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A Conversation with Malcolm McDowell

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A Conversation with Malcolm McDowell

When I first contacted the Film Society of Lincoln Center about interviewing Malcolm McDowell (in town to support his and Mike Kaplan’s film Never Apologize, a walk-down-memory-lane tribute to Lindsay Anderson that is screening concurrently with the “Lindsay Anderson: Revolutionary Romantic” series), I didn’t honestly believe I would get the chance to sit down and chat with the man who scarred me for life at the age of ten. (O.K., in all fairness it was my father who made the monolithic mistake of taking me and my sister to see A Clockwork Orange at the local university.) I just figured, as the New York State lottery ad goes, “Hey, you never know.”

So it was a bit surreal sitting in front of this snow white-haired, otherworldly blue-eyed acting legend in a closed restaurant across from Manhattan’s Mandarin Hotel, hearing him hold forth on everything from the exact moment (my patron director saint) Stanley Kubrick made the gut instinct casting decision that would anchor his masterpiece to the feeling of bearing witness to Olivier onstage; from British-schooled African dictators and film biz shysters to why England is the land of wonderful losers; and—oh yes—why he never allows himself the luxury to dream of working with any artist so as to avoid potential disappointment. Well, Mr. McDowell, I am most grateful and honored that you shared such an insightful half-hour of your time with myself and The House Next Door and, if I may so humbly point out, the following interview is definitive proof that sometimes it does indeed pay to dream.

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Brooklyn-based writer Lauren Wissot is the publisher of the blog Beyond the Green Door, the author of the memoir Under My Master’s Wings, and a contributor to The Reeler.