MALCOLM MCDOWELL: BEYOND A CLOCKWORK ORANGE

You have also recently been directed by Mary McGuckian in the soon to be released “Rag Tale”…
I have, and a lovely and adorable woman she is!

… with Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Yeah … she’s brilliant.

With Tamar Simon Hoffs directing “Red Roses and Petrol”, do you enjoy working with female directors?
Yes, I do actually.

Is it different in any way?
It doesn’t make any difference to me whether they’re a man or a woman, frankly. That’s the least of it. The first thing is, “Do they know what they’re doing?” And, “Are they talented?.” And honestly, Mary and Tammy are very talented and they’re quite brilliant. I mean it’s much more difficult for a woman of course to be a director than it is for a man, let’s face it. I think men just find it hard to invest, they find it difficult to invest and put millions of dollars in the hands of a woman director, which is absolutely ridiculous, I think. Because they’re just as … the good ones of course, the good ones are good ones. I think it’s much more difficult for them to get going, frankly, and I think that’s well known. I’m sure it’s the same in Ireland too, but Mary (McGuckian) is an amazing case. I don’t know how she got the money for the film (“Rag Tale”), I was amazed, because everybody’s adlibbing, and improvising. And how she talked investors into putting up the money for it, I’ll just never know. I think she’s absolutely brilliant.

In ‘Rag Tale’ you play a media tycoon type of character…
It’s sort of a Rupert Murdoch kind of thing, but not ‘really’ him. It’s basically all about one of those newspapers in England like “The Sun” or “The Mirror” … one of the tabloids, and I’m the owner of it. So obviously, who owns all the tabloids? Rubert Murdoch. I didn’t do any research trying to play him or wanting to play him or anything like that. But he’s of course a man of extreme confidence who walks into his building and passes a huge oil painting of him self in the foyer every day. So no more really need to be said. He’s God, I suppose, he’s God, in that environment. It was sort of fun doing it (“Rag Tale”), because we sort of played games for a couple of weeks, rehearsing and making things up and all that. I’d never done that before, and not even for Robert Altman, and everything that I did for Altman was sort of improvised. It’s good to do something that’s not really scripted. The sort of action was scripted, the construction of the film, but just not the dialogue. The dialogue was very loose, and it was a lot of fun to just go out and just go on a limb and do it! There was a whole slew of absolutely brilliant actors that Mary cast.

I’ve heard that you admire the work of Jennifer Lason Leigh…
Yes, I do. Bob Altman did this film called “Short Cuts” (1993) where Jennifer played one of these sex operators, where she’s got the baby there, you know, and she did such a great job. I think she’s a wonderful actress, actually. She’s really a wonderful actress that does here own thing. She’s very independent, and I like that.

What do you think of the current state of filmmaking in the United States, Ireland and the UK? Do you have any thoughts on how to improve it, or does the industry look in good shape to you right now?
Well I think we always say, “Oh it’s never been in good shape”, you know. We always say, “Oh yeah, the early seventies … amazing films were being made.” Which is partly true. And I think films like “A Clockwork Orange” kind of opened the door for “Easy Rider” and stuff like that, and all those films that came out in that period were incredible. And especially American films of that period, you never ‘ever’ see them done now, being made by studios. So we have to go to the independent films, and you have to applaud people that raise money and the producers that find the money for independent films. The film Sideways (2004), is a wonderful character driven film. It’s very charming. I think that it was made for ten or fifteen million, and that’s shooting in California! I just think that moviemaking in the studio sense is so expensive, you know … a hundred million dollars, really, nobody kind of takes a deep breath any more, that seems to be more the norm. Sixty, eighty, a hundred million dollar budgets … that is so staggering, and then thirty of that is for the ‘star’ or something! I mean, that is just ludicrous in my book. But if you can get it, hey, I suppose, good luck! But the problem at the end of the day is … where’s it going to stop? But you see they make so much money really on DVDs now, and especially to foreign (countries). Foreign I think is sixty five percent of a film’s gross now, whether that is from the Far East, and Europe of course, big markets, and all the rest of it. So I guess they know their figures. They’re accountants, really. Business!

Is there a ‘Sir’ Malcolm McDowell on the way?
I said to Lyndsay (Anderson) once, cause we used to friendly row a lot, “Oh yes Lynds! Well of course if they came knocking on your door, and gave you a Knighthood, of course, you’d swoon and take it!” And he said, “Yes! Of course I would!” I mean, even the Anarchist! The ‘original anarchist! It was hilarious! But I mean, who cares! When you look around and see who gets these awards, I mean, do you really wanna be part of that?!

You’ve performed in the past on stage as Oscar Wilde in “The Importance of Being Wilde” at the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York, along with Scott Bakula. Would you consider playing Oscar Wilde on the big screen, and if so, what would ‘Malcolm’s Wilde’ be like?
I would love to play Wilde, but of course I’m way way too old right now. Yes … I did Oscar Wilde’s ‘trial’, and it was a wonderful piece actually, just to relay his words. I think it was the centenary of the trial. An amazing, amazing man, one of the great men of his period. But I’m way too old, you don’t get to play these parts when you’re sixty. But I enjoyed it when I played it though. You can get away with a lot more on stage than you can on film.

Your eldest son, Charlie McDowell, and your eldest daughter, Lilly McDowell, are both filmmakers, I believe, with Charlie heading up his own production company Cloud Break Productions. Have you directed in the past, Malcolm? And if not, would you like to direct?
No. I wouldn’t … I haven’t and I wouldn’t. There was a moment I think, thirty years ago, when I thought I’d like to direct. But, you know what? I never really found the right subject that I wanted to do. And honestly now, I really don’t want to live with a subject for two years like directors have to. I like to flip from one thing to the other, I don’t have the concentration, really I don’t think, to stay with a film that long. Of course, I think I’d be quite a good director, I’d know how to talk to the actors and all that, but I’m very happy with what I do, and I think, why screw it up?

Get the rest of the interview in part five of MALCOLM MCDOWELL: BEYOND A CLOCKWORK ORANGE>>>




Posted on May 3, 2005 in Interviews by

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