Random Roles: Michael Madsen on Donnie Brasco, Free Willy, and life in the Tarantino club

Welcome to Random Roles, wherein we talk to actors about the characters who defined their careers. The catch: They don’t know beforehand what roles we’ll ask them to talk about.

The actor: Michael Madsen was originally just fine with letting his little sister Virginia be the designated actor in their family. That’s likely how things would’ve stayed if his decision to tag along to an audition with one of his paramedic-school classmates hadn’t led to a role in a major motion picture. In the 30-plus years since, he has appeared in more than 170 movies. His biggest break came when he found his way into the cast of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, which established him as a go-to guy for tough-guy parts. Madsen’s relationship with Tarantino continues—he’s in the cast of The Hateful Eight—but he can currently be seen taking …

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