[color=red] Michael Madsen Teaches You How to be Cool
YOUR THINK YOU’RE COOL. YOU’VE GOT SUNGLASSES AND A LEATHER jacket and that silent way of nodding hello. But deep down inside, you know you’re not cool. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a part-time impersonation of James Dean, who wasn’t even that cool himself. In fact James Dean was kind of a wuss.
But none of this is your fault. Cool just isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t considered important anymore. Archetypes like Steve McQueen and Robert Mitchum have been replaced by Leonardo DiCaprio and Hugh Grant. Even the word has lost its meaning, vaguely replacing “good” or implying meek acquiescence. These days everybodyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cool, everything’s cool - which really means that no one is cool.
Except Michael Madsen. Madsen, a.k.a. Mr. Blonde, the cold-blooded ex-con in Reservoir Dogs who stopped at a drive-in for a mile shake while keeping a hog-tied cop stuffed in his trunk. Madsen, whose part in Donnie Brasco was edited down to nothing because he was making Al Pacino look like a girly-man. Madsen, the only contemporary actor to be interviewed for the television documentary Steve McQueen: The King of Cool. Madsen, who even when he played the dad in Free Willy made sure you knew that he could have kicked Willy’s ass.
To find out what it takes to be cool, I paid a visit to the last cool actor in Hollywood at his beach house in Malibu. Now a 42-year-old father of five, Madsen is ready to teach you his secrets. And even though cool may be undervalued, you need to listen up. Because being cool has its rewards, its aesthetic purity, its philosophical truth. Plus, I’m pretty sure it will still score you chicks.
LESSON 1: SHUT UP
When Madsen talks, you can barely hear him. And it takes seven or eight minutes for him to say what you could say in five seconds. In between words there’s a lot of touching of your arm, tequila sipping, and Red Stripe chasing. If there was a slow-talking contest, Madsen could beat Brando.
Madsen’s father, a Chicago fireman, didn’t say much, and his grandfather was so quiet they called him Silent Sam. Following their example, Madsen moves slowly and often uses the phrase “When I’m ready.” He’s part Choctaw Indian, which has nothing to do with this lesson but also happens to be cool.
LESSON 2: LOSE THE LEATHER
It’s not that Madsen can’t wear a leather jacket; it’s just that you can’t, “When I first came to L.A. from Chicago, I wore a leather jacket and motorcycle boots because that’s what I was comfortable in - I rode Harleys,” he says. “What I saw around here was like Halloween outfits.” Madsen wears a leather jacket and Ray-Bans in a lot of his movies, but around the house he’s in a T-shirt, denim shorts, and slippers that make it pretty clear he doesn’t give a damn. “Young actors are always trying to portray some sort of masculinity, some sort of rebellious image, but it’s not real - it’s phony-baloney and it’s sad,” he says. “They need to establish their image instead of trying to do it with no foundation.” For the first time in my life, I feel very glad to be wearing khakis and an Oxford shirt.
LESSON 3: TURN THAT SMILE UPSIDE DOWN
Clowns aren’t cool. So drop the happy act. The closest Madsen ever gets to a smile is this painful, wrinkled-forehead, squinty sneer that says not so much “I’m excited” as "You’re an idiot.“
Happy people tend to forget who they are, to get caught up in their own hype. Madsen and his famous sister, Virginia, have both made it as actors, but he keeps himself in check. “I’m not really popular right now,” he says. “I’m a cult guy. I’m the guy from Reservoir Dogs, the guy from Thelma & Louise. I have a bizarre underground attraction that doesn’t translate to the big money guys. Warner Brothers isn’t going to ask me to be Batman, even though I’d be a great Batman.” Sure, if Batman somehow joined the Mafia.
LESSON 4: LIVE IN THE PAST
Madsen’s house is filled with framed posters from classic cool-guy movies: Point Blank, Thunder Road, White Heat, The Magnificent Seven. There’s a Wurlitzer jukebox next to the pool table, a Dean Martin CD by the stereo, and leather-bound copies of War and Peace and Moby Dick. Don’t worry: It’s not necessary for you to actually read these books
"I’ve been compared to Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, and Lee Marvin, and I’m very, very flattered. They’re who I was responding to when I decided I wanted to become an actor,” Madsen says. “But that was a completely different America. I’m a man out of time and out of place.” He’s also a man with a '67 GTO and a '64 Thunderbird convertible in his garage, so don’t feel too bad for him.
LESSON 5: DROP THE POSSE
Having the Flipmode Squad trail you around might sound cool, but it just makes you the head of a small, badly run corporation. The posse syndrome has gotten so bad that some Hollywood invitations have “N.E.” printed on the bottom, for “No Entourage.” When you’re over 21, you don’t need a gang. You can define yourself.
“If you tell someone you’re a loner, automatically they think you’re lonely, but I don’t think it’s the same thing,” says Madsen. “In Hollywood, if you take any kind of personal detour, the people you thought were your friends won’t even pick up the phone to call you, because it’s not their idea of cool.” Madsen doesn’t keep many friends, because they end up disappointing him. Still, I sense that he and I are bonding. I’m going to start out our new friendship by asking him to a nice brunch.