While he has not played explosive people that often in films, he has done many such roles on stage. It's great therapy for anyone with a temper, Malkovich said.
"I couldn't recommend it more highly," Malkovich said in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, where "Burn After Reading" played in advance of its theatrical release Friday.
"You can't really just go out on the street and scream. People think you're nuts. But what do you do? Where do you do it? How do you do that?" he said. "I guess if you have a heavy-bag, you could punch it, but the physical part is only one part of that. You could probably go into primal-scream therapy or something like that, but that takes a lot of time, and it's not really immediate, and it's slightly orchestrated."
In "Burn After Reading," Malkovich's Osborne Cox feels rage all the time. After a demotion, he quits his job as a CIA analyst in a huff, begins a hapless attempt to write his memoirs, is cuckolded by his wife (Tilda Swinton) and her lover (George Clooney), then winds up blackmailed by a couple of fitness club dimwits (Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand).
So he has plenty to be angry about, and Malkovich indulges the fury, bellowing profanity and lashing out in occasional violence - drawing some big laughs while he's at it.
"It's funny when people are upset. I think they're funny to watch, and probably me even more than other people...because I have such a bad temper, and there's something really funny about that," Malkovich said.
"(Now) I almost never lose my temper," he said. "Over the years, so much of it has melted away, but still the memory of it is there."
Malkovich, 54, stars in two other films playing the Toronto festival, which runs through Saturday. In "Disgrace," Malkovich plays a professor who ruins his career through an affair with a student and encounters turmoil in post-apartheid South Africa.
In the thriller "Afterwards," he's cast as a doom-saying doctor who claims he can foretell when people are going to die.
In October, Malkovich joins Angelina Jolie in Clint Eastwood's missing-child drama "Changeling," about a woman trying to discover what happened to her young son when police bring back another boy in his place.
Joel and Ethan Coen wrote most of the roles in "Burn After Reading," Malkovich's included, with the particular actors in mind.
"I was not only flattered that Joel and Ethan sought me out, but more importantly, delighted to get the chance to work with them," Malkovich said. "And to think they wrote something sort of thinking of me I think is hilarious."
Malkovich does not mind that the Coens wrote him such an angry role. Besides, the bluster suits Malkovich, the Coens said.
"He does that so well. He pops," Joel Coen said. "He pops that top button on his collar."