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Dominique Milano on American Badass — a Michael Madsen Retrospective

American Badass a Michael Madsen Retrospective
By: Karen Williams | American Badass | Image: Playrmaker Pictures

1. What interested you about the life and times of Michael Madsen, to make American badass?

Always been a fan of 60’s and 70’s American actors watching their films growing up in France. We had a big American movie every Sunday night on TV and I grew up watching a lot of Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes, John Wayne, Yul Brunner, Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Jackeline Bisset. The day that I met Michael at a photoshoot at his house, I got the same feeling of watching those guys on TV. A face and presence that I connected with in the past through films, but this time I had it in front of me in the same style. We just started talking about movies. I threw at him all the lines from the magnificent seven and he threw in some Bullitt. We kept talking about those films for a while and he mentioned all the people that he had the pleasure to meet and work with. The experience was so rich that when I got home, all I thought was to put all this together in a documentary.

2. Was Michael amenable to making the film with you, right away?

He did not oppose the idea, but he also had his concerns with me not being an established filmmaker, plus a very small budget were the biggest hurdles. Also opening his rolodex of huge names to an unknown person was a big risk on his part, but once we signed the deal. We started working and he was very hands on which was surprising. We were expecting to be on our own and to see him maybe once or twice a month for updates on material. But it was the complete opposite, we were really doing this together, which was the best for the project.

3. Mario Kassar was involved with the film. Could you tell us about this?

Mario came in later toward the final phase of the project. We did his interview earlier, but as I was editing the documentary, I was not really happy with certain things. I also did not like the end scene. So, I called the legend to get his input on certain specific things. I put the house burning segment toward the end and it was too close to the end, giving a possible dark feeling to the end of the film. The Legend told me, always have your audience leave the theater in a good mood, so we put together a completely new ending and it became my favorite moment of the documentary, along with the hat segment. Mario and Michael talking about James Cagney in White Heat was the perfect ending.

4. How long was the film in the making? Were there difficulties with the production?

We started very well with Virginia Madsen, Harry Dean Stanton, and Charlie Sheen - a dream start with great footage, but later had some serious difficulties. Michael had an issue with some of the crew and wanted them out or he would stop the documentary and our starter funds were drying faster than we thought. We stopped filming for a while then COVID hit, so it took about 4 years to complete the project to a place where it was up to the targeted standard.

5. Which film of Michael's is your favorite?

Donnie Brasco and Reservoir Dogs - that’s not to devalue at all Pacino or Depp’s work in the film, but Michael just stole that movie in my opinion, and of course Reservoir Dogs. It’s such an Iconic performance in such an iconic film.

Chuck Zito-An Aerican Story

6. You also made a film about Chuck Zito.

Yes, Chuck who is in the Madsen documentary came to the screening at the Chinese theater and we discussed his doc right after. Chuck is also in the same era as Michael, so it was an easy transition and a perfect second documentary to make. He’s built on a different engine, so what worked for Michael documentary could not apply to Chuck. Yet, there were a lot of similarities that people born in that era shares in common.

7. What will your next film be about? Would love to do another documentary, it’s fascinating work.

8. How is American badass doing at film festivals?

We won Mammoth film festival for best feature documentary earlier this year. We were in Brussels in September 2022 for the BIFFF festival, and we are going to the Rome film festival in October this year. Also, John Letardi and Ryan March who are Executive Producers on the Zito Doc are brokering a deal with VMI for releasing the Madsen documentary early next year.

For more information, visit:

Contact: Dominique Milano, CEO, Playmaker Pictures LLC


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