MM: Nice print!
Q: Are there any particular moments you enjoyed while making the film - best and worst?
MM: It was all a bit of a grind.
Q: How did it all come to pass?
MM: Well, I was offered the part.
Q: Because Stanley had seen if....?
MM: Yes, he had seen if...
Q: And other things?
MM: No. It was the only thing I did he could possible see unless he had watched a bit of late night television and caught me on an episode of "Dixon of Dock Green." I shouldn't have even gone there. It was sort of an awful cop show hour drama, but done in that very bad English way. It wasn't like those great American police shows of the 60s. The guy that played Dixon (does heavy London accent) "PC Dixon. Evenin' all." He was so arthritic he couldn't walk. So he would just stand behind the counter at the police station and do his stuff. It was just like watching the Queen Mum! "Evenin' all. Well hello. Tonight's story is very interesting and all that." I did one of those and from doing on of those I got noticed by the most important casting director in London whose name was Miriam Brickman. She was sort of a legend in her lifetime. She was like The One. I was amazed when I got a call to go in and see her. She was a strange lady, one of those kind of ladies that couldn't look at you in the eyes. She said, (does quiet matronly voice) "I saw you in the show, that awful show, you have promise. I'd like to introduce you to a director. We're doing a film" That kind of stuff. The director she introduced man to was a man called Ken Loach who has of course gone on to some great, great work. I was cast in a film called Poor Cow, but I never made it to a final cut.
Q: Your name is in the credits...I think?
MM: Is it? Wow. It's not in the film. They cut out the part. I
was one of Carol White's lovers which she picks up. I don't even remember what
it is about now. I know Terry Stamp suddenly got my part. He was more handsome
and more well known than me at the time - still is probably. I got demoted to a
smaller part. "I thought I was?" "No, no, no." It was
one of those. You are never quite sure because nobody ever said what they meant.
It was really small part - it was two scenes. One was she had to pick me up in
the rain in London Which you would think you could shoot 300 days of the year. I
shot the interior which was the next scene in the bed sitting room, giving her a
towel, getting her on the bed and buggering her basically. I don't know if
anyone knows this actress. She was so brilliant in "Cathy Come Home" -
a great breakthrough in British television realism about the homeless. She was
really a fine actress, but wasn't interested in a small fellow like me. She laid
back on the bed during the act and smoked a cigarette while looking at the
ceiling. Not really encouragement there. We waited for two weeks for the rain
and it never came. London - go figure! So it was cut.
Anyway Miriam Brickman got me to Lindsay Anderson got me to Stanley Kubrick and then to this. Stanley was an extraordinary man, but I could go on about him for hours. Shall we take some questions?
Q: Do you have any view of the 21st chapter of the book?
MM: The reason it wasn't in the movie is because it wasn't in the American version of the book. I haven't read it. I couldn't care less about the final chapter. It was omitted by the publisher to make things more good with the world. Alex becomes a banker or something? Please. Burgess told me he was embarrassed by it. They did a musical in LA which I was dragged to by somebody. This ridiculous ending was in it and I was like wow, uh. It was demanded by the publisher because they didn't want to end on a bad boy winning.
Q: Do you remember the first scene you shot?
MM: Yes, how could I forget. It was only 30 years ago. The first scene was in the Ludovico hospital when I'm given the shot in my ass. I knew we were in trouble right from the start because Stanley insisted that she actually give the shot of distilled, purified water. I said, "That's not necessary is it?" He said, "I want to do it all in one shot Malcolm, it's going to be unbelievable." I went, "Wow. OK, maybe. It's Stanley Kubrick, he knows what he is doing doesn't he?" I was shooting the other bit of the scene first and I came out of the room, down the corridor to use the bathroom and I saw Madge Ryan the actress practicing using the syringe on an orange. Not a clockwork one either. So we come to do the scene, I'm playing the scene with her, and about six lines before she is supposed to administer it I see her shaking...sweating. I'm going, "Holy god! What are we up for here." The whole thing was...
Q: A number of takes?
MM: Just the one take. You are getting ahead of the story. It had been decided I was going to smile at this. I was going to give her my ass, she was going to give me the thing. So I give her my ass, she turned and threw this thing as if she was throwing a dart into a rhino. This thing went up to the hilt! My smile was like...wooooo! A bit frozen. Then she had more dialogue and she decided to get this stuff in my ass right away. I don't know whether you've ever had a shot in the ass, but it should be administered very slowly and I had a huge welt and bump. This water had nowhere to go. It was like this enormous cramp and I shot up practically to the ceiling going, "AHHHAHHH!!" That was the end of it and they just did an insert. It took me about an hour to get the water out of my - yeah exactly. That was the first day. And that was an easy day!
Q: Was the lidlock scene painful?
MM: It got more difficult as it went on.
Q: How long did that take?
MM: That came relatively early in the shoot. I would only have them in for 10 or 15 minutes tops. So everything had to be done in 10 or 15 minutes - strapped in, straight jacket, the thing here. Of course my eyes were anesthetized. The guy you see in the scene, the doctor, is a doctor from a very famous Eye Hospital in London called Morfields. It is one of the reasons I agreed to do it, because I had an expert standing right next to me in case of anything that may go wrong. They showed me pictures of patients with these lidlocks. Of course they were all lying on their back. I was asked to sit back and look up at the screen. He would go with his handkerchief and go "How is that? Is the anesthetic working yet?" I'd go, "I don't know, I can't feel anything." He would stick the corner of his handkerchief in my eye and I would go, "Woooh!" "No it's not working yet." Eventually he would keep going and I couldn't feel it and he said, "Good! Now you are ready." In go the lidlocks and sometimes they would slip out like this. I was just trying to get through the dialog, there's a dramatic scene going on, and I'm trying to think what the hell do I say next. There is a guy up top who is giving me all these cues who has a speech going on - endlessly as far as I was concerned. Then Stanley said to the doctor, "You can just say 'How are you doing today little Alex?" The whole point with the doctor was with the eyes open you can't blink. You must have artificial tears put in them every 15 to 20 seconds otherwise the cornea dries up and you are blind. I've got the doctor with the drops and now he is being given a line of dialog. The first thing he goes is, "What's your name?" "Alex! Jesus don't worry about it doc, just get the fucking eye drops in." He kind of froze on the line a bit and it is actually quite funny - in retrospect. At the time it was quite scary because I was sort of counting to 20 seconds and looking at him saying, "Get 'em in! Get 'em in doc!"
Q: Sounds like all of the hard scenes were at the beginning of the shoot?
MM: Well...yes. That was about a month in. So I get home and just driving down the street where was my house was took about 40 minutes to get home from where we shot the scene. Suddenly the car swung into the road, hit a bump and it felt like razor blades were being thrust into my eyes and body. It was the most painful thing. I thought I was going to go insane. I was hitting my head on the front door - literally. Luckily I got a doctor to come over and give me a shot of morphine which put me to sleep. When I woke up the next day the eye does heal very quickly. It was scratchy.
Q: The cornea was scratched.
MM: Yeah, have you had that? You know what I'm talking about. It's worse than being kicked in the balls...so I'm told. Next one! We covered that one. Let's finish that off. So I go in and I stay like this (covering the eye) and I had just come out of the elevator, at some university - Bunuel University outside of London, and Stanley is coming into another elevator at the bank. I'm just getting out and he stops and looks at me. I've got a bandage around here and an eye patch. He stops and looks at me and says, "Can we shoot on this eye?" I really have to thank him because he was just being very, very funny.
Q: Sounds like a terrific sense of humor.
MM: Yeah? Does it? Give the benefit of the doubt then?
Q: How long were down in the drowning scene?
MM: Was it that long? Well, it's a trick.
Q: Did you have air?
MM: Of course I did! Are you kidding? It was freezing water. You put your head down in freezing water you can only stay down for three seconds. That was it. England in the winter time - they couldn't even heat the trough. They put some dye in it, barberil - three or four bottles of this, and beef extract. They put oxygen tank in there with a mouth piece. It was like bobbing for apples. Once I had it we were in good shape. It was was very weird because I could just hear the dialog of the two droogies who now were cops whacking with these rubber blackjacks. They kind of hurt! I thought "I'll give it to you when I'm finished". I'll let you in on a little secret. He insisted on operating the camera on the walk to the trough. It is sort of behind me. I went, "Stanley let the guy do it. Every time you do it we have to retake the damn thing. It's always like this and lots of sky. "Gee Malc, I'm used to this. I'm really good at this." This was before steady cams. You look at the shot - cut here...LOTS of sky! But bless him, he loved to do it all. If he could've acted it - he'd have been there.
Q: Did he give you any specific instructions for the ultra-violence when you attack?
MM: No. This is a new theory you have come up with and it is all nonsense. I know it sounds good Joanna.
Q: It's not true?
MM: Well, I don't know maybe. You could write a paper about it. It's nothing. I don't think so.
Q: He never gave you any advice?
MM: He only ever gave me one piece of direction. It's quite rude, do you want to hear it? I had to come through the door of Pee and Em's flat, that hideous apartment, coming back from prison with my package, open the door and just walk through the door. So I did it and Stanley went, "Umm there's nothing really happening." I went, "I'm walking through the door." He went, "Go down another six flights." I said, "I'm coming up ten flights." "Go down another six." I came up and I was totally exhausted by the time I got there. He went, "Cut. No it's not working. Now Malcolm why don't you imagine Milena Canonero..." (who was the costume designer - she was this big and like this - like a sparrow. Tiny, tiny, tiny - a zero size.) He said, "Imagine her and Dave Prowse (who became Darth Vader without the voice because his voice (talks high pitched) 'sounds like that'. So they put in a proper voice much to his chagrin." He said, "Imagine Dave giving a good seeing to Milena when you open the door." Which I did and had a wonderful beam which he thought was great. Honestly that was the only good piece of direction he gave me. I'll never forget it...and I've used it again and again!
Q: I saw the film...
MM: I hope so. You can't help it that you own the place!
Q: How do you keep up the energy and the passion even to this day?
MM: I am a professional actor. I get paid for it! Honestly I don't know.
Q: You should get paid more.
MM: Thank you. Talk to my agent about that I can tell you. I take a certain pride in what I do. I don't want to do it half-assed. I want to do it to the best of my ability. I don't care what the film is or who the director is frankly. Most of the stuff that one does in one's career is crap! It has to be. There aren't that many good films made. The majority of films you do are instantly forgettable. It doesn't matter - you still have to it with the same commitment that you would for Lindsay Anderson or Stanley Kubrick. You have to.
Q: Without much direction you give that great performance and you were young at the time. How did you pull it off?
MM: I wish I knew. I don't know. I'm just a professional actor. I was given a chance to do it in if....
Q: Richard Widmark was here last year and he gave the same answer. I think my favorite actors can't answer that question.
MM: Not really. You can't. The thing is that I don't want to dissect what I do. What I do is spontaneous to a great extent, of course I learned the lines and I work very hard on the text, not just reading my part, but the whole piece. Well...most of the time. Not if it is a two day quickie, cameo, I'm not going to schlep through the whole thing. I just read mine and the rest doesn't concern me because I'm dead by then. I concentrate on the text and that's it really.
Q: And the rest is imagination?
MM: It is instinct. At a very young age I learned to trust my instinct. Some people don't and some people do. I've worked with actors, some of them very good ones, and while working with them I look into their eyes and sometimes I see fear. It always shocks me. I see...
MM: It's more than that. When they are on something happens. As long as there is something going on it is better than just nothing. I really don't know how to answer that question.
Q: Can you talk about the orgy scene as it looked like it was fun?
MM: Right. He is a wise guy. Of course that was a lot of fun. I'll tell you why - because Stanley fancied the dark haired one. Of course he would never do anything about it because he was happily married, but I happened to know he had a little bit of a shine on for the brunette. This sequence took 28 minutes to shoot. It was ridiculous, you can't be fun and whack for 28 minutes - do me a favor. A lot of it was getting dressed and undressed. I think I did the blonde first and literally I could talk all the way through it because the camera was set in the doorway of the bedroom. It was a real home. We're just doing the regular things - take your thing off, da da da, um um off. Now the brunette, then on the bed with the brunette and pow. Stanley was going, "OK, Malc that's great. That's enough." "No. No, I'm not finished." "That's enough, Malc." "No...No...I'm not finished!" "That's enough!!" He couldn't get in the room because the camera was in the door! You know what? That girl was an Australian actress and very sweet, I don't remember her name right now, but she had her name removed from the credits. She said if her parents saw it in Australia they would be very embarrassed.
Q: Did you know how that was going to be edited?
MM: No. He just said it is cranked down and the camera moved so slowly, it was one of those 2001 jobs. I thought, "Wow! It's gonna be (grand)..." Not realizing it was the other way around.
Q: How did you feel about being nude so much. Wasn't that a big deal?
MM: Not to me it wasn't. I had been nude in just about every film I'd ever made then. At one point I would say, "What are the nude scenes? In the script where are they! Oh, there they are." It was ridiculous. They just found nudity in movies it seemed like. OK.
Q: No feelings of self consciousness?
MM: Well, Stanley was actually kind of brilliant in that way. In the prison scene where I am undressing there is a box, a shoebox, and it's kind of great - then the guy takes it away! That's the typical Kubrick move, but it's good isn't it? He knew a thing or two. He was unbelievably brilliant.
Q: How do you compare Kubrick to other directors you have worked with? In the interview clip (William Everson) they showed you stood up for him.
MM: Should we show it again? I thought that was a bit and I was taken aback. I just saw it last night and thought that was, "The lady dost protest too much." I was sort of defending Stanley because we were being attacked for making a fascist movie - at the time. What I said holds true. He gives you a lot of space. The thing about Stanley is he didn't ever know what he wanted, he knew what he didn't want. He would go on and rehearse it until he found something and everyone was happy with what was happening. Every sequence he wanted to make special and give special moments and special magic and laugh about it and say, "Not much of the old magic in this one. We better find some." In every sequence there's always something. I'll tell you the sequence where I got down on my knees and thanked him because it was nothing to do with theatrics - it was walking along by the marina. It is a beautiful visual. I get the knife out to Dim and cut his hand - that was all Stanley. I was going, "This is boring - just walking." He did it with the camera and he cranked it and sped it up so it was slightly a slow motion effect, he had a cane made up with a dagger in it and all the rest of it. He had used that wonderful sort of gray light. That's purely all him - he saved that sequence. He saved it because of his artistry - it had nothing to do with us at all.
Q: He didn't give those kinds of directions?
MM: No. I never worked with a good director that did.
Q: He waited to see what happened and he took what he liked?
MM: Yes. Ask any good director and they'll always tell you it's 90% in the casting. That's it. That's why really good directors take forever to cast! Lindsay used to say, "As soon as I have got the person I want who's right I don't have to work so hard." In a way it is true. They come in with a life to embody these parts - these roles. Now many women have their hands up.
Q: Why is this the first showing of Assassin of the Tsar? It is a wonderful film.
MM: Thank you. Good question.
Q: Is Mike Kaplan in the audience? I think it will open next year.
MM: No, he is tired. Wait. I think I can see his bald head - there he is! Mike when is it opening? Don't worry about that. It is a wonderful film, thank you for bringing it up. When it opens I hope you'll give it a look, I am very proud of it.
Q: When you rehearsed was the camera rolling?
MM: No. What's the point of wasting film?
Q: How did the rehearsal with Kubrick work?
MM: You get the scene, you've read the lines, so then you come in and go, "Let's rerun the lines." So we rerun the lines standing still. Then "Should we walk the lines?" Let's walk the lines. Then build it, build it, build it up. Let's see what we're going to find. Let's see what doesn't work! Often it's, "God these lines really stink. Is there anything we can do here to help it?" He would do that until he got it perfect and then he would bring the camera in, shoot it and be gone. Often we would work all day and then at 5 o' clock in the evening, just when you are at your freshest...then shoot it! He'd do that often and I learned how to just hold a little bit back because I didn't want to shoot my bolt.
Q: Why did you use the Russian slang? Was it tough to learn the words?
MM: You haven't read the book have you? That's actually a good question. I supposed I misunderstood. It's actually Russian, Hebrew it's...then I may be wrong because I don't know anything about Hebrew. That's what Burgess told me though.
Q: The outfits were cool too.
MM: Oh yeah. That was my cricket outfit. Just with some bloody eyeballs here and here, of course the eyelashes, the bowler and the jock strap on the outside! Normally one wears that tucked IN the pants.
Q: Whose idea was the eyelash?
MM: He had colored make-ups for futuristic stuff. I didn't want to wear any colors since I felt it was dated and distracting and I have to be in every damn frame. I did not want a look. I wanted it to be really subtle. So I found in a store, called "Eva" right near where a lived, a yard of eyelash. I brought it in to show him and I'm giggling away and cutting off long chunks and sticking it on. First this eye then this eye and he'd shoot stills. He brought me in the next day and said, "Look at this." I looked at it and went, "Wow, that's sort of weird. It's eerie." You don't quite don't know what's wrong. That one eyelash is so cool. It is just something a little bit weird. I come from the Michael Caine school of acting, I don't know if you've seen the video, but if you are playing a baddie - you never blink. So I never blinked.
Q: What about the Russian in the film?
MM: This is how the whole thing came about. Burgess was in Moscow for a cultural exchange or something and he was in a coffee bar...house, whatever they call them over there, and was sitting by the window. The window was all steamed over from drinking the coffee and these Moscovite hoods were pressing their faces right up into the glass at him in a menacing way. The idea came to him from that. As much as Stanley Kubrick and me had to do we all have to bow down to Anthony Burgess because without his words we are nothing.
Q: Anthony Burgess was interviewed in that clip I showed of you.
MM: What was he like? Terrific and probably told a funny story? I must've been nervous because I was smoking.
Q: It was William Everson.
MM: Was he? I didn't know who the hell he was.
Q: Did Kubrick do many takes?
MM: 50 takes? 100 takes? The man is not sane (sarcastic). He really got a bit finicky later on in his career. He was fussy, but this was his small budget little film. I'm serious. He bankrupted MGM am I right?
Q: Not really. We can ask Mike Kaplan.
MM: He won't tell the truth, he'll just stick up for him. I'm telling you now. MGM because of 2001 lost their shirts until Mike came up with a great campaign called "The Ultimate Trip" with the fetus. Then everyone went, "Let's get stoned and see Stanley's movie!" You know what? It cost 14 million dollars in 1967, that was 150 million (today), that was so huge. That company was teetering, it really was. In fact they pulled the plug on another great director's film, Fred Zinnemann, was about to make another film and they yanked him. They just fired everybody a week before they were starting to shoot. So Stanley had all this pressure and it had to be a hit. He told me himself, and Michael will argue with the numbers, but I can't remember quite what the numbers were and it doesn't really matter. When they first showed 2001 in Washington to the political movers and shakers, 248 of them or whatever walked out. There was a guy from MGM there, Stanley told me this, with a counter clicking everyone who walked out. They still do that.
Q: That's how they say the film is in trouble.
MM: Yeah, which they did. Of course it was only when the youth movement got a hold of the film. It was one of the great sleepers.
Q: What about the 2001 album cover in the film?
MM: Yeah, I asked him if I could put if.... in there. He looked at me like I was insane. "It has got a pretty good soundtrack Stanley come and put that over here and put yours there."
Q: Did you ever regret turning down a part?
MM: No. What's the point? I was offered a part in Cabaret and I was quite excited and I went, "What's my song?" "No, you're not doing any singing." Forget it!
Q: What was your idea for playing Alex?
MM: I had no idea. If you think I'm lying - I'm not. I was absolutely terrified, worried out of my mind.
Q: You are going to put acting schools out of business!
MM: No, I'm not. Let them go to acting school. It's all about confidence. If you can get confidence from an acting school - great! is what I say. If you can get it by selling coffee - go sell coffee! That's what I did and that was my drama school. What was the question?
Q: Who did you think Alex was?
MM: Oh, no. I didn't know. I didn't know how to play it. I got really worried about it and this is the absolute truth. On the Sunday before the Monday we were starting the next day, in the afternoon, I got a call from Stanley to say he had mumps. I was so happy! I said, "I hope nothing happens to your trapped jaws or anything. I hope it doesn't affect any of your reproductive things you may be thinking of in the future, but Stanley I am kind of relieved that I had another week." Another week! I had been working on the film for six months...waiting. So I got the script to my friend Lindsay Anderson, who was a great friend whom I worked with many times, and said, "Could you read it Lindsay and just help talk to me about it?" So he read it. I went over to his apartment and I remember sitting at his kitchen table and saying, "What do you think? What do you think Lins?" He went, "Well, I'm glad I'm not directing it." Not a good start! I said, "What about this damn part?" He goes, "God...is Kubrick really going to direct this? It's nonsense isn't it? If I were you this is how I would play the part." He told me in a nutshell what I was to do and I did it. He said, "You play it exactly like a close-up of you in if.... when you open the doors of the gym to be beaten. When you are going in to see the whips, prefects, there is a close-up. You look at them and you smile - THAT'S how you play the part!" And that's how I played it. That's how I played the first day. When the needle went in - smile. That smile - that insolent smile really did carry me through. I knew that was the image and he was right. It took another director and I'm sure Stanley must have heard the story through the grapevine. He certainly didn't hear it from me personally! It's true and he helped me so much with just that one little thing. That's truly a great piece of direction. It doesn't confuse, it's very simple. That's it. It gives me plenty of room to play. That, I think, is one of the great pieces of direction.
Q: Would you be open to receiving a script?
MM: She raised her hand AND stood up! It's not 500 pages long is it? OK, sure. Is it a play or a film? Alright, you know what? OK. We're doing this instead of signing autographs. This lady here looks like an intelligent lady.
Q: But she's a blond.
MM: My wife's a blond.
Q: Can you talk about the violence controversy because of the film and how you felt about the UK ban?
MM: I'll take the second part first. Christiane Kubrick, Stanley's widow, told me he withdrew the film in England after it had been out for a year because the police advised him to withdraw it. The family had been getting death threats. I personally don't believe it, don't ask me why. But why would somebody after a year give the family death threats? Also he was in Ireland shooting Barry Lyndon and hit a bit a trouble. Suddenly he gets death threats from the IRA and the whole unit is back in England where he wants to be and the insurance is paying for it. Figure it out. It could be true, I'm not saying it isn't, but to me it smelled fishy. Stanley would deny it and look at me like I was nuts probably. I'm just floating that suggestion. He was afraid for his family. If that's true then he did the right thing. He withdrew it for 29 years - that's a long time. The people in England, my home country, which I no longer live, had never gotten to see it. This is another thing which is amazing in a way. It shows you big business and the almighty buck. As soon as he died - new release of A Clockwork Orange, 28 new prints, here we go - wow! Yes. It was a big thing. I don't think anybody was getting death threats this time.
Q: He didn't decide it himself to put it back in release?
MM: Not unless he did it from the grave darling. He was dead. It was a year later. No. You wanted to know what I thought about violence? I was a little bit miffed that nobody had ever seen the film except in America. It was on cable! It was crazy. There were pirated copies all over the world, Russia and everywhere. As far as the violence goes I honestly didn't think anyone would be upset. I didn't think it was violent enough. If you read the book it sort of cops out a little bit in that respect. In the book it's much harder. I'm not saying Stanley is not right because he is right. He is absolutely right. He made a film that can be seen forever. If I'd have made it - it would've been gone in ten weeks. For instance, in the casting of the Catlady, he went and picked the leanest old looking bird around - Miriam Karlin. (Does voice) "You little shit!" I'm scared of her! In the book she is a nice old little lady with puss pots. Oh little, chubby cherubic puss pots and that. The sympathy goes right to her. In this one I kill her with a huge dildo for god's sake and you're still feeling kind of sorry for me! That's a good bit of casting.
Q: You should've kept it for comedy.
MM: That was fun. I wished I kept that thing.
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