Michael Madsen is back in Buffalo.
The veteran actor, who portrayed Bump Bailey in the star-studded 1984 film “The Natural” – perhaps the best-known movie shot in Buffalo – has returned as the biggest name in a locally produced independent film.
His new role is far different than the baseball player who died after crashing through an outfield wall in the Robert Redford film.
In “Q4 Dream Corporation” – a sci-fi, futuristic thriller about the government attempting to control people’s sleeping habits – Madsen plays the role of antagonist Brandon Payton, who runs a corporation that is connected to manipulating people’s dreams.
After 10 days of filming in Erie and Niagara counties, production will move to Edmonton, Alberta, for three weeks.
Monday, Madsen stood on top of the stairs at the Niagara Falls Police Department. His long hair was slicked back and he wore black sunglasses and a dark grey suit. The crew was filming a scene in which his character walks out of the police department and encounters a swarm of reporters.
“I’m not primarily known for playing parts like that,” Madsen said between takes about his sophisticated and intelligent character. “So it’s interesting to do something like that, as an intellectual, not smoking cigarettes or shooting any guns.”
Madsen has appeared in more than 150 films, including “Reservoir Dogs,” “Free Willy,” “Vice,” “Kill Bill”, and “Thelma & Louise.”
Tim McKort of Western Directives Inc. in Canada, wrote the script for “Q4 Dream Corporation” and is directing the movie. Buffalo Film Festival founder Bill Cowell is producing it.
Cowell used his industry connections to bring in Madsen and actors John Van Ness and Barry Kivel, who also appeared in “The Natural.”
Cowell met Madsen, Van Ness and Kivel when Cowell made a documentary on “The Natural” two years ago, and they’ve kept in touch since.
They seemed happy to return to the Queen City when he asked them to star in “Q4 Dream Corporation.”
“Most of the people (in Buffalo) are really proud of it, they’re proud of where they live and the city, and it’s nice,” Madsen said. “I mean, I’m from Chicago, and I understand those kinds of feelings, and I have a lot of respect for it. And it has great chicken wings.”
For Van Ness, it didn’t take much to persuade him to star in a movie filmed partially in the Buffalo area.
“I love Buffalo,” Van Ness said. “I come back for the film festival whenever I can. ... I love your town, I love your people.”
While in the area, the crew will shoot scenes at hospitals, private offices and near Niagara Falls.
Passers-by walking along Main Street on Monday stopped and watched the scene from the sidewalk. Drivers slowed down and rolled down their windows to get a peek.
Claudia Ballnus, 58, of Queens, was shocked when she walked past Madsen, one of her favorite actors.
“It’s like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing being this close to a movie being made,” she said. “You’re going to see it on the screen and know that you were there when it was being filmed. I mean, how cool is that?”
Buffalo’s film and arts community got a treat, too.
McKort and Cowell have tapped into local talent – hiring local actors as extras, as well as sound, grip and light technicians.
“There’s a huge arts community here to tap into, including actors,” McKort said. “I think there’s a lot of stuff going on here in the film community that a lot more people should be accessing.”
Frank Tedesco, 56, of Lewiston, is an accountant and takes acting jobs on the side, hoping to one day be a full-time actor. He was one of about 20 extras on Monday’s set, acting as one of the reporters questioning Madsen’s character about the corporation.
Though his only line was yelling, “Mr. Payton,” he was enthusiastic about getting the chance to work with Madsen and “watch him, listen to him, watch his mannerisms and his off-camera movements.” The experience, he hopes, will help him grow as an actor.
McKort’s goal is to finish the film by late April or early May and then be “very protective with how we release it,” he said. He wants to make sure he reaches as big and broad an audience as he can.
Madsen says he doesn’t know if “Q4 Dream Corporation” will enjoy the kind of success attained by “The Natural.” but it’s possible.