Malcolm McDowell Reflects on His Resurgent Career and Classic Roles (Q&A)
For one of cinema's most iconic figures, Malcolm McDowell has gotten fewer honors than you'd expect: runner-up for a National Society of Film Critics award for A Clockwork Orange, a shared Critics Choice ensemble nomination for The Artist.
But at last, on March 16, he gets his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Why did the thrice married father of five (whose son Charlie is dating Rooney Mara) have to wait until age 68?
He's amused by Alfred Hitchcock's reply when asked why the Queen waited until the director was 80 to knight him: "Carelessness, I suppose."
The Hollywood Reporter quizzed McDowell on his resurgent career.
Walk of Fame Ceremony
When: 11:30 a.m., March 16
Where: 6714 Hollywood Blvd.
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: You have 30 IMDb credits since 2011, versus 13 in the entire 1970s. What are your favorite recent roles?
Malcolm McDowell: I get a kick playing Stanton Infeld on [TNT's] Franklin & Bash, not a heavy, an eccentric. I've had a fun time on [CBS'] The Mentalist [as an evil cult leader]. And June 4 I start shooting The Monster Butler, based on a real story about a good butler who became a serial killer in his 50s. Downton Abbey it ain't, though it's the same set, about. I've been waiting 20 years to make this film. I was meeting with Warner EVP Jeff Baker about the 40th anniversary box of Clockwork, that's how it started. He said, "That sounds amazing!" We got some investors. The budget is about $6 million, but it'll look like 20. [The film will be released theatrically, then by Warner Home Video.]
THR: What are your favorite classic roles?
McDowell: I don't like to look back at stuff. But the weekend of the star thing, the Cinematheque shows a series of my films: If..., Clockwork, of course, Time After Time, with a Q&A with my ex-wife Mary Steenburgen, which we've never done before; O Lucky Man!; and Evilenko, a wonderful film nobody's seen here.
THR: As the thuggish punk in Lindsay Anderson's If... and Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, you had an angelic malevolence.
McDowell: I'm not quite as buoyant as I was in my youth.
THR: But you've still got a sardonic look, like your scary agent Terrance in Entourage.
McDowell: Sardonic is a good word for it. It puts people off. He's always totally in control. Have you met these agents? Do you think they're angelic, moral people? They're killers. So much fun!
THR: Alex in Clockwork kept people off balance, too.
McDowell: I didn't play him as a bad guy. If you take out the rape and murder, he was one of the lads. How can you not like him?
THR: What was the difference between Anderson and Kubrick?
McDowell: Masters! Both. I got lucky. Lindsay was a much more hands-on director: "No, I don't want that, do this; don't think about it, just do it!" Stanley would say, "OK, let's rehearse." "What do you want, Stanley?" "Hey, that's why I hired you. You come up with the ideas."
THR: Like your "Singin' in the Rain" rape scene.
McDowell: It was ironic, funny and black, which Stanley loved. It was an ad-lib where suddenly you knew which way the film was going.
THR: How does your monster butler compare with Clockwork's Alex?
McDowell: He's like Alex 40 years on. Charismatic. He does this tranny act, sings "Big Spender" in prison as the convicts whistle.
THR: Stanley would be so happy to see you getting back to song and dance.
McDowell: He would be. This is the kind of movie Stanley would love.