004 film “Kill Bill 2,” which stars Madsen as Budd, will be screened at the festival, alongside new movies — such as Charlize Theron’s “Snow White and the Huntsman.” The cinematic selection pays homage to American and French film, both mainstream and independent.
A special tribute is also being given to legendary movie producer Harvey Weinstein for his role in bridging U.S. and European cinema with films such as 2011′s “The Artist.”
Madsen, 54, called Weinstein a “genius,” and said he was humbled by being asked to come.
“I mean it’s kind of an honor,” the husky-voiced, tattooed actor said at his Parisian hotel, “People don’t really expect me to be president of a film festival.”
It was a decade after Madsen’s 1982 film debut that he shot to international fame as the violent Mr. Blond in Tarantino’s hit film “Reservoir Dogs.”
Since then, roles in “Sin City” and the critically acclaimed mobster film “Donnie Brasco” have secured his image as one of the meanest guys in Hollywood. But speaking candidly about the infamous “ear” scene in “Reservoir Dogs” — in which he slices off a victim’s ear with a razor — Madsen spoke of how tough it was to play the thug after becoming a father shortly before shooting started on the movie.
During the take, the victim played by Kirk Baltz ad-libbed: “Don’t (kill me) I have children.”
“I just said ‘Oh my God, I couldn’t do it, I didn’t want to do it,” said Madsen, adding: “Acting is such a humiliating profession.”
That the reference to children was left in the final cut — albeit in a more subdued version — still “bugged him.”
So is the bad boy finally showing his sensitive side?
Madsen argues that this softer side was there from the beginning, saying that being pure evil is one-dimensional — simply bad acting.
“I’ve always tried to show that. When you play a character that’s quite evil you need to find the nobility in the man.”
In “Kill Bill 2,” he said, it was the former hit man Budd’s love for his cowboy hat that showed his human side. Tarantino didn’t initially want in the movie, but it worked — helping to flesh out Budd’s character.
“I refused to give up my hat, and it made him psychologically affected in the scene when he took it off.”
Aside from his broad film career — he’s starred in 170 features — Madsen is also a published poet. He said he started out writing because film sets “gets so lonely,” scrawling on coasters and even once on his leg.
Things however, got serious when his work got the attention of the late Dennis Hopper, who encouraged his writing and even wrote the forward to the 1998 collection “Burning in Paradise.”
Madsen said he last saw Hopper, who died at age 74, in 2010 when he was given a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.
“Dennis joked he’d have to be dying before they gave him a star, and it was true.”
The Champs-Elysees Film Festival runs in Paris June 6 to June 12.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP
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