When you search for images of Michael Madsen, odds are a number of those top results are going to include the hulking actor dangling a lit cigarette between his fingers. Perhaps in character from one of his iconic collaborations with director Quentin Tarantino, or maybe just a shot of him hanging outside an Oscar party. But like all information on the Internet, that image has become outdated, because Madsen dropped the habit for good nearly a year ago. “I’ve finally gotten rid of all my bad habits,” says Madsen, who still packs that iconic smokers growl. Here, the 57-year-old actor shares that he’s happier and healthier than he’s ever been, and it's not looking like he'll turn back to his hedonistic ways anytime soon.
1. Find an inspiration for quitting.
"I have five sons, and I was trying to chase my youngest boy up the stairs. I caught myself huffing and puffing. I thought to myself, 'Man, I’m too young to be struggling this much.' So I just quit," he says.
2. Just go cold turkey.
"Like most of the decisions I’ve made in my life, I just said, 'fuck it.' I’m not going to smoke anymore," he says. "It was hard for about two weeks, and then you don’t need it anymore. You know I was shooting a movie a little while ago and my character was supposed to smoke. I said, 'That’s fine. I can do it for the role.' I thought I would be fine. I waited until they were rolling to light the fucking thing… I put it to my mouth and started coughing uncontrollably and got super dizzy. I mean I almost crashed into the picture van."
3. If you just quit smoking, focus on how gross it is.
"You know now when I see someone smoking I’m disgusted by it. I didn’t realize how much you could smell it on a person until I stopped myself. I guess that was me back then," he says. "I didn’t smoke in Hateful Eight. The cigarettes that they had me using were cloves. Tarantino wanted me to be smoking in every scene, but I think I ended up being able to do it only twice."
4. Make working out a priority.
"I swim a lot, almost every day. I just go out to the beach by my place in Malibu and jump into the ocean. I can’t surf, so I swim. It’s the best workout I’ve ever known, because it works your entire body."
5. Be grateful for how awesome you feel (instead of harping on missing the booze and cigs).
"I feel amazing, actually [that I've dropped the smoking and the drinking]. You know I had so much whiskey throughout the years I don’t miss it. You know, sooner or later, it’s over man. It’s over. I survived and I’m lucky for it."
Madsen's new movie, 'Back in the Day,' is in theaters now.