A Clockwork Orange as told by Malcolm McDowell

A Clockwork Orange as told by Malcolm McDowell

It all started from the novel by Anthony Burgess from which Stanley Kubrick drew the film that would become the most representative and controversial of his filmography. A Clockwork Orange fifty years later is still a cult and remains highly current, especially in the aversion of the protagonist towards the 'different', the weakest, women and minorities, and in the indifference of a society that gives way to violence rampant operated by the youngest. The actor who played the infamous Alex DeLarge, that Malcolm McDowell who is now 79 and has just held an interesting masterclass at the Turin Film Festival, talks about it directly.

Conflicts and grudges

Kubrick, he says, McDowell, screwed him, he fought us every day brutally, horrible words flew between them. Because? Simple: he exploited a very young actor, says McDowell:  “ I felt cheated by him, they forced me to work absurd shifts and to advertise the film for free, without giving me any percentage of profit ”.

Working with Kubrick was endless

No schedules, an incessant creative process: Kubrick didn't care about the time, he didn't respect any working plan. He also did the same in Full Metal Jacket. So why did the actors compete to work on it? Because, McDowell replies, the American filmmaker could be hilarious and interesting like no other, and he was a great experimenter.

How he made a violent person likeable

As soon as he read the book, McDowell knew he had to play a deeply immoral character and make him likeable to the audience without betraying him. A great acting challenge and a great risk at the same time, especially because, underlines the actor, it was necessary to keep the standard high on the stylistic level, which prevailed on the emotional level. Kubrick was very demanding, he always wanted more. From time to time he complained saying: « Stanley, please: to be credible I can't do more than that ».

Alex DeLarge owes a lot to Gene Kelly

McDowell swears he can't dance. While filming the rape scene, he stood bored on a step waiting to figure out how he should play it. As soon as Kubrick spoke of dancing he jumped into the air and spontaneously began singing Singin' in the rain and so, from that euphoria, the scene was born. Then when McDowell had the opportunity to meet Gene Kelly personally, during a party, the latter ran away: “ I had ruined his great piece, but it had worked for me ”.

The ferocious reactions of the press liberal

The New York Times attacked A Clockwork Orange accusing him of making the protagonist's immoral actions amusing and pleasurable, "which was true," admits McDowell. As an actor he feels he has overcome that challenge and happily admits that fortunately, having never used American acting methods, he has never brought home any of his characters, much less Alex DeLarge.

The true genius was not Kubrick but Anderson

From Lindsey Anderson, McDowell claims, Kubrick "plundered with both hands". You are referring to the film If... If, which shocked the British establishment and triumphed at the Cannes Film Festival in '69.