Alex | Anthony Burgess and Malcolm | Art | Casting | Comedy | Creative Differences | David Bowie | Kubrick on MalcolmMalcolm on Kubrick | Make-up | Music | A Physical Ordeal | Princess Margaret | Lindsay Anderson vs. Kubrick | Looking Back | Ludovico Technique | The Play | Regret | The Rolling Stones | Singin' in the Rain | UK Ban | Vincent Lobrutto on Kubrick | Violence

(VL) from Stanley Kubrick: A Biography by Vincent LoBrutto
(JB) from Stanley Kubrick: A Biography by John Baxter. (Generally regarded as hack work)

Alex

"It's very simple. Alex's character, as written, enjoyed violence and raping. He was at his most euphoric. That is why in the film I started to sing "Singing in the Rain" spontaneously, because for the actor the emotion is euphoria. It just means that my actions are rather strange, they don't really fit euphoria. I always felt the style of the film was high, it was real but not realistic. there was no blood and all that, so to me it was extremely funny. It was hard not to laugh and I went to play for the comedy. I know it's very black. I suppose when you see it the first time it's too overwhelming to get the humor but if you watch it a few times you see that it is actually very funny. There's one scene in there I know which is purely my interpretation of Eric Morecambe. Forget about the gangs and the peripheral violence. What it was really about was the freedom of the right to choose. I think the dichotomy of the film is that you have this immoral character of Alex and, by a matter of manipulation through the performance (and I only speak from my own point of view, not from Stanley's), you actually have sympathy for him because he has redeeming features, that he is a lover of Beethoven, that he is a sympathetic character. And that when the government makes him an automaton you feel it would be better if he was a free man to choose what he wanted to do, even though it may be a violent choice. And that's what is so difficult about the film and that's why it's so violent." - Malcolm in 20/20 1/90

Anthony Burgess and Malcolm

Everyone involved with the scene (Singin' in the Rain - A) conceded that Kubrick shaped their joint creative endeavor, but his taking credit for the screenplay angered both Burgess and McDowell. The actor was also infuriated that Kubrick's name was credited above the title, before the stars. 'I mean, you don't actually SEE any other name, do ya?' he snarled to American journalists. How appropriate, remarked Burgess to a friend, that Kubrick should have chosen as his music for the fight with Billyboy's gang Rossini's overture to 'The Thieving Magpie' (JB)

Art

The former Royal College of Art student was approached to design the poster for A Clockwork Orange in 1971 after the film's head of publicity, Mike Kaplan, saw some of his work in the Daily Express. "I jumped at the chance. I was a Kubrick disciple. I loved Dr Strangelove and 2001." - Philip Castle 3/07

"One nice day in 1970, it had snowed in London and there was ice everywhere. They told me that I had to transport a huge object from one side of town to the other. I went in a shed and, to my surprise, discovered that I would be taking an enormous phallus that I later delivered to the set of the film A Clockwork Orange." Emilio D'Alessandro 1999

Casting

Kubrick paid so much for the rights to ACO that he had to skimp on almost everything else, in particular casting. By the time Warners' deal was signed, he had already cast Malcolm McDowell as Alex. Casting McDowell shifted the film's focus dramatically. The droogs of Burgess's book are teenage juvenile delinquents who squash pets, smash windows and seduce pimply teenage girls. They find the old disgusting, and only prey on them if they're weak and unprotected. Kubrick's Alex is an adult, and most of the attacks in the film are on other adults. Since Alex is the only attractive character in the film, we identify with him in his anarchic assaults. It's this above all that makes ACO so uniquely disturbing. Kubrick first noticed McDowell in Lindsay Anderson's 1968 'if....' . He played a public schoolboy who, revolting against the ancient traditions of snobbery, stodgy teaching and corporal punishment, takes a machine gun onto the school roof with his working-class girlfriend and mows down the authors of his misery. Kubrick admired McDowell's ability to shift from schoolboy innocence to insolence and, if needed, violence. Though McDowell was the son of a pub-owner in the Midlands, the offhand accent of the British aristocracy, always a little too quick and too loud, came naturally to him. When an American reporter asked him, 'Who is the real Malcolm McDowell?', he snapped with perfect Harrow/Cowes/Ascot arrogance, 'Madam, you've got two hours to find out. Why should I do your bloody work for you?' Kubrick pushed McDowell to use this tone as Alex - autocratic when he bossed his boys, respectful and obliging when dealing with superiors. This was no yob but a young man of intelligence and almost aristocratic bearing. Kubrick's closest comparison for Alex's marriage of command and protean manipulativeness was Richard III. McDowell also had the body that went with the voice. if.... had been the first major British film to include full frontal nudity, and he had handled it with aplomb. He also played sex scenes with equanimity. The fact that, at nearly twenty-eight, he was almost twice the age of Burgess's Alex, made no difference. 'If Malcolm hadn't been available,' Kubrick said, 'I probably wouldn't have made the film.' (JB)

Comedy

"Well, it is a black comedy, of course. It's also socially aware and makes social comment. Of course, the whole underlying theme is one of freedom to choose. That's what it's about. And it's brilliantly crafted by Anthony Burgess, because he makes the hero, or antihero, at the core of it all immoral. So, that's a dilemma. How do you really like, root for an immoral person? It's difficult. But, in fact, you kind of do." - Malcolm in Reel.com 9/99

"I thought we'd made a good black comedy. But then, in everything I do, I go for the humorous approach, even if I'm playing the most vicious killer." - Malcolm in the LA Times 6/18/01

Creative Differences

After the film was released, Kubrick wrote to Malcolm expressing regrets about their differences during the shooting. He even gave Malcolm a dog which Malcolm named Alex. Malcolm said, "I've discovered something; that I'm really very fond of Stanley in a love-hate way. There's only one of him, there's no technician like him. He's a genius but his humors' black as charcoal. I wonder about his...humanity." (JB)

David Bowie

"Most of the look for Ziggy was basically from the Kubrick film - it was Clockwork Orange and the jumpsuits in that movie I thought were just wonderful. I liked the malicious kind of malevolent, viscous quality of those four guys although the aspects of violence themselves didn't turn me on particularly. So I wanted to put another spin on that, so I went to Liberty's or places like that in London - probably a shop on Tottenham Court Road is more like it - but Liberty sounds better. I picked out all these very florid, bright quilted kind of materials and so that took the edge off the violent look of those suits but still retained that type of terrorist "we-are-ready-for-action" kind of look and the wrestling boots with laces on - but I changed the color and made them greens and blues and stuff like that. So that was the basic look but instead of just having one eyelash I went the whole hog and had two eyelashes.

Even the inset photographs of the inside sleeve for Ziggy owed a lot to the Malcolm McDowell look from the Clockwork Orange poster - the sort of sinister looking photograph somewhere between a beetle, not a Beatle person, but a real beetle and violence. The whole idea of having this phony-speak thing - mock Anthony Burgess-Russian speak that drew on Russian words and put them into the English language, and twisted old Shakespearean words around - this kind of fake language ... fitted in perfectly with what I was trying to do in creating this fake world or this world that hadn't happened yet. It was like trying to anticipate a society that hadn't happened. The whole idea of droogs and that came straight from the Burgess take." - 1993

Kubrick on Malcolm

When Kubrick first read ACO, he had Malcolm in mind by the time he'd finished the fourth chapter. "One doesn't find actors of his genius in all shapes, sizes, and ages." He also said it didn't bother him that Malcolm was 27, not 15 as Alex was in the book. (VL)

"If Malcolm hadn't been available I probably wouldn't have made the film." (JB)

Lindsay Anderson vs. Stanley Kubrick

"Lindsay would tell you about the emotional undercurrent, everything you wanted to know about the character. Stanley didn't really dissect character; he wasn't interested in that. He got good performances, but it was more by attrition. I'm the kind of actor that gets there in one or two takes. Working with Stanley was more like the siege of Stalingrad. I'd ask him what he wanted, and he'd say, 'Just do it again.' 'But why?' 'Just do it again.' Yet Stanley was the greatest audience. If he loved it, he would start laughing into his handkerchief." - Malcolm

"Because Lindsay had become a great friend, I presumed the same thing was going to happen with Stanley. I'd given him everything, and what I got was rejection. Looking back on it, that's pretty much what I got from my own father. I was angry about it, and it's only since Stanley's death that I've been able to reconcile myself." - Malcolm in the LA Times 6/18/01

Looking Back

'I didn't like the idea of my grandchildren seeing it.' - Kubrick in London Sunday Times 10/21/01

"It is a brilliant film anyway. It is not so violent. I remember when it came out, I was actually shocked at the way the Americans particularly jumped on this whole thing of the violence of Clockwork Orange. I thought if they ever read the book, they would realize how much it was tamed down. Don't they ever read the newspapers? The violence is out in the street, you know. I think it is sort of an extraordinary message. Really, the film to me is not about the violence although, of course, that is very much a part of it, but it is really about the freedom of a man to choose what he wants to do and I think a sacred right of a human being is choice." - Retrovision 1995

"That's the watershed film in my career. It's extraordinary, and I could spend hours talking about Kubrick. He's worthy of a whole book and so is the film. I really became aware of science fiction when I saw '2001: A Space Odyssey'. That was the first time I really saw science fiction and believed it, didn't think it was all styrofoam, and was moved by it." - Malcolm in Starlog 4/95

"But after I did A Clockwork Orange, I guess my card was sort of marked. There were only about 25 minutes of that film that could be considered Science Fiction in nature. But those images, the Droogs, the eyeliner, the bowler hat. For better or worse those images and the overall strength of A Clockwork Orange just hooked me into this whole fantasy thing. And there was nothing I could easily do to stop it." - Malcolm in Starburst 7/95

"Perhaps A Clockwork Orange was too good, too. For years I resented the impact it had on my life, but I don't anymore. " - Malcolm in Radio Times 2/96

The Ludovico Technique

Kubrick, "It took courage and a local anesthetic for Malc to wear the lidlocks. I can assure you he didn't like it at all and we never really got it finished the first time. He had to go back and face it again at the end. He HAD to do it. The scene wouldn't have been credible otherwise. One of the worst fantasies you can imagine is being in a straitjacket, strapped to a chair, and unable to even blink your eyes." (VL)

Make-up

"They said something like, `well, you certainly sound enthusiastic'. Models did their own make up in those days. There were a couple of make-up artists who were attached to the large make-up houses, like Arden, and occasionally someone from a salon would come onto a shoot to do a beauty treatment. But I was one of the first. There wasn't much money in it in those days. I just made enough to pay my rent and eat. It took about seven years to become properly established. I was more often out of work than in, but I gleaned an enormous amount of experience and knowledge." - Barbara Daly 3/8/04

Malcolm on Kubrick

"Stanley is a brilliant man, but he is a peculiar fellow in many ways."  20/20 1/90

"He is everything. I loved him. I hated him. I went through every emotion with him. But the thing that I really remember is that when I would do something funny, he would ram his handkerchief into his mouth, he was laughing so much. And there is nothing more adrenaline giving to an actor than seeing his director stuff his mouth with his handkerchief." (VL) + Premiere 4/95

Similar Quote: Malcolm has spoken of the long discussions he had with Kubrick about his character, emphasizing the degree to which the director, far from browbeating the actor, leaves him free to invent gestures and suggest variations: notion of using 'Singin' in the Rain' to accompany one of "A Clockwork Orange's" most violent sequences. "This is why Stanley is such a great director. He can create an atmosphere where you're not inhibited in the least. You'll do anything. Try it out. Experiment. Stanley gives you freedom and he is the most marvelous audience. I used to see him behind the camera with the handkerchief stuffed in his mouth because he was laughing so much. It gave me enormous confidence."

"If Kubrick hadn't been a film director, he'd have been a General Chief of Staff of the US forces. No matter what it is - even if it's a question of buying a shampoo - it goes through him. He just likes total control." (JB)

Kubrick's intimate control of his film could instill a sense of paranoia in the most well-balanced person. As Malcolm sat down to be interviewed in New York by the "Village Voice's Arthur Bell, he said, 'Our mentor, Stanley Kubrick, is watching our every move. He just switched a button in his headquarters and a satellite picked us up.' (JB)

"Stanley was a real taskmaster. He wanted things a certain way. Everything from the violence to the close-ups were shot every conceivable way. It was easily one of the hardest films I worked on but you couldn't fault Stanley because the finished production is something of a classic." - Starburst 7/95

"We were having some conferences at my home in London and Stanley came up to me at one point and asked where the toilet was. I told him it was downstairs. We went about our business and then, about a half-hour later, we realized that Stanley was nowhere to be seen. We started yelling for him and then I heard a muffled yell coming from the bathroom. I went downstairs and I heard this yelling and banging. I had forgotten to tell Stanley that you had to push the handle rather than twist it to open the bathroom door and Stanley had locked himself in and was twisting and twisting. It was one of the funniest things I had ever seen." - Starburst 7/95

"Stanley was more a satirist than a humanist, although I must say, now that's he's gone, too, that my remembrances of him are very fond. In its own way, I really had a wonderful time with him and created one of the most extraordinary parts that probably I will ever do on screen or on any other medium. It was an extraordinary experience - one of the things you only do once in a lifetime, that kind of part. That transcends everything, really." - Reel.com 9/99

"He was the last great director of that era. He was the big daddy and a heavyweight of my life." - CNN 3/8/99

"Kubrick was a master, and in many ways time has confirmed his vision of the future. Gang violence and the kind of mindless society that we're in is very much what he was talking about in the film. I though we were making this wickedly funny black comedy - and I think I'm right - but when it opened, audiences never got the humor at all." - NY Daily News 5/19/02

Malcolm, summoned to the house (Kubrick's - A.) to audition for ACO, was shown into a drawing room the walls of which were draped with towels to hide Kubrick's files. When he returned some months later, the material had been transferred to the carousel-like German Definitive filing system which dominated the room. 'Ask me anything about the film,' Kubrick coaxed, anxious to show off his new toy. 'Anything you like. Want to see the stills for your parents' apartment?' He spun the carousel, plucked out a folder, and opened it triumphantly under McDowell's nose. It was empty. Furious, he flipped the switch on his intercom and yelled for production secretary Margaret Adams. 'That's what Stanley can never understand,' grins McDowell. 'It's the human element. If only he could eliminate that, he could make the perfect movie.' (JB)

Malcolm was surprised at the way Kubrick ate - a mouthful of dessert, a piece of steak, another bite of dessert. 'What's the difference?' Kubrick said. 'It's all food.' Then the clincher: 'This is how Napoleon used to eat.' (JB)

"'Look Stanley, I'd like to meet with you, can you come by my house?' I didn't know that he never leaves Borehamwood, I hadn't got a clue you see, I thought he was a regular guy you know - who wouldn't? Subsequently I realized he's totally paranoid about any form of travel or leaving the house or anything. Anyway he eventually arrived and I thought "My God! He's brought an escort! He's in a white Landrover with a car in front of him and a car behind, it's ludicrous." - 20/20 1/90

Music

"He did call me to do the score for 'A Clockwork Orange' and I said yes. He did not want to come to Rome, he did not like flying. And then he called Leone, who told him I was busy working with him. He never called again. I would have really liked working with Kubrick." Ennio Morricone 2/07

A Physical Ordeal

    "My head was dunked into a trough of water repeatedly, days of it. And I got really sick. I couldn't talk; I got strep throat. And so I was off for two weeks. (Shooting was) closed down. Of course, he was happy about that because he could figure (things) out, and he was being paid for it by the insurance. He'd call up occasionally and say, "How do you feel? Don't come back." "I'm feeling good now." "No, no, no. I'm not ready. Don't worry; take it easy."
    When I did get back, the first thing I had to do was to be soaked, fully clothed. It was my entrance into the house, being picked up by the strong man. I said, "You know, Stanley, this has been the most horrible experience trying to get rid of this thing. I really don't want to do this first up." And he went, "We've got to do it." I said, "Fine, then let's just get it in one and get the damn thing over, because I don't want to get pneumonia." He said, "No, no, no, that's fine, fine, fine."
    So I got under the cold shower--there was no hot water--and I'm waiting outside the door. I'm freezing. I'm wet. Then I opened the door and said, "What the fuck is going on?" And Stanley had gone off to look at another location and just left me there..."

From 'The Ragman's Son' by Kirk Douglas. I later talked to Malcolm McDowell, the star of 'A Clockwork Orange'. "How did you like working with Kubrick?"
"That son of a bitch!"
"Why?"
"I scratched the cornea of my left eye. It hurt. I couldn't see. Kubrick said, 'Let's go on with scene. I'll favor your other eye." He had many other stories to tell me. (Why didn't you tell US Kirk!?! - Alex)

McDowell also suffered cracked ribs when the actor who attacks him in the staged demonstration of his new tractability stamped too hard. (This meant he was in considerable pain during the Magee/Corri sequence, which was shot later.) He had nearly drowned when the breathing apparatus failed while his head was held in a horse trough for two minutes; he never forgot the taste of the meat extract used to color the water. To top it off, Kubrick, knowing that McDowell was frightened of reptiles, greeted him cheerily one morning with, 'I got a snake for you Malc.' He presented him with a python, which Alex keeps in a drawer and sleeps with on his bed. (JB)

In the bizarre duel between McDowell and the Cat Woman, Kubrick hand-held the camera himself through take after take as the actors circled each other and finally collapsed from exhaustion. From Retakes by John Eastman

The Play

"It's good that Burgess' book is done in as many versions as possible and I'm glad for him because I never thought that when we did the film originally that he got enough out of it. It was always a Stanley Kubrick movie and his original creation was sort of forgotten about. It's a good piece for the stage, theatrically written, and I understand they're doing it with music, which is very interesting. It has all the elements that would make a good musical, a kind of West Side Story of the '90s." - Malcolm in 20/20 1/90

Princess Margaret

During the shooting Malcolm was invited to Kensington Palace for a lunch hosted by Princess Margaret. When Malcolm asked Kubrick if he could go, Kubrick replied "Aw Malc, I don't wanna shut down the whole unit a day just for her!" (VL)

Regret

"If there's anything I regret in my life, and there aren't many things, it's not picking up the phone and saying, 'Hi Stanley, let's get together for a drink.' Because of course I loved him. I loved him and I hated him, but I did great work with him. It's some of the greatest work I'll probably ever do." - Malcolm in LA Times 6/18/01

The Rolling Stones

This statement is based on the legend, not the truth.

"In fact originally, before Kubrick had the movie, the Rolling Stones had it, Mick Jagger was going to play Alex and the Stones were going to be the Droogs. I'm glad they didn't get it off the ground because it allowed me the opportunity to do it." - Malcolm in 20/20 1/90

Singin' in the Rain

To prove the quote, "Nothing is permanent, only change." I dug up these stories, all about the same subject. What's it going to be then, eh? I feel the second one is the real one, it makes sense. Kubrick wanted a song, Malcolm did the one he knew and now that Malcolm has 25 years to reflect on it, he came up with a more polished answer. Read on and you be the judge.

Kubrick 1972:
This was one of the more important ideas which arose during rehearsal. This scene, in fact, was rehearsed longer than any other scene in the film and appeared to be going nowhere. We spent three days trying to work out just what was going to happen and somehow it all seemed a bit inadequate. Then suddenly the idea popped into my head -- I don't know where it came from or what triggered it off.

Adrienne Corri 1990:
"We'd been sitting there for days, discussing whether there should be dialogue or whether the whole thing should be done silent, to increase the sense of menace, when Kubrick suddenly asked Malcolm, 'Can you sing?' Malcolm said, 'I only know one song,' and started to do 'Singin' in the Rain'."

Malcolm 1972:
"And much of the film was never in the scenario. When we got to the scene where the writer is beaten and his wife raped, Stanley suddenly called, 'Hey, Malcolm, can you sing and dance?' I can't do either. I said, 'Oh, yes, Stanley, sure,' and just sort of started dancing, then kicking the writer. And I began 'Singin' in the Rain,' as it's the only song I know. Within three hours, Stanley had bought the rights to it. You see, this was the kind of thing I knew I must look for: Alex larking about happily while doing this terrible violence. It's the kind of contradiction, the extra dimension that I had to find for him."

Malcolm 1997:
"Singin' in the Rain" was an improvisation of mine. Alex was supposed to be feeling euphoria in that scene, and my image of euphoria, which came via Hollywood, was Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain".

This 1989 version almost agrees with Malcolm's 1997 quote:
During rehearsals, McDowell improvised his "Singin in the Rain" bit while kicking the stunt man doubling for Patrick Magee--a sequence that took two days to film. From 'Retakes' by John Eastman

Malcolm 1999:
"Well, because Stanley asked me whether I could dance. I said, 'Sure, I'll give it a go.' I started to dance and started to kick and smack and started to sing 'Singin' in the Rain'. I needed some kind of, you know -- Alex the droog was at his most euphoric doing those two occupations -- beating and raping. Right up his alley. And, so, euphoria came to mind. And euphoria is Gene Kelly and Singin' in the Rain, swinging around that lamppost. And, basically that's why it just intuitively came out of my mouth like that. Of course, Stanley seized on it. It's the kind of thing you could never write in a script."

Malcolm 2001:
"Nothing we tried was working. Finally, Stanley came over to me one day and said, 'Malcolm, can you dance?' And I went, 'Can I dance? Of course I can.' And I started to dance and whack the stunt man at the same time, and then I started singing, 'I'm singin' in the rain'--Stanley went nuts. It was just a joke, but Stanley loved it. He said, 'I have to make a call, give me a moment.' Right on the spot he called New York and bought the rights to the song. He was such a businessman!"

The UK Ban

When Malcolm was shooting Assassin of the Tzar in Russia following the Chernobyl disaster, the Russian authorities offered to run a season of his films to raise money for the victims. Kubrick, however, refused to lend a print of ACO. (JB)

"It wasn't banned in Britain. There seems to be some confusion because Stanley Kubrick had the power to stop the film from being shown in Britain. I think he is rather paranoid about any gangs coming around and whacking him on the head or something. I don't know what his reason is for it, but I know it is not censorship. It is more Stanley. I think he is very paranoid about it. Maybe he's right. I don't know. I don't live in England any more." - Malcolm in Retrovision 1995

"Oh come on - it's true it's scary, but come on, honestly! Stanley said that the IRA tried to bomb him. I don't think anybody's going to be after Stanley, the film's as tame as can be. It's still brilliant, but to say it would influence anybody is a joke, There are far more violent films and if Stanley's scared about being blamed for all the muggings in Britain forget it. I don't think anyone would blame him at all." - Malcolm in 20/20 1/90

Vincent Lobrutto on Kubrick

Malcolm McDowell said that Kubrick was a genius director, but terrible to work with. What are your thoughts?

Thoughts are based on talking to many people - mixed. The experience that Malcolm McDowell had was very difficult. There is a very famous incident in "A Clockwork Orange" concerning his eye that only could be perceived as a form of cruelty towards the actor. And, as another example in the book, I talked to the film editor of "Spartacus", and he had an incident where his finger was stuck in a Movieola (an editing machine), bleeding, and Kubrick was only concerned that the print was damaged and did not aid or assist in getting the man help. On the other hand, Gay Hamilton, who plays Barry's cousin in "Barry Lyndon", had nothing but kind things to say and was treated very nicely, as were many actors. So, it leads you to conclude that in terms of Kubrick and actors - and he always talked about how he loved acting and actors - that he was complex and that he treated different actors differently, some cruelly, and many, many more in a positive way. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, apparently, had a very good experience, and Jack Nicholson and others.

Violence

"The moment you get near reality in a film, people get upset. Kubrick treats violence seriously and causes an uproar. Hammer treats it as a joke and no one's concerned. Where's the logic?" - Adrienne Corri 1972

When a fifty year old firewood seller was killed in May 1973, the 'Daily Mail' based its claim that a 'Clockwork Orange gang' was responsible on the fact that the film had closed in the area the day before, and that some local kids had been seen buying the sort of clothes and make-up worn in the film. Malcolm McDowell pointed out the absurdity of this: 'If they did do that, if they dressed like Alex, the police would know where to find them. I mean, in a codpiece and a bowler?' (JB)

Copyrights with original authors.
This format 1997-10 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net