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  • Dominic Tatrai

Malcolm McDowell

Left: McDowell in "A Clockwork Orange" (1971). Right: McDowell at a SAG-AFTRA Foundation event in 2019.

Katch University was happy to host Malcolm McDowell in a talk about his experience working in the entertainment industry. An actor with over fifty years of experience under his belt, McDowell shared some stories from his career, such as his time on the movie If…. (1968), his collaboration with Stanley Kubrick on A Clockwork Orange (1971), his relationship with Rob Zombie on Halloween (2007), and his experience voice acting for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 (2015). He ended his talk with some words of wisdom for future actors and content creators.

McDowell was born in Yorkshire but raised in Liverpool, England. While in public school, Malcolm realized that he wanted to be an actor. At the age of eleven, his headmaster cast him as the lead in Aladdin. Although very nervous, and partially upset because he had to watch his friends play rugby while he played “gibberish” (his words), he found it very rewarding to be onstage. “As soon as I walked on the stage and the lights hit… suddenly I felt completely relaxed and at home.” He eventually went to work for the Royal Shakespeare Company, but found that his true aspirations were on the screen. He attributes his status as a movie star to actor Albert Finney. After McDowell watched Finney’s performance in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), he said to himself, “Albert’s paved the way. Now, I can do it,” a phrase which Gary Oldman would later say of McDowell. Finney’s production company would eventually go on to produce McDowell’s first movie, If.... (1968). His role in If…. (1968) would eventually lead him to star in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange as protagonist Alex DeLarge. This iconic role would eventually lead him into a long career in not only film and television, but also voice acting. When describing his career, McDowell refers to himself as a “maverick,” choosing to take roles he finds interesting and potentially dangerous in terms of success. “You’ve got to live dangerously, because otherwise you just end up playing the same damn part.”

When asked about what makes great acting in horror, McDowell states, “You’re interpreting somebody’s written word. It’s not really up to you, you just have to play the truth. And that’s the same for any genre.” Speaking to those who want to act, McDowell says, “You just need to work… You learn more from the disasters than from the successes. It is your responsibility as an actor to work, work, work.” McDowell also emphasized the importance of a good, thought-out audition. “It’s no good being brilliant in your bathroom. You’ve got to work out how you can really audition.” McDowell also recommends taking classes in order to hone your craft for a long-term career. He summed up his visit by explaining what matters most in terms of working in the entertainment industry: “It takes a little while to get competence, but really the thing is, there has to be a tremendous enjoyment and love of what you’re doing. That’s the main thing. It’s really about having fun.”

If you want more Malcolm McDowell, you can find him in Truth Seekers, an Amazon Prime horror-comedy series premiering on October 30, 2020.


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