EPISODE 7: American Badass: Bruce Dern Part 1

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Show Notes

Welcome to American Badass with Michael Madsen! In his first episode, Michael sits down with one of his heroes and close friends, Bruce Dern. 


Straw hot media. Hi, my
name is Michael Madson and welcome to my

podcast, American Badass. Thanks for
tuning in. I'm kind of excited to

introduce my first guest. Am I
good friend Bruce Dern. You've probably heard

of him and if you haven't,
you should have, or I should say

you've probably seen him but didn't even
know it. Bruce is tremendous actor with

a career spanning over six decades,
and let me tell you, that's a

very long time to be acting,
especially if you do it as well as

he does. I've been around him
and I know what I'm talking about.

He's been in some iconic film and
TV shows, like as far back as

Bananza, gun smoke, root,
sixty six, sea hunt and many,

many more. We've also done two
pictures together. They hateful eight. Once

upon a time in Hollywood we got
directed by Quentin, think God, and

he saved the day. So I
think you get the just the man is

quite an impressive career, so to
speak, in cinema and I'm so happy

and lucky to have him as my
friend and my show being this the first

one a Bruce's at you. Yes, sir, Hey man, it's Michael,

welcome, welcome to American Badass.
I don't know if you appreciate that

title, but it's okay. But
for you, for you, it's always

all good. You know, how
are how are you? I was going

to ask you the same question.
I actually you know, it's quite an

honor for me that you, you're
my first guest and the first time around

on the show, and I just
love it for that, Percie, I

have missed your Pale. I miss
you. I mean it's just to go

to see each other every day for
almost a year and a half and then

miss you. And I'm just now
finishing your book of poetry. But there's

gems in there, man, there's
real, real gems. I mean,

what's great about it? It's also
a psychological thriller, if you know what

I mean. Yeah, I mean
you, you get it. You've always

at it. You know what you
get it too, but that's why we're

friends. To get it, to
get it all and to be able to

write it down or from the heart
is fabulous, and that's what you've done.

For those of you don't know this
about me, I also write poetry,

and the book that Bruce is talking
about is called the complete works of

Michael Madson and then I found out
that bruce had a great uncle who was

a prolific writer and poet with Archibald
McLeish. One of those things about Bruce

that you know, you think you
know everything about the guy and then you

find out something like that and it
was just amazing and so honored to have

him on here to even have someone
like that in his past. Congratulations on

this thing that you're doing, I
think, and a perfect title. Yeah,

I think it works. You know
it's because a nice introduction and it's

I was going to say to you
that I had no idea a couple things

I found out about you and because
you were talking about poetry, you had

a grand uncle. That one a
proved surprise for poetry. He won five

archibald mcclif my God, Pruis I. They run five and they ended his

life as the he not only one
five, but he was also library in

the Congress for twenty one years and
he's my grandfather's brother. My middle name

is mcquiche and growing up we finally
soldered, but the family owned a department

store downtown called Carson, Piery and
Scott and it was a huge you know,

department store and now it's the building
is still are because it's a historical

and Marcos built eighteen something or other, one thousand eight hundred and ninety six

or something like that. And my
grandfather, Bruce mccuich, who was Argent

brother, he ran it and I'm
my mother who was daughter of Bruce mccleiche.

I grew up his big property was
right next door to our big property

on like Michigan. So my grandfather
raised me more than my father did.

My father was there. My father's
a big lawyer. My God you know

my not only was his father secretary
of war, but my father's law partner.

And My godfather ran for president twice
and it was Adelai Stevenson, whose

you know what, after all the
time I wrote my told me then I

wrote. When I wrote my book, I wrote it because I wanted people

to understand Laura and I didn't fall
off a fucking turnip truck. Like I

mentioned, Bruce was in some pretty
iconic stuff. I happened to catch an

episode of gun smoke the other day
where he was in these early days,

before he was even going to be
on the show. The gun smoke was

a Western television series from the s
Yep, you heard correct. That's quite

a long Typico and it actually started
as a radio show. James Arness was

the was Matt Dylan, and what
a wonderful show it was. started out

in black and white and it was
on for a long time. One of

the leading characters in one of the
episodes was actually portrayed by Burt Reynolds.

The new thing about gun smoke for
if you got killed you could do one

every year, but if you lived, because residuals had just come in,

they they would never have you back
because they didn't want to pay you to

be a running character, you know. But Burt Reynolds was a running character

for a year. Yeah, Taylor
was on in character for a year.

More an answer than there a couple
times to what he yeah, but I

gun smokes for fun and you know, one day I went to work and

the ads on gun smoke that particular
season. Or Walter though, correct,

break Gosh, and John Millius,
Oh my God, I spruce. He

was a second and I go to
work in Walter says to me, Hey,

bruce, we got a big surprise
for you today and I said,

Oh my God, and he said
like, what's IT gonna be? Put

Your Wardrobe on and go up on
the set. So I put my wardrobe

on and I went on the set
and the lady playing my mother was Betty

Davis. Oh Jesus God, you
know what, and she's so good that

episode. You've completely flipping had it. You look like you're twenty five years

old. I got tears in my
eyes. You. She turned right in

front of her and she said with
the matter with you, brustern? And

I said, DDY, it's a
gun smoke, and he said, well,

who's going to pay for my cigarettes? And is and also used the

phrase get over it, and I
thought, my God, here's a five

time Oscar nominee doing a bucket.
And so that was was fun about those.

But you know something, and that
season, I remember nineteen sixty well,

one thousand nine hundred sixty three to
one thousand nine hundred sixty seven.

Universal pictures did fourteen hours a week, fourteen hours a week of cowboys shows.

Did you ever go on the rifleman? No, that stopped just before

I came. I did. You
know wagon trianglarer me and you know,

and once upon a time in once
upon a time in Hollywood. I was

in the pilot of Lancer. Oh
God, I'm sure quite we're taking that,

which I think he had to do
something with, you know, and

Jim Stacy was Lancer. Wow.
And what I was talking about for his

accident. Didn't James Stacy have a
bad motorbike accident? It was. You

was just before his accident, maybe
two years before his accent. But what

I love about Quinton is the fact
that he took the time to feature James

Stacy in once upon a time.
Well, you know, that's the kind

of guy. He is busy.
gave me a car and the guy in

one thousand, nine hundred and seventy
four, Jesus Christ says, before the

price to see that before I tept
on this yet, he he. I

did him over with Kirk Douglas,
called Posseo Western. He and I were

there two stars and he hired Jim
Stacy with the one arm and one leg

to be a big role in the
movie and I thought that was great and

I started realizing if there's two things, Michael, that I missed today in

the business more than anything else,
number one is there's not much respect for

what went before. Dull Bud he
you know, I think I'm pretty to

do. I was going to say
the same damn thing. It's number two.

There's no more handshades, no one
has to look in the eye anymore.

Bullshit can fly all day every day. It does. Yeah, and

it's taken the heart out of what
we got in the business for. And

if somebody says, well, I'm
maybe five, and if someone says there's

what? But you're still doing it. I see that you work in all

this and do that and that you're
still running an award here and there.

And why do you still go on? Because I'm still trying to get better.

That's why you're pretty damn and I
wasn't bad and fast. I was

pretty good in Nebraska and but I, you know, I you kind of

climbed the same ladder I did in
a way. But you want to Europe.

I was too fucking stupid to think, well, I'll go to Europe.

You know, I just I was
just thrilled to get a widing drink.

Well, I mean, you're running
around doing marathons before that, weren't

they? Did you actually run three
hundred marathons? Oh No, I've run

more than that. Yeah, I
ran, I ran well, or,

as put it this way, I've
had six runners world covers and in one

of them, when I get Nebraska
five years ago and it came out,

a runners world guide came and interviewed
me and stayed with me em and I

didn't stay in my fucking house,
but I mean I went day for fifty

days and and they congratulated me any
article, for running a hundred and five

thousand miles. She's steps four times
around the world. That's how far run.

I think I could make that.
Oh, I shouldn't negative on that

one, buddy. Make it on
your on your motor cycle drum. You

never want to be a manager in
that era, the S and S,

you know, when you didn't work, you had nothing to do. So

I just ran and we would run
four thousand miles a year for forty years.

Good God Almighty, and that's it's
sick. We were jumpies, but

jumpies of that have to be.
And what the reason I doing and I

still do it, is because two
things. It's honest, because the watch

doesn't goly. Yeah, buddy,
it's. And number two is I'm going

somewhere on my own. Well,
okay, on on that note, I'll

let you guys out there listening,
to go somewhere on your own, whatever

that means to you, is something
you probably couldn't understand, but makes a

lot of sense to me, especially
coming from him. But make sure you

come back because after the break,
Bruce and I are going to talk a

little bit about his movie Nebraska,
which really was a tremendous bit of filmmaking

and directed by Alexander Paine. Welcome
back to American Badass. Thanks for tuning

in. I'm speaking with my friend
Bruce dern today who, apart from being

an outstanding actor, has, as
it turns out, run, I should

say ran over three hundred marathons,
which is approximately four times around the world.

Those knees man, quite an accomplishment. But let's hear some more about

Nebras s good, the film that
landed Bruce of ween and can for his

stellar performance. If you haven't seen
it yet, you should really check it

out. It's a brilliant black and
white comedy drama, with will forte and

Bob Odin Kirk alongside Bruce. Anyway, the process of making the movie Nebraska

with Bruce was also pretty unique,
especially these days. It's interesting. When

I went to do Nebraska, Alexander
Paine said to me the first day,

and we were some little friend on
Nebraska or sometime like that, and it

was cold. It was late October. And he said to me the first

day, he says, you see
anything today on the set you've never seen

on your first day on the movie
before? I said, you know what,

but I do. I see everybody
seems to be pulling there or and

he said to me, well,
hopefully that's because we have ninety two people

here and eighty one have worked every
day on every film I've ever made.

Oh, they had you. So
you, sir, so you, sir,

can get a risk. And this
is Sadan Papa Michael, and he's

your cameraman. I said, I
know, we met yesterday and I wonder

if you do something for Faden and
I were not sure you ever did.

And I said what's that? Let
us do our jobs and I said me,

he said never ever show US anything. Let us find it. And

Piccino came up to me at a
party and said, you know, everybody

back the actress studios talking about your
performance in breast guy. Haven't seen it.

So I Brad Gray was at the
party. He was a had a

paramount then and I went to him
and I said, you know, Al

has not seen Nebraska, and he
said tell him he'll have one copy of

it on his doorstep with his newspaper
tomorrow morning. The next day at noon

he called me up dead silent.
I mean he said, Bruce, it's

Al. I said yes, sir. He said dead silence for about maybe

fifteen seconds. Yeah, and he
said how did you do that and I

said well, he said, Bruce, I never saw the work, you

know. So I did Danny Bresco
with with you, and he got order

guy and some I've had a thing. Yeah, he said no, I'm

dead serious, and I told him
what Alexander under said to me about never

show us anything, will find it, and he said, I have tears

in my eyes because you knew right
then you had a partner, and I

don't and I don't know that I've
ever heard a partner. You know,

he was kind of like that.
I remember when we did Donny Brasco,

there was a point where obviously I
didn't want to read for it because I'm

a terrible cold reader. I just
can't do it. I don't know why,

but I just can't. I'm so
terrible at the audition. Hear the

one that led the Tigers into the
restaurant. Yes, yeah, I sure

did, but I almost didn't get
that poement time. You worked in him

away with him. I wouldn't.
That's the only time I did with with

him, but I know I wouldn't
have got in it if it wasn't for

him, because I I didn't want
to read for it, and they kept,

you know, at me to please
read, and I kept explaining to

them that I really didn't want to
because if I did, they just flat

out turn me down and I wouldn't
be able to get in the picture and

forever read. Not a find of
not readingly going to patally reading for Vicky.

fucking dumb. I couldn't do it. I said, listen, I'm

not gonna do it, and it
when I didn't do it. I can

read. It's the worst experience in
the world. And finally I said Look,

you guys, you know you might
as well move on. And then

about three days later they asked me, would you meet Al just please?

Would you say I to hell?
And I said, well, Shane,

you didn't known. No, no, it was before Quinton, and I

said I said I think I had
did, no, I had done reservoir

dogs and I don't remember what year
was, but I had a flight to

New York to meet L are you
still there? Yeah, I heard some

beeping sound. So I had a
flight to New York to meet out,

which I said sure, you know, and I mean who would it right?

And it was like meeting like some
I mean it was a big deal

to meet him. It was all
kind of always in doors and oh,

he must have fallen in love with
you, man. I mean I went

in the room and he was standing
and he had his back to me and

it was looking out the window and
I didn't know what to do. I

was just standing there and as I
turned around and there was a bookcase and

I picked up a book and I
was just thumbing through this book and all

of a sudden I hear that voice
like the book and I'm like Hey,

but he hadn't even turned around and
I realized he could see the reflection of

me in the window that he was
staring out of. My God, and

I said I don't even know what
book it is. He was all okay,

okay, so and then he turns
rounding goes you read the script and

I go yeah, I read the
script. He was you like it?

I go yeah, yeah, I
think it's pretty good. He Goes,

Huh, you read the book?
I go yes, a matter of fact,

I did. He was okay,
okay, so what? Well,

what? What? What don't you
like about it? I said, well,

I said, the real sunny black
used to take care of pigeons up

on his roof and in the screenplay
my character has no birds. I don't

have why can't I have the pigeons? And he goes on, I get

the barts. The birds are for
me. You don't get the birds,

I get the barts and it is
okay, all right, we see what

he did of having in the movie, but at the tell us when you

do know it. I'm just thinking
of it now that Quinn likes to every

now and then give praise to what
went before. And Marlin had birds and

on the waterfront, on the roof. Yeah, he did. That's why

I wanted to do it. I
thought it was a neat kind of thing.

It was an interesting part of Oh
Sonny, he's he that. That's

only gay that I met him in
person at one night and the next day.

I never met him after that,
but he was, as always been,

extremely complimentary. Tomasia's I'll come on
that night that I talked of me's

just I'll come. You and I
have never worked together before. I said,

fuck you, brick. How many
did you turn and give Jimmy con

a fucking part in instead of me? He said any those is Rela one

thing that I you know, when
I taught acting for a long time,

actually, one of my students was
Ellen Burston Wow and then we did that

movie the Kingdom Irven Gardens Together,
she me and Jack and we were all

about the same age and so that
was nice. But the thing that I

remember the most is the one thing
that you never learned at the actors studio

or in an acting class or anything
else. How do you get the fucking

part? Yeah, yeah, I
I three years two years ago. Three

years ago, Laura and I gave
an academy award to lynnstall master at the

ceremony and he was the first casting
director to ever win an Oscar and we

presented it to him and he told
this story. That is in my book

also that I when we went on
interviews, Jack Nicholson, Harry Jane Stand

and me always went together on interviews
because we were all right for the same

part, we thought, and they
were always the fifth cowboy from the ride

or some shit like that. So
yeah, I we went to see him

for a gunsmoke and he said Harry
went in first and he came out,

Jack went in and he came out. Then it was my turn and I

realized by that time I'd been doing
this now for about three and a half

years and not really getting anywhere except
doing the same kind of thing. I

go into his office and he's on
the phone and I realized that you don't

have fifteen minutes, you have five
minutes, and so I grabbed the phone

out of his hand and I slammed
it down on a cradle and I said,

look, I got two and a
half minutes left up my life and

you're on the phone trying to call
whatever you're trying to call, and he

said turn around and get the hell
out of my office and your and get

this and take the two yokels outside
with you. He said with you,

because you have no respect for the
business, you have no respect for what

I do or anything else, and
you will never have a career. And

as I open the door and Jack
and Harry stand up immediately and I get

about ten steps toward the exit door, but I'm out of his room.

He's right behind me and he said, Oh, by the way, Mr

Dern, if you are ever in
anything, please let me know. I

walked back the ten feet to him
and I grabbed the lapel of his jacket

and I said, Mr Stallmaster,
I'm in your room. Yeah, he

hired me and he made Jack and
Harry Dean and my career in television and

he made it because the same thing
I was going to say. When you

went to meet the Geno, it's
obvious when people meet you you are the

real deal, and I think Aur
is the real deal. Speaking of the

real deal, thank you so much
for tuning in to our first episode of

American Badass with our guest Bruce dern
and are one of a kind host,

Michael Madson. You guys are amazing. If you enjoyed this conversation as much

as we did, watch out for
part two, coming out soon, or

it's probably already there. Just click
the next episode and, as always,

please rate and subscribe. It means
the world to us. We'd love to

hear what you think next time on
the PODCAST. Bruce and Micha will be

talking more about what it's like to
work with Quentin, why Brad Pitt fell

compelled to cradle bruce like a baby
and what's so special about Bruce's particular acting

style that has made him so successful. All Right, folks, that's it

for today. See you all next
time here on Straha media.
Michael Madsen: American Badass
Michael Madsen sits down with guests to discuss tales of the old New Hollywood.  American Badass is produced by:Ryan TillotsonTyler NielsenElizabeth KeenerFranziska... View More




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