13. Dezember 2018

A creative talk with actor Michael Madsen

With his latest movie ‚Why are we creative’ Hermann Vaske (artist, author, producer and Creative Director) has proven himself an expert in terms of creativity. After having posed the question „Why are you creative?“ to the world’s most influential artists and thinkers, his conclusion is captivating, yet simple.

„If you ask me what I really want, I say surprise me, please surprise me. Creativity means bringing together two things that have nothing to do with each other and form a third.“ – Hermann Vaske

We are very happy to announce Hermann Vaske as one of our speakers at the ADC Festival on May 2019 in Hamburg. In line with our motto – Creative Intelligence – Vaske and other leading creatives will give exclusive insights into the creative future of people, brands and new technologies. The following interview with actor Michael Madsen gives a little sneak peek of what we can expect from Vaske’s learnings and insights on creativity at our festival.


An interview from Hermann Vaske with Michael Madsen

So, Michael. Why are you creative?

Why am I creative? Well, I guess the only answer is that there is nothing else to do. I mean, you got to be creative in order to keep breathing. Breathing itself is a way to be creative.

You know I was just thinking of James Cagney. When I was a very young man, I read a book about James Cagney and he said that every man in his own way is only trying to figure out some way to be immortal. And some way to find immortality. He figured that making movies was a good way to do that. And it kind of is. You know, after you’re dead and gone, if you made a couple of pictures, they are always going to be there. And I guess you have to be creative in order to stay alive. I just don’t want to play the same character every time around.

Creativity is one of those things that is slipping out of American consciousness and the consciousness of everybody, of all people. The more they try to invent things that will do shit for you, the less you got to do yourself.

Why am I creative? Well, I guess the only answer is that there is nothing else to do.

My exhibition that we just saw is called Why are we creative? And on the other hand, we could ask: Why are people not creative? What keeps people away from creativity, what kills creativity?

I think creativity can be a bit frightening. Sometimes. Because if you look back and you think about some other terrible, horrible things that were created by being creative, it can be pretty bad. There is really no endgame. But I think if anybody is not creative it is just because they are lazy. You know, it’s…


Laziness, I think, creates non-creativity. It’s easier to lay in bed in the morning and not get up, trying to figure out a way to fall back asleep.

©Florian Luxenburger

What were your creative influences?

I liked Picasso. Picasso would have spit on a napkin and crumpled it up and thrown it away. If somebody had picked it up, the goddamn thing would have probably been worth ten million dollars. It’s insane how one person can become this thing that is unexplainably forever interesting.

I like old movies. I like old black-and-white movies. Humphrey Bogart pictures and James Cagney pictures. And Robert Mitchum, of course, was a fascinating actor. I remember thinking that it was the first time I saw and realized what acting was. ‚Cause I saw him in an interview and I realized how much he was like the characters he played. So I realized it probably wasn’t going to be that difficult, it wasn’t really that mysterious of a thing to be able to do. And…

…and Anthony Quinn?

Anthony Quinn, yeah, he was another one…

He played Zorba the Greek.

He could be anybody, he could be an Indian. He could be Greek, he could be Spanish, he could be anything. Because he had that crazy face, he could be anything. „Requiem for a Heavyweight“. He played a boxer called Mountain McClintock and it was just wonderful.

©Florian Luxenburger

You published a couple of books with your poetry. What is the difference between movie acting and writing?

There is a difference between movie acting and writing because if you are in a movie and you got to play a role, then you got to do it. Because they wrote the part and they gave you the job and when it’s time to do it, you have to do it.

But if you are going to write something, you really can’t write it unless you are thinking of it. You can’t just get a piece of paper and write down a poem. If you are not consciously thinking of the poem you’ll never be able to do it. So I think it’s a lot more psychologically personal, I think.

Is it a different kind of creativity?

Yeah, very much so. I am haunted by movies I look at that I have done 20, 25 years ago because some of them I can’t even remember doing.  But I think I appreciate some of the books I wrote. Because it is more personal. I go back and read stuff that I wrote and I am glad I wrote it down while I thought it.

Can you tell us about your poetry? How it came about?

I used to write stuff on napkins.

In the restaurant, or on the back of a match book, or on a grocery bag. I would have these little thoughts and then I would write stuff down and I don’t know, I thought it was an instant way to record. But I wasn’t planning on being a writer. I wasn’t doing it because I wanted to write a book someday. I don’t know where it came from. I think I had just a clever observation of things that I thought was different from most people that I knew.

I had that… thinking that I could contribute something to the world.

It’s a bit of a curse like I was saying. I think sometimes when I meet people, I can figure people out in about ten seconds, just by watching them walk or just listening to them. It’s the way they sit in a chair, the way somebody eats food and I wish I could turn it off.

But it’s always going, it’s always going and going and going. You know where I come from,  I had a blue collar father and a mother who was a writer. I had that weird combination of being a real hardcore disbeliever about anything and then, at the same time, hoping and thinking that I could contribute something to the world.

©Florian Luxenburger

About Michael Madsen: Michael Madsen has become immortal through his roles in Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill and The Hateful Eight and in Robert Rodriguez Sin City. He also stars in Tarantino’s new Film „Once Upon a Time“ in Hollywood. In October 2018 Michael visited Frankfurt where he attended Hermann Vaske’s Why Are You Creative Exhibition. He also was guest of Honor at the premiere of Hermann Vaske’s Fuel of Creativity in the Frankfurt Club Oosten where the new car brand Cupra celebrated the Launch of the Cupra Ateca.

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