Michael Madsen Finds a New Audience in Poetry Writings

Actor is in town to attend AMFM Fest, read his poems at Ace Hotel event

Actor Michael Madsen will be in Palm Springs this weekend to participate in the AMFM Fest, and also a poetry reading Saturday night at the Ace Hotel.

courtesy of Michael Madsen

Away from the movie screen, actor Michael Madsen wasn’t sure anyone was interested in what he had to say.

Especially when his words were in the form of poems.

“It started out as something to do in my spare time when I wasn’t shooting movies,” said Madsen, who published his first book of poems, Burning in Paradise, in 1998, when he owned a house in Rancho Mirage’s Thunderbird Heights.

That book received the Independent Firecracker Award, perhaps fitting for an actor who has always been cast as the bad guy with an attitude. Since then he has published three more books including his latest, Expecting Rain, which he will read excerpts from at 7 p.m. June 15 in the Amigo Room of the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs.

In addition, Madsen will appear at the AMFM Fest in Cathedral City, which opens Thursday (June 13) and runs through the weekend, featuring a mixture of art, photography, films, and music. A screening of Madsen’s 1994 movie, The Getaway (the remake of the old Steve McQueen classic), will be shown at the Mary Pickford Theater, and Madsen will introduce it.

Madsen just returned from a month in Moscow, Russia, shooting the film, Moscow Express. He has appeared in more than 170 movies, and is probably best known for his role as Mr. Blonde in director Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs in 1992, and Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2 again with Tarantino in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

Madsen, who was dealing with jet lag when we spoke Tuesday (June 11), talked about his poetry, the movie and his return to the desert.

Have you been to the desert before?

“I love Palm Springs. I use to have a home there, and we used to come to La Quinta for Christmas at the resort there. I love the dry heat.”

How did your poetry writing evolve?

“It started out as a kind of a hobby. I didn’t set out to be a writer. It was a personal thing, but I didn’t think anyone would have any interest. But then when I would show up for an appearance with a movie, people started bringing my poetry books with them. And then I did a personal reading in Amsterdam and that seem to really take off.”

What influences do we read in your poetry?

“It is autobiographical stuff from my childhood. The dark times I went through. Recently, they have become more sophisticated, less self-indulgent, more interesting. Focusing more on social awareness than anything self-centered. It’s a commentary on social life.”

During the AMFM Fest, actor Viggo Mortensen will be recognized with the Dennis Lee Hopper Award. What was your connection to the late actor?

“He gave me the greatest compliment when he said my writing was ‘better than (Jack) Kerouac'. He wrote the forward for Burning in Paradise. This last book is dedicated to Dennis. I related to his work as an actor, and he helped open the door for me as a writer. He stood by me and became a brother to me. He and David Carradine.”

Are you at a good point in your life?

“I’m at a cathartic point. I’ve realized quite a bit of things. My kids are grown now, which means I have a much bigger responsibility to life and them.”

Tell me about this movie you shot in Russia?

“I don’t play a villain like I’m usually cast as. It’s a comedy, and I haven’t done too many of those other than My Boss's Daughter (from 2003). I’m happy with the film. I’m not sure if the film will be released here. Moscow is pretty Americanized. There are Beyoncé posters everywhere since she’s the spokesperson for Pepsi. Russia is not the big bad wolf it’s made out to be.”

For information on the AMFM Fest, visit www.amfmfest.com

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