- Bruce Willis, Die Hard, 1987. There were 16 possible John McClanes… From Madsen, Tom Berenger, and top TV heroes Don Johnson and Richard Dean Anderson to A-listers Charles Bronson, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Burt Reynolds, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone. And Frank Sinatra had to be contractually offered the hero; in his 1980 move debut, The First Deadly Sin, Willis is seen leaving a bar as Sinatra walks in. So it flows.
- Timothy Carhart, Thelma & Louise, 1990.
- Chris Noth, Law & Order, TV, 1990-1995. Madsen was favourite for Detective Mike Logan until the final reading when the NBC suits felt that his “acting mannerisms were repetitive.” Noth played Logan in the 1988 pilot and the following 110 episodes - plus a chapter of Homicide: Life On The Streets 1995, an L&O tele-film, Exiled, in 1998, and 36 chapters of the first spin-off, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, 2005-2008.
- Steve Buscemi, Reservoir Dogs, 1991.
- Eric Stolz, Killing Zoe, 1994. Casting announced in Cannes 1992 for the directing debut of whiz-bang director Quentin Tarantino’s writing partner, Roger Avary, included the man of more than 100 movies, five sons, four books of poetry, three wives, one parrot and the four-bedroom house Keith Moon built on the Malibu beach.
- Christopher Walken, True Romance, 1992. In the Tarantino family (via Monte Hellman who had been due to make Reservoir Dogs), Madsen tried to get the Tarantino script made, but no one was interested until after Dogs, by which time Quentin had sold his script to, you know... eat.
- John Travolta, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
- Woody Harrelson, Natural Born Killers, 1994. “Oliver Stone [directing] wanted me, but the studios offered him an extra $20m to cast Woody Harrelson.” “I fucked up,” admitted Stone. “Michael was not harmed but I wronged him by promising him the role and not being able to deliver.”
- George Clooney, From Dusk Till Dawn, 1995. All of Tarantino’a crew were booked elsewhere: Steve Buscemi, Madsen, Tim Roth, John Travolta. “If you don't try to take destiny into your own hands, you’re just going to be pegged and manipulated as a gun for hire. ‘There's a crazy guy in this movie. Let's get Madsen!’ I’d rather ride off into the sunset with the girl...leave the building unscathed...”
- Russell Crowe, LA Confidential, 1996. “It was written with me in mind, but Russell Crowe got the part. Go figure.” At the time, Madsen was too busy channeling Mitchum - minus the charisma.
- Billy Zane, This World, Then The Fireworks, 1997. "I really wanted incest," laughed Michael Oblowitz when telling me about his notion of having his incestuous lovers played by real siblings, such as Michael and Virginia Madsen.
- Russell Crowe, LA Confidential, 1997. Well, he wasn’t Australian… Director Curtis Harrington gave the top LA cops to Aussies Crowe and Guy Pearce - and a Hollywood debut to Simon Baker.
- Tom Sizemore, Saving Private Ryan, 1998. Not many people turn down Steven Spielberg. Madsen did - and suggested his pal Sizemore. A dumb move in that the role of Sergeant Horvath finally took Sizemore out of his usual routine, turning him into a 90s; William Bendix. Tom said it helped him fight his demons as Spielberg threatened to deep-six him and re-shoot the entire film if the actor once failed a drug test.
- Michael Biehn, Hawaii, TV, 2004. Change of Michaels after Madsen’s apparent creative differences. Maybe he wuz right! NBC canned the show after seven chapters and to prove it, the producers sold all the set’s knick-knacks to the Honolulu public. Not quite the same as buying Dorothy’s ruby slippers.
- Mickey Rourke, Sin City, 2004. Briefly considered for Marv. Madsen asked Robert Rodriguez, at the Kill Bill wrap party, how come he hadn't been selected for Sin City. Rodriguez obliged, with the only part that had not been filled. Bob.
- Michael Fassbender, Inglorious Basterds, 2008. Quentin Tarantino had the title since 1998 - the US title but not the same story of Enzo G Casterllari’s 1978 spaghetti war saga, Quel maledetto trena blindato. Madsen later announced the first casting of himself, Eddie Murphy, Tim Roth, Adam Sandler. But QT (aka Cute) postponed everything for his Kill Bills, 2003/4... and failed to achieve his dream of having Arnie, Bruce and Sly in the same movie.