What type of roles excite you now?
Oh I don’t know. It’s best not to think, “Ooh I’d love to play that!” because you could always get disappointed. So I just take it as it comes, look at it, decide, “Okay, let’s do it.” James Mason told me … and I can’t do his voice … he said: “Malcolm, when I get a script there are three things I take into account: the money, the part, and the location. If you can get two of three, then do it!” And I think that is very good advice.
When you pick up a script, what is it you are looking for? Describe how you choose the films that you do?
You know what? It’s a purely instinctive, emotional feel. It’s intuitive. You just pick it up, you read it, and either it says something to you, or it doesn’t. You go: “Ugh I don’t like that!”, or you go: “My God that’s extraordinary, that’s really weird or interesting!” And I don’t want to do safe things, you know. I want to do things that are controversial, or that are risqué for the actor. I don’t want to be doing just safe stuff, you know. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about doing something which is more difficult than that. Otherwise you get bored.
There’s plenty of Irish in your blood, Malcolm….
One of your Grand Parents was Irish, if I’m not mistaken…
My mother’s father was Irish, and a McDowell. And in fact, I reverted to my mother’s maiden name because there was another actor, called Malcolm Taylor, which was my name.
Taylor, your Sir Name?
Yes! And both my parents are from Manchester.
Tell me something about your family links to Ireland.
I had an uncle, Uncle Fred, who was Irish, Fred McDowell, who apparently had all the money in the family and was very tight with it, because we never saw any of it. But why should we, you know. Everyone was very proud of their Irish ancestry on my mother’s side, of course. And in fact my father was really rather pissed off when I told him I was changing my name: “What?!” and I said, “Well … Malcolm McDowell!” And he said, “Ah fer God’s sake! Why the hell would ya want ‘that’ stupid name!” I said, “Well that’s my mother’s ‘maiden’ name”, and he went “Arraagh ya don’t want to be one of The McDowells!” I said, “Yes I do, I really do! It’s a great name.” And he was a bit pissed off. I remember, when he came to premieres and stuff, he’d say, “I don’t know why ya’d change yer name!” and I‘d say, “Dad, it’s too late now!” And you know, he was always a bit miffed. But I’ve always felt this great affinity to that side of my family nature, and I’ve always loved it when I come to Ireland. It has been too few the times, but I’ve enjoyed it, and I’d love to come there and make another film actually.
The Irish story, “Red Roses and Petrol”, a stage play written by Sinead O’Connor’s brother, the playwright Joseph O’Connor, and adapted for the big screen by American Director/Producer Tamar Simon Hoffs, is one of your recent films in which you play the character Enda Doyle. How was it to work again with cinematographer Nancy Schreiber on “Red Roses and Petrol?”
Oh, brilliant. Nancy’s work is fantastic, and they did it so fast. We did it in high definition, and then they transferred it to film. Nancy, I’ve worked with before. I did another film with her, “Chain Of Desire” (1992) and she is absolutely fantastic, she really is. That was another terrific film that she did.
In “Red Roses and Petrol”, there seems to be a close bond between you and the rest of the cast of the Doyle family, almost as if family ties were forged off set between you all, and in particular between your character Enda Doyle and his son Johnny Doyle played by Max Beesley. Was there a sense of family amongst the cast during the shoot, and if so, how was that fostered amongst you all?
We had a read through, and I just went along to read the film. I wasn’t quite sure whether they were going to make it or not, because you never really know until you start! I’ve been involved in so many projects where at the last minute the money falls through or something. So we met at Tammy’s apartment in L.A., and we read it, and it was obvious how fabulous the whole atmosphere was and it was quite extraordinary. She’s a lovely person, Tammy. She’s very good at casting and bringing the people together, and it’s a great talent, doing that. And she really wanted Max (Beesley). What prompted her about me actually was she had seen me doing “Gangster No. 1″, God knows why! She cast me from “Gangster No. 1″ to this, I have no idea, very diametrically opposite characters. But it doesn’t really matter … there’s something about that Enda Doyle that I just absolutely loved. Obviously working with Max was very important, and as soon as I met him at the read through, we got on like a house on fire, he’s just a wonderful, wonderful kid, and a great actor. He really is. I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t make it in a big way
Did you identify things about your own family Malcolm, within the “Red Roses and Petrol” story itself?
Yes, a little bit of course. One always goes back to that! And, as they say in Yorkshire, “There’s nothing so queer as Folk!” And, of course, one identifies with a lot of it. I use my father, I suppose, in him (Enda Doyle) as well. You use everything you can. But I found him quite adorable, and I don’t know why. Of course never wanted to play any sentimentality at all, and I just think it’s very moving at the end when he finally gets the poem out. It’s a wonderful piece.
How important is family to you?
More important than anything, I think. Your family comes first obviously, I mean it sounds like an obvious thing, but we live a very charmed life really.
“Red Roses and Petrol” made its way to the screen on a low budget, and has premiered in Ireland at the Galway Film Fleadh Festival, and also at the Deauville American Film Festival in France where you yourself were recently honoured. Do you like doing independent films like “Red Roses and Petrol”, versus big studio productions?
Well the food’s not quite as good! But other than that, yes. I mean of course it’s nice to do a Hollywood film, I’m not saying I don’t ‘do’ Hollywood films. Of course I love to do them. The truth is, the most interesting, cutting sort of stories are usually independent because the studios won’t touch anything that doesn’t have a built-in guaranteed audience. Well we all know how brilliantly they’ve done on ‘that’ philosophy. But the truth is, is that all the more sort of odd stories, the stories with edge are of course independents. And they’re the ones that I’m drawn to. Or maybe I’m odd, I don’t know, but …I get bored with going to movies where I see the same bloody chases, the same explosions, the same blah blah blah. It’s just moviemaking for twelve-year-olds. So when you get something that is for a mature adult audience, it’s sort of a relief.
The interview continues in part four of MALCOLM MCDOWELL: BEYOND A CLOCKWORK ORANGE>>>
Posted on May 3, 2005 in Interviews by Seán McCarthy
If you liked this article then you may also like the following Film Threat articles:
- RED ROSES AND PETROL
- MALCOLM MCDOWELL: BEYOND A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
- MALCOLM MCDOWELL: BEYOND A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
- JACK BAXTER’S BROTHER MINISTER: THE ASSASSINATION OF MALCOLM X
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