The Maxim Interview
by Ed Greenby
He has a Fondant Fancy for a wife, a forgotten career in soft porn and - quite literally - a horse's penis. Mr. Clockwork Orange spills the dirt on sex, glamour and killing Captain Kirk.
Maxim: You played a psychotic villain again in your recent film Gangster No. 1. Apart from sex, drugs, money and glamour, what attracts you to that lifestyle?
Malcolm McDowell: Hey, I have been in movies since I was 24 so I've had all that anyway. It's an appealing cocktail, but you don't need to be a gangster to get it and frankly it doesn't mean much. I'm pleased to have been there, done that, but it doesn't interest me now.
Maxim: Which is best: sex, drugs, money or glamour?
MM: It depends what mood you're in. So maybe sex on Monday, money on Tuesday...they do say that the best thing about being a movie actor is that you can get a table in a restaurant, but I can't do that in London because nobody knows who the fuck I am!
Maxim: Serves you right for leaving the country. You were born in Leeds, but live in L.A any similarities?
MM: Oh yeah, the weather. No, they're millennia apart.
Maxim: Well can you get a decent pint in California?
MM: I don't drink beer anyway, I grew up in Liverpool so my boyhood memories are of the Kop and the No. 28 bus and a sign that read, 'What would you do if Jesus Christ came to Liverpool?' And written underneath, 'Move Ian St. John to inside-left.'
Maxim: Your first big film If.. was about some very rebellious schoolboys. What was the naughtiest thing you did at school?
MM: I was nearly expelled for breaking bounds and going to meet a girl. I came waltzing back with a certain spring in the step - and I got caught.
Maxim: Was she worth it?
MM: Well no, because nothing happened. It's not like we had an orgy in the street, I just wanted to talk to this pretty girl I'd met. But it was always my mouth that got me in trouble and it's the same now. I went into my bank the other day and they said I couldn't get any money out. I said 'Oh, I'm sorry, I thought this was a bank! My mistake. I'll have a loaf of bread then please.' My wife had to drag me out, because in America you have to be more careful, they just turn round and shoot you.
Maxim: What's your wickedest exploit as an adult?
MM: I don't think I could possibly repeat that. I haven't really done anything that naughty for a while. I'm 57 now and I gave up naughty around 45.
Maxim: So those orgy scenes in Caligula...
MM: Just work, unfortunately. People always think if you act in an orgy, you must be having orgies every other week. Of course that's not the way it works. It's every third week.
Maxim: In Britannia Hospital, you had a horse's head transplanted onto your neck. Did you get any other equine body parts?
MM: I had all sorts of bits of bodies, every kind of body and I was completely naked. I said to the director, 'Can I at least pick the colour of my penis?' And he went 'Yes,' rolling his eyes up. And I shouted 'Good! Black, black, black!' Which is probably very racist...
Maxim: Arguably. But why a black penis?
MM: I don't know, but then I made the poor make-up girl take it off. I said, 'I'm not doing it. It's your job, darling.' This poor woman had to put me in a bath, grab hold of it and give it a good wash. She's probably traumatised for life.
Maxim: Clockwork Orange is famous for its 'ultraviolence'. When did you last get in a fight?
MM: I broke somebody's nose with a headbutt recently. We were at a Morgan car rally - I'm a great Morgan fanatic - and he said something untoward about my car which pissed me off. It started because his, which was a rather miserable impersonation of mine, was pea green. I said, 'What is that? How dare you call that "British Racing Green"?! They would never race in that colour!' He took offence and he started to get my goat, so I bopped him. There was a quite substantial amount of blood.
Maxim: Gangster No 1 is pretty rough too.
MM: Yeah, it makes A Clockwork Orange look like a Disney film. The violence back then was all stylish but in Gangster it's the real thing. My 16-year-old son Charlie jumped up at the end of the screening and said, 'Dad, that film rocks!'
Maxim: Which ones does he think 'suck'?
MM: I'm not saying any names, because the directors would be mortified and I have to keep working. I've done 90-odd films, five of them terrific -including Gangster - and 70 questionable. But I'm a working actor, I'm for hire.The call comes and if they pay my price I do the film. Like a gunslinger. Sometimes the script is so bad I don't even bother reading it.
Maxim: Which perhaps explains Fatal Pursuits.
MM: Don't know what that is.
Maxim: It's one of your films. A Channel 5 type of thing.
MM: Oh, was I in one of those?
Maxim: Uh-huh. You, Shannon Whirry and a buxom oriental lady - in a bath. Ring any bells?
MM: Oh I do remember this. It was one of those $100,000 days and I had no idea what it was. I arrived and was shown the bathroom. I didn't even know who Shannon was - she's a big porn star, I think - but she was extremely nice and had a fantastic body so it wasn't hard work. But I had no idea what any of those films are called and I've certainly never seen them.
Maxim: More recently you killed off William Shatner in a Star Trek film.
MM: Oh yes. That was a great pleasure, a great pleasure.
Maxim: Presumably he 'Shatner' his pants?
MM: I can't say that, but as soon as we'd done the scene he came up to me, turned on a tape recorder and said, 'Do you mind if I interview you for my book?' Book? And he said - you know how he speaks - 'Yuh. On the...death... of an... American icon...Malcolm...what was it...like...to kill one of the great American icons?' And I went 'Oh? Is that you then? Is that who you are? Well,I think half the world will be sad and half will be cheering.' And he went, 'Well who's...going to be cheering?' And I got right in his face and said, 'Those poor fucking bastards you've bored to death for the last 30 years!' He laughed, but he didn't have much choice.
Maxim: Which actor would you most like to kill on screen?
MM: I wouldn't mind having a crack at Patrick Steward. That'd be lovely, wouldn't it? To get both of them.
Maxim: And which actress?
MM: I'm not killing women, but there's a few I'd like to do scenes with. Angelina Jolie, for instance - I'd like to see if those lips are real.
Maxim: Finally, you've been married three times.
MM: Yes, like a three-course dinner and now I'm on the Fondant Fancies. It's just great because my wife is, well, somewhat younger than I am (29 years younger) and really she's the boss. And that's the best way - I figured that one out.
Originally appeared in Maxim, September 2000. Copyright remains with the publication cited. No infringement of rights is meant or implied.
Thank you to Marion for this article. Transcribed by Marion for www.malcolmmcdowell.org.
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