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THURSDAY, JUNE 4, 2009

GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT: MICHAEL MADSEN

The Continuum continues a series of interviews with the creators and cast of Green Lantern: First Flight -- the next DC Universe animated original PG-13 movie coming to DVD on July 28 -- with Michael Madsen, who provides the voice of Kilowog.

In Green Lantern: First Flight, movie tough guy Madsen brings to animated life the brawny alien character Kilowog, trainer of all Green Lantern recruits. It's the first animated voice role for Madsen, who starred in such genre films as Sin City and Species.

Following is an edited transcription of the studio-provided interview:

Question: What did you see in Kilowog and how did you try to portray those characteristics?

Madsen: I liked the idea that Kilowog was forceful, yet has a gentle nature. I'm often thought of as playing villainous characters in movies. Everyone forgets that I was the father in Free Willy -- they only like to remember that I cut off a policeman's ear in Reservoir Dogs. There's me in the middle somewhere and I think that's kind of like Kilowog, He's dangerous, yet he has a heart. That's what attracted me to the part.

Also, I was quite humbled by being asked to play Kilowog in the first place. I don't often get asked to voice animated characters, and I've always wanted to do something like that -- it's great fun for me.

Question: Do you have a real-life human character that you possibly inspired your portrayal of Kilowog?

Madsen: I guess, perhaps, I thought of my father. My father a very forceful man, a bit of a brute, and stubborn. Yet I remember when my first son was born and my father met me at the airport, and I let him hold the boy. I saw a little tear come down from his eye. It was one of the only times I ever saw him break emotionally -- and I knew there was something in there.

Question: Kilowog uses the word "poozer" frequently in describing other individuals in a variety of situations. Can you define that word by Kilowog's standards?

Madsen: I've heard that it's closely associated with somewhat of a bungler or a misfit or someone who's annoying to put it mildly (laughs).

Question: Was there anything particularly special or enticing about playing Kilowog?

Madsen: I don't want to go off here into another planet, but when I was younger, I read a biography of James Cagney and he said that if you ever play a dark character, you need to find something noble within that guy; and if you ever play someone who's very noble, you need to find something dark within him. Otherwise, your character's going to be one-dimensional. I knew exactly what he was talking about, even though I was probably about 14, and it's always stuck with me. Having a character with duality always appeals to me -- I never like to do something straight down the road.

Question: You do bounce between playing the hero and the villain. Is there a common thread between those two sides of the coin?

Madsen: For a long time, I was pretty much pigeonholed into playing the bad guy. Recently, I did a couple of movies that kind of changed that dynamic. We shot Strength and Honor in Ireland and I played an Irish-American prizefighter who unintentionally kills someone in the ring and promises his family that he will never box again. Then he finds out that his son is dying of a terrible illness and the only way to get the money they need is to get back in the ring. I really think it's one of the best things that I've ever been involved in and it gave me a chance to completely go the other way. The guy really has a very deep conscience and an incredible set of values.

Then I did a cop picture with Darryl Hannah called Vice, where I played a pretty disturbed guy whose wife is killed and he's a drunk -- he's a vice cop and he's just really not in a good mood. And again, it's one of the best pictures I've ever made. So when you take Strength and Honor and you take Vice, it's kind of the bookends of Michael Madsen -- as a person and, in a lot of ways, of my career. And it's an interesting kind of a place to be. I don't know why it took so long, but, little by little, I'm starting to get to play some really interesting parts. Coming in and doing something like Kilowog is part of my moving into a place where I've wanted to be for a long time.

Question: Your sister Virginia Madsen has played in the Warner Bros. animated world several times, including on the last DCU animated original movie, Wonder Woman. Did she offer any tips about recording for the DC Universe?

Madsen: Virginia mentioned that she had been around and had a really good time with you guys. My sister was doing singing telegrams when I was stealing cars, so we had a bit of a different upbringing. She had a little head start on me in the business -- taking a lot of voice classes and voice lessons and she's very well studied and did a lot of theater and things I was never able to do. I'm very enamored of her and her talents. I hope she behaved herself and I hope you guys were nice to her. I'm sure you were, or I would have heard about it. Gotta be the big brother, you know.

Question: How did this voice acting experience differ from your past voiceover jobs?

Madsen: I used to think when you came in to do a voice, you had to make up something with your voice. For this film, I was just myself. I brought my Michael into it. It was a lot easier and it made more sense, and that made the entire experience more natural and I was a little bit more comfortable than I have been in past sessions. For the video game recordings, they always want the tough guy, and there's nothing fun about it. It's just one-dimensional. This was work, and I appreciate that. I take acting seriously, and I had a good time working on this film.

Question: You're a busy actor working in every genre, but with films like Sin City, Species and Kill Bill, you've got a pretty noteworthy cult following within the fanboy arena. What's your reaction to that devout legion of fans?

Madsen: I've got a pretty eclectic group of fans. It's funny, I can walk down the street in New York City or through a shopping mall and if I don't make eye contact with anybody, I can go anywhere. I stand in line at Subway, and if I'm casual nobody even knows I'm there, nobody bothers me at all. But if I go into a room and look at people or in anyway appear aware of myself, suddenly I'm surrounded by people who want to either take a picture with me with their cell phone or sign an autograph.

I don't mind that at all, because I consider myself lucky. If I've done something on this planet that's decent enough that someone cares or would want to pay any attention to me at all, that's great. But it isn't the reason I got into the business. I read an interview Robert Mitchum did toward the end of his life where he said that acting was an embarrassing and humiliating profession that they pay you to do nothing and, in the end, it all means nothing. I guess it also embodies who he actually was as a person, because he never really took it all very seriously. I do take it seriously and I do think it means something because I've had some moments and times in my life that I know the average guy doesn't have. And I feel very blessed and fortunate for that.

It's a tricky business and it can be a very weird existence. I've had people hesitate to get on elevators with me. I know that if I can walk in a room, there will be people very fearful of me sometimes just because of the parts I play. I am not a pussycat, but let's just take a family where the father knows me from "Reservoir Dogs," and he's thinking, "Oh, crap, there's that guy." And the kid knows me from "Free Willy," and he says, "Dad, it's Glen!" And, suddenly, there's a family dilemma. It's freaky. I had a guy come up to me in the airport in New Orleans, and he says, "My girlfriend says you're Michael Madsen, I say you're not." Like I said, it can be kind of weird some times.

Question: Now that you've dipped your feet into the comic book world, what super hero or villain does your inner-geek really wants to play?

Madsen: I've always thought I'd make a great Batman. Batman needs to have a light side and a dark side. I think I'd bring a duality.

Question: You've got six sons ranging in age from 20 to 3 who are almost all gamers. Does the novelty of hearing your voice on their games and in a film like Green Lantern: First Flight hold any special significance for them, or you?

Madsen: I think they like to hear my voice (in animation and games), but at the end of the day, it's just Dad. I think it loses its sensationalism after a while. But I have to say honestly that they have asked me several times how come they don't hear my voice in more stuff like Green Lantern, and that is a big reason for me wanting to do this. I get a kick out of them getting a kick out of hearing their dad, and it's a big thing for me. I love it for that.



E-mail the Continuum at RobAlls@aol.com



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