The saying goes “like father, like son.” This statement may be applicable to a variety of things, including the way a man speaks, his favorite pastime, his attire, or even his career. Many men tailor themselves to follow the example set forth by the most prominent masculine figure in their lives – their father. In the case of Christian Madsen, it became apparent by age fourteen that “following in his father’s footsteps” was the right thing to do.
“If my dad was a doctor, I’d probably be a doctor,” Madsen said. “If my dad was a race car driver, I’d probably be like Dale Earnhardt Jr.”
Christian is the oldest son of Tarantino-favorite actor Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill) and nephew of Oscar-nominated actress Virginia Madsen (Sideways, The Number 23). Spending his childhood and teenage years surrounded by the influence of his father’s acting career, Madsen decided, after doing a few school plays, that he was ready to take the next step and move on to pursue acting through classes and auditions.
“If I was, like, ‘I’m gonna be a racecar driver,’ and I took a couple laps with a bunch of people and I was in last place, maybe I would consider doing something else,” Madsen articulated. “But, I felt like I knew I could drive the car. I knew that I could work on becoming [an actor] if I just stayed with it.”
His decision to begin acting was largely attributed to not only his father’s influence, but also familiarity with being on a set. As a young child, the way he viewed the film sets he visited was much different than his perception of them later on in life. Being in so many locations and sets had afforded young Madsen some unique experiences and opportunities many children may never have growing up.
“Going there to support my dad, when I would go there as a kid, it was just this place. It was like going to your dad’s work. The director would be my best friend and the ADs would hang out with me and I’d meet the kids who were on the set and we’d all hang out. I actually remember when my dad did Free Willy, the kid in that, I don’t remember his name, but I do remember I brought all my Predator toys and I walked into the room and we started fighting with the toys. I must have been three or four.”
Not long after Free Willy, another iconic event from Christian’s youth occurred on the set of another of his father’s movies.
“My dad told me that I was on the set of this movie he was doing with Alec Baldwin called The Getaway, which is a remake. When he wanted me to meet Alec, I ran up and kicked him in the balls. I actually remember doing it! There’s a picture that was taken right as I was doing it for some reason. Everyone laughed about it later, but I think the first initial reaction was ‘Why?’”
Growing up on the set, Christian was used to the filming experience; at first, he understood he was there to see and support his father, but as he grew older, he began to want to take part in it as he understood the roles of the actors and crew. However, he quickly learned that there is an entirely different dynamic when visiting a set as a part of the cast, as opposed to supporting a cast member.
“I know how to explain it when I’m going with my dad, sharing the experience, but when you’re on the set [as an actor], it’s completely different when you’re in what’s happening,” Madsen shared. “You’re a part of the experience when you’re the actor. At first, you’re watching everyone paint this canvas, and you’re like ‘wow, these are great colors you guys are using,’ but then, all of a sudden, you’re holding a brush and you’re painting with everyone.”
Family input has been and continues to be very important in his life. Both his father and his father’s sister are deeply rooted in Hollywood, giving their advice a bit more merit where his career is concerned.
“My aunt wanted to be an actress, and I remember she told me when I was going to acting school and trying to go to auditions, she said ‘I just didn’t wanna do any more because of the rejection.’ It’s very difficult, but then you learn that it’s part of it. Everything happens for a reason. I remember on my twentieth birthday, my dad gave me a biography of this actor, and in the book he wrote ‘Happy Birthday,’ and at the end, he wrote, ‘Never give up.’ I will always remember that and the way he wrote it.”
In his latest film, Refuge from the Storm, he stars alongside his father -even sharing camera time.
“I did a scene with my dad, which was really great. No matter if that film blows away and no one ever sees it, I’ll always remember that. It had a great impact on me.”
In any profession, chasing your dream is always admirable when you are rooted in discipline and have determination. With so many ambitions and a promising career ahead of him, we can expect to see great things from Christian Madsen in the future. No matter how far you let your dreams take you, as Madsen notes, it is important to ”Always stay humble.”