Malcolm McDowell is awesome. He’s appeared in over 300 films across his long and varied career. For me, he’s the epitome of the British actor who doesn’t attach a huge amount of ego to his work: Just give him a paycheck and he’ll turn up and deliver the goods (see also Ben Kingsley).
Across the years, McDowell has appeared in everything from critical darlings like if…, The Artist, and The Player, to fun B-movie trash like Cyborg 3: The Recycler, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, Doomsday (highly recommended if you want a really weird movie), and even 2007’s Halloween. But his most iconic role will always be Alexander DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick’s 1972 classic A Clockwork Orange.
This sees an electric McDowell as the leader of a teenage gang in a dystopian Britain. Hopped up on drug-laced milk and hankering for some ultraviolence, he eventually goes too far. Once captured, he’s subjected to some truly horrific therapy to see whether a violent nature can be “cured.” The violence is still shocking, and McDowell has said in a new interview with Yahoo that he won’t see it again:
“To be honest, I really couldn’t really stomach watching it again. I mean, give me a break here. It’s still the same movie. It may look a little sharper, the color [might] be a little brighter, but it’s still the same movie. But listen, I’m thrilled to be a part of it. I mean, my god, it’s cinema history. Not many actors in their careers can have such an experience.
“A lot of times it’s been at some festival and I’m stuck watching it. The last time I was stuck watching it was a the Cannes Film Festival, sitting next to one of the head honchos of Warner Bros. because we were celebrating the 40th anniversary. Thank god we don’t have to go to Cannes because I’d be stuck up there watching it again.”
He’s right that A Clockwork Orange is a part of cinema history. The “Droog” outfit is still a popular Halloween costume and the characters even made an eyebrow-raising cameo appearance in the crowd during Space Jam: A New Legacy.
That’s a far cry from the intense controversy around its original release, with anger against Kubrick reaching such a fever pitch that he received multiple death threats. This caused him to famously withdraw the movie in the United Kingdom, with it only returning for home release after his death in 1999.
If you somehow haven’t seen A Clockwork Orange, definitely check it out. It’s still a terrifying and magnetic roller coaster of anarchy and violence—and McDowell gives one of the all-time great screen performances. That said, I can understand why he doesn’t want to be made to see it over and over again (potentially with his eyes wired open).