INT: Virginia Madsen
Last year Virginia Madsen became a media darling after a much-lauded performance in SIDEWAYS garnered the veteran actress an Oscar nomination. A major star in the mid-80s, Madsen had most recently toiled in relative obscurity before the breakthrough role paved the way for her return to studio films. Now she's once again in demand, landing highly coveted roles in films like Robert Altman's A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. This week she can be seen alongside Harrison Ford in the thriller FIREWALL. I recently got a chance to talk to CANDYMAN bombshell about her experience making the film. Check it out.
must feel great to be back.
Yeah, and to come back the way that I did. In fact, I was never really away, I just wasn’t really on the map, you know? I was kind of like on a side street, on a detour on the edge of the map, but I never felt like I was out of the business. I just wasn’t getting the kind of jobs I wanted. And when I did, they were very small, independent films that no one ever saw. This was the kind of work that I was doing, but no one was really aware of it, big time, in the industry until Sideways. And that’s what they say – all actors do this – it just takes one job sometimes. So it was a longer journey for me to get there. But it was ok because of all the time I spent with Jack. And I needed to learn a lot, too. I went back to acting school and was studying. And I was doing a lot of things to prepare for this time. That’s what I told myself. (laughs) “I’m preparing for the big leagues.”
it worked out.
Yes. It worked. I think when you live with intentions, things will happen in your life. Good fortune will come to you. Opportunities will arise. And you’re like, “Wow, that’s what I thought of two years ago.” Yes, because you lived with intention and you had foresight. And you’ve gotta work hard to change yourself into a success. It’s not just going to come to you. Now sometimes it does come to people suddenly and it just rolls right on over them and kinda messes with them. And I didn’t want that to happen. I was ready for success on a long term. And so far, so good. It hasn’t rolled over me yet. (laughs)
about working with Harrison Ford? He’s
he looks like he does on-screen.
A lot of actors don’t – they’re smaller.
Or they’re not bathed or something.
It’s like, “Ok, that so went out with Kurt Cobain.”
(laughs) Or they
don’t communicate well. But
Harrison walks in…and he looks like that guy.
So I just spent a lot of time just looking at him, going,
“Well, there he is. Love
to watch him go.” And
then here comes Paul – and he’s towering – and I’m like,
“You ARE that tall.” (shakes
head) Married, married,
Bettany mentioned that you were very protective of the children
Well, I have my little boy, and Jimmy (Bennett) is a lot like my son. As a matter of fact, they became good friends on the film. Jimmy and Carly (Schroeder), the great thing about working with kids is that they’re playing make-believe. They’re in full-on “Cops and Robbers” mode. So you kind of go there with them, like every day is fun, because it’s like a game. It’s like, “Ready? Let’s play.”
I was always scolding people for swearing. (laughs) Movies are very…it’s a very adult environment on any movie set. You’ve got one or two kids in the midst of all these big guys and there’s off-color humor…and I’m like “Shhhh…stop that! Language!” And I was always scolding them, just because I felt like these two kids were not like show business kids. They weren’t precocious yet – you know how they all start referring to themselves as “we” – and they’ve worked a lot, but they’ve got really good parents, these two kids. And I responded to the fast that they weren’t jaded. They were still innocent. I guess I didn’t want showbiz to invade them. And Harrison was very protective, too.
What was your experience like making Prairie Home Companion?
Oh God, that project was so amazing. It’s amazing to be working for studios again, because I hadn’t worked in a studio picture since ’84-’85. But when asked, “What did you want to come out of getting a nomination,” that’s what I wanted. The Altman film. I wanted to certainly take a step up and be back in the studio system and be in a better position in Hollywood, but that’s the kind of movie I wouldn’t have been in if Sideways hadn’t happened. And to be in that group of actors – Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Woody Harrelson and…Lindsay Lohan! (laughs) Isn’t that great? I named all these people, and then…Lindsay! And there she was. It was so great to have her a part of that. Put her into the mix, you know? And to be sitting with them as peers, that’s the position I wanted to be in.
It was very exciting to work for Altman and Paul Thomas Anderson – God, it was like the most amazing young director and the legend, and I was in the middle. It was like going to actor camp. And nobody had trailers. There was nothing on this movie. There was a nunnery about a block away that had rooms that were called dressing rooms, but we basically stayed in the Fitzgerald Theater in Minnesota all day long, just watching each other perform. Just watching them sing songs and dancers come on stage. It’s based on that radio show A Prairie Home Companion. And Garrison (Keillor) would be up there telling bad jokes in between. John C. Reilly would start singing Elvis and the band would join in. It was just incredible.
The first day that I got there, I walked into the theater…I love my job and I’m always really grateful to have employment as an actor. So the first day is always as exciting as when I did Electric Dreams. So I walked in and on the stage are Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin, singing. Singing! And my hair’s standing on end, you know? And I sort of just sat down in the back of the theater and just cried like a baby, because I couldn’t believe that I was there. That’s when it really kind of felt like the culmination of everything that I’d worked for. Waiting for Sideway to come out and even…starting with The Rainmaker, is when I sort of began this journey. And to sit down in that moment, it just came flooding in, the realization that yes, I’d made it to where I wanted to go. All these years later. Seven years.
Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at
CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...