Lindsay Anderson: A Personal Remembrance

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Cast

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Himself Malcolm McDowell

Articles

Edinburgh - Day 6 | Empire Magazine 8/24/04

    You know, ninety per cent of the time, festivals are all about looking forward - discovering new talent, watching the next big thing. It's a relief to use that other 10% to pause and look back. Director Lindsay Anderson died in 1994 and, aside from This Sporting Life and irrefutable British classic If..., his cinema work is neglected in his home country.
    One of the highlights of this year's Edinburgh Film Festival was Malcolm McDowell's live one man show based on memories of Anderson and readings from his diaries and letters. For two performances only, McDowell - star of Anderson's If..., O Lucky Man and Britannia Hospital - held the attention of an audience in the Traverse Theatre, as he traveled from his first meeting with his mentor (who "looked like a Roman senator") at an audition for If..., through hilarious stories about Alan Bates, Richard Harris and the like, to a moving encounter beside John Ford's deathbed. "Stanley Kubrick was a good director," says McDowell, famous for A Clockwork Orange, "but Lindsay Anderson was a poet - and a great one."
    The day before, a panel of Anderson's friends and colleagues (including actor Graham Crowden and Mike Kaplan, producer of Whales Of August) shared fond anecdotes between rare screenings of two Anderson documentary shorts (Thursday's Children and The Singing Lesson). If the mood was more like a bunch of luvvies gathered for an interval drink at the theatre, that was no bad thing. Edinburgh's Anderson tribute was more about warm, personal reminiscences than a strictly critical and contextual analysis of his work. Leave that to books and film courses; this has been about keeping alive the memory of the man. And, at a festival where genuine cinema masters have been thin on the ground, it has been especially touching to have Lindsay Anderson walking among us.

Thom Dibdin, Edinburgh Festivals | 8/24/04

    Sometimes the various festivals come together to demonstrate exactly how false and artificial the division between the different art forms is. Malcolm McDowell, the acclaimed film and theatre actor, reading from various published diaries and books about Lindsay Anderson, director of both film and theatre, was just such an occasion. Film, Fringe and book festivals all came together to create something much more than a show. It was an event.
    McDowell is, in his own right, a fascinating talent. Notoriously, he was Alex in A Clockwork Orange. But it was with Lindsay Anderson that he first appeared on the silver screen. McDowell had been a struggling actor at the Royal Court until he auditioned for a role in If..., the 1968 movie about rebellion in a public school, which became a modern classic and caught the zeitgeist of the late 1960s.
    Watching the films is one thing. But to see McDowell in the flesh, reminiscing about his work and using his memories to bring one of the great directors of 20th-century Britain to life is really a special experience. Interspersing written stories about Anderson with his own memories of the same incident might have caused the event to overrun, but it certainly gave it depth and passion.
    McDowell read Lindsay Anderson's account of his last meeting with the great American film director, Robert Ford, when Ford was dying of cancer. And suddenly you understood that this was a man who knew humility. Which is a rare commodity, in any artform.

Interviews

9/3/03 Guardian with Malcolm
8/24/04 EIFF with Malcolm

8/13/04 Independent UK with Malcolm

7/25/04 Sunday Herald with Malcolm

News

2/21/07

His Ojai appearance has been made into a film called Never Apologize.

10/5/04

MM will be at the National Film Theater of London at the Cotteslowe theater on November 2nd and 4th (two matinees) to coincide with the Lindsay Anderson retrospective. There is also a possibility of bringing it to New York City as well.

McDowell to appear at festival tribute
Phil Miller, Arts Correspondent 6/24/04 The Herald

    A Celebration of one of Scotland's most controversial film directors will be led by Malcolm McDowell, the veteran actor, at Edinburgh International Film Festival.
    Lindsay Anderson's classic 1968 film If... heralded McDowell's big-screen debut and the actor will present a one-man show in honor of the ground-breaking director.
    Anderson was born on April 17, 1923, in Bangalore, India, the son of a Scottish major-general, and became one of the most radical figures in British film. He died in 1994.
    McDowell, best known for his role in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, appeared in three of Anderson's films. His show at the Traverse theatre on August 23 will include readings from the director's diaries and letters.
    "The Traverse is delighted to join Edinburgh International Film Festival for the first time to celebrate the work of Lindsay Anderson - a man whose connections to playwrights and to new writing for theatre were a seminal part of his work," said Katherine Mendelsohn, the Traverse's literary manager.
    The festival will screen two of Anderson's films - O Lucky Man from 1973 and The Whales of August from 1987.

Notes

Pictures

MM arriving late

Summary - Official

One of the most accomplished and distinctive of British actors, Malcolm McDowell came to prominence with Lindsay Anderson's if.... (1968), and worked with the director on the two further installments of what came to be known as the Mick Travis Trilogy: O Lucky Man! (screening at EIFF) and Britannia Hospital. Their working relationship was a close one, and now, to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of his death, McDowell presents an affectionate yet unsparing tribute, drawn from the late director's own writings. A once-only chance to witness this tribute, from one cinematic great to another.

Summary

    I attended the 3pm show with my 17 year old niece Natasha. We were told there would be no intermission and the show would run until 4:40pm (in truth it ran until 5pm). To the left of the stage area was an easel with a large B/W photo of Lindsay Anderson directing Malcolm in if….. and one of Lindsay aged five. In front was a round table with a Union Jack flag draped over and jug of water, glass and book sitting on top. A chair was positioned next to it, with a bomber style jacket and tartan scarf hanging from it. To the right of the stage was a lectern where Malcolm would give his readings. He would take center stage when talking directly to us.
    "Ah, my son is here" were the first words he spoke on hearing a baby crying in the audience, and it most likely was. He wore a dark suit with black t-shirt underneath exhibiting his trimness. When he spoke with that beautiful voice I'm sure he held the audience's attention from then on.
    His readings from Lindsay Anderson's personal diaries and letters were interspersed with his own reminisces and what a joy it was to listen to them. His wonderful introduction as to how he met and auditioned for the film role that brought him together with his future mentor and certain acclaim if… in 1967 was a particularly lovely and very funny story (especially when demonstrated by MM himself). When first auditioning for if.... Malcolm didn't have a script. David Sheridan gave him his and the scene was in the greasy spoon where he seduces Christine Noonan. He only read to the point where he kisses Christine passionately, unaware that the next line calls for her to punch him with all her might. After he grabs her and kisses her, Christine delivered the most god almighty right hook into the side of his face and he fell off her, reeling, shocked and startled. Whilst composing himself he thought 'I'll get you back' and when he was ready to redo the scene, he grabs her hard. A long fight ensues and he throws her on a table and sticks his tongue down her throat, with which she retaliates with a kick, and the scene is set for the movie. He gets the job because of his look after the punch - to this day he credits Christine Noonan with his film career.
    He told us that during the shooting of the film and being a bit of a lad at 24, suggests to LA that he and Christine Noonan do the tiger scene in the nude. LA agrees, but says he must ask her himself. After the feistiness of the audition he is wary but she agrees straight away. When it comes to filming she strides on set completely nude and totally unabashed. He is the one utterly mortified (MM does a great imaginary cupping of his manhood to illustrate this).
    We discover just how heavily he was involved in his next project with Lindsay Anderson, O Lucky Man!, sealing their future friendship and collaboration. He recounted when they were in Cannes after if…. won the grand prix and riding on a crest of a wave, he naively thought they should do something else together immediately. LA turned and berated him "do you think good scripts just grow on trees Malcolm?" Afterwards MM set about writing a story about his previous work as a coffee salesman/taster, but then A Clockwork Orange came along (Stanley Kubrick had seen MMc in if….). Before becoming an actor, he was a trainee coffee salesman sent to Yorkshire after the incumbent salesman was indicted on a charge of handling stolen goods. He didn't think he had a story for the screen, just interesting bits and bobs from his life. Malcolm was unsure how to end it - the part where Mick Travis becomes a movie star. Lindsay asked him how he became a movie star and Malcolm replied that it's because he got hit. Lindsay replies, "Well write that in then!" The scene transforms into Lindsay slapping Malcolm with the hefty script at full force across the face to get him to smile. Malcolm reckons they did 25 to 35 takes of the slapping as Lindsay was consistently unhappy. Turns out Lindsay used take number three  in the end!
    He also told a funny story from his coffee selling days about how he brought a young lady back to his apartment late one night for a coffee, but his landlady, seeing the lights out in his room, throws them both out. In truth he was innocent on this occasion as he had to remove the light bulb to plug in his coffee maker!
    ACO was really only mentioned to gratefully acknowledge the worldwide acclaim it gave and subsequent power in having paramount studios green light OLM! and asking LA to do it with him. The title was decided on. "'O…Lucky Man!" Lindsay Anderson proclaimed, adding emphasize on the 'O', after overhearing an intense discussion between MM and writer David Sherwin.
He also told of the final editing of OLM was down to a mistake made by a projectionist forgetting an entire reel at a meeting/viewing of the movie - thereby, cutting out a large chunk - and vastly improving it. MM and LA were happy they had their finished film but Alan Price moaned they had cut one of his 'bloody' songs out. MM admitted that he used to always view the dailies early in his career, but doesn't do now as he thinks 'who's the old man on screen' especially as he still feels 30.
    One particularly outstanding and cunning letter was one of 'apology' LA wrote to Alan Bates (another friend), in the late eighties after a dinner party in New York went a little awry. Alan Bates (a normally lovely man according to MM) took exception to being called 'bourgeois' by LA (a word he often used as an insult), stormed off and severed contact with him for quite some time after. The letter was so cleverly written and again infused with dry humor. Malcolm delighted in how the letter was not so much an apology, but one disguised to appear so, all the while turning things around to blame everyone else other than himself. He seemed to particularly love reading it to us, as he explained he was at that very dinner party, with his then wife Mary Steenburgen, and observed the proceedings first-hand. While the champagne flowed and everyone at the party got drunk, only he remained sober, having stopped drinking a few years before - and it was now 20 yrs since he'd touched any alcohol -, which is why he could remember the scuffle so well.
    What stuck me, as a Scot, was just how much Lindsay Anderson - born in India to a Scottish father but educated at elite top schools in England - was at his heart a true Scotsman. It became more obvious to me as the readings progressed. I really can't pinpoint why, but perhaps it was his dry wit and cantankerous ways, underscored with compassion and humility. He was homosexual but never out in the open; MM touched upon this, wishing his friend could have found his sexuality easier to deal with.
    About two thirds of the way through, realizing that the show was running late, he quickly flicked through pages from the lectern and showed us he still had many readings to do. He called out to Mike Kaplan (his producer) in the audience and mentioned that they really both should have timed it right. He had to quickly decide on which stories to omit, something he was loathe to do. He would decide to bypass a story but his enthusiasm would takeover and he would go back to it with. …"oh I can't keep this one out"!
    For the last part of the show, MM's passion for his mentor never dimmed, although he admitted his voice was straining (and he had another 8pm show). He reveled in the stories and readings. He looked at his watch a few times and apologized to us on numerous occasions. Not that I minded, I was hoping that someone in the audience much braver than I would call out "we don't mind … please keep going …'! I was far too much in awe to have dared appeal myself.
    Another story involved the actress Rachel Roberts, who first starred in LA's This Sporting Life alongside Richard Harris, and subsequently OLM! MM told us that, although a marvelous actress, she was very insecure especially about her singing voice and LA was very patient and generous with her. He was always there to help her through. Although MM didn't say so, in so many words and didn't elaborate, I distinctly got the impression he put her insecurity down to her marriage with Rex Harrison. He explained that whilst a lovely person, she could also be an outrageous drunk and told us of a time in Cannes (apologizing to us, in advance, for the language he was about to use) when she climbed on a table, lifted her dress, exposing her private parts - which had been shaved for love scenes in film - (like a porcupine MM noted) and on seeing Catherine Deneuve walk by shouted, "I want to fuck her! I want to fuck her". When her friends pointed out to Rachel that she wasn't a lesbian, she shouted "I still want to fuck her!". He concluded that they were all deeply saddened by her death by suicide in 1980.
    He relayed a story whereby he was doing a play, Look Back in Anger, in New York with Lindsay in 19780. Two minutes into the story, he and his co-star could hear someone snoring in the front row. During the play he dropped a pillow and later went back to it, and kicked it with full force to wake the man up, unfortunately he missed. During the first break he borrowed $10 from a stage hand, went out front, woke the man up, gave him the $10 and told him to take a taxi home. The man stumbled groggily to his feet and shuffled off, Malcolm's eyes settled on the person who had been sitting behind the man - it was Steven Spielberg. Malcolm reckons that is the reason he's never been cast in a Spielberg movie, Spielberg was upset at him breaking the 'shield'. He recollects that Lindsay loved how he dealt with the snorer!
    MM sat at the table for his final reading to recount the story of LA's visit, in 1973, to his hero, director John Ford, who was terminally ill at the time. Lindsay was accustomed to calling his hero Mr. Ford and asked his daughter how he should address him on the visit and she replied that he should "call him Jack" as that's what all his friends called him. MM read a poignant letter JF wrote to an admirer after said visit and shortly before he died which he read in an American drawl.
    He then ended with a quote from Lindsay. While in front of a semi circle of critics he was asked what he wanted on his epitaph. "Surrounded by f--king idiots" was his reply. Malcolm took a bow, toasted both pictures of Lindsay and left, with Alan Price's "O Lucky Man!" playing.
David Roger 8/23/04 & Susan Wilson 8/26/04


National Film Theatre, London 11/2 & 11/4/04

Press Release

Tuesday Nov. 2 & Thursday Nov. 4
2.30pm (2 hours) · Cottesloe Theatre · £5.00 / £4.00

    One of the most accomplished and distinctive of British actors, Malcolm McDowell came to prominence in his screen debut in Lindsay Anderson's If…. (1969) and worked with the director for the next 20 years on stage and screen, most famously on the two further installments of what came to be known as 'The Mick Travis Trilogy': O Lucky Man! (1973) and Britannia Hospital (1982).
    To commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the death of his friend and mentor, McDowell offers a wide-ranging portrait of the formidable yet compassionate director, drawn from writings by and about Anderson, as well as hilarious and moving encounters with colleagues Alan Bates, Bette Davis, John Ford, John Gielgud, Lillian Gish, Richard Harris, Laurence Olivier, Rachel Roberts and David Storey.
    After a sell-out success in Edinburgh, McDowell comes to the National Theatre - where Lindsay Anderson directed several productions - to present this affectionate yet unsparing tribute, from one cinematic great to another.
    The presentation is directed by Mike Kaplan, who produced Anderson's last film The Whales of August. These performances will be followed by a season of Lindsay Anderson's films presented by the British Film Institute at the National Film Theatre 7 - 30 November including an on-stage interview with Malcolm McDowell about his career.

National Theatre, South Bank,
London, SE1 9PX
Tickets: 020 7452 3000 / www.nationaltheatre.org.uk
Nearest station: Waterloo

Review

    The reception could only be for a returning Englishman who made good in America. A man resembling Anthony Hopkins with a voice pitched somewhere between a mid-Atlantic drawl and Stephen Berkoff took the stage in grand showbiz style, diminishing and dwarfing his interviewer Paul Ryan. They were there to discuss the late, great Lindsay Anderson. Paul had just written Never Apologize and the actor who worked with Lindsay more than anyone else in his career recounted a series of fond and not so fond memories.
    For instance the time it took David Sherwin a "non-professional" writer three solid hours to write one line, but what a line it was "try not to die like a dog." Lindsay nearly slaughtered him, but Malcolm leapt to his defense soothing the great man's temper by reassuring him what a great line it was. Lindsay was often referred to as "The Hand of God" - a not so benign demagogue who ruled his film sets with an iron fist. The results being well worth tolerating a bit of tyrannical behavior.
Another amusing moment came when if…. was so successful Malcolm assumed that he and Lindsay would be working together again. Lindsay retorted, "Do you think good scripts grow on trees? If you want to work with me again, you find me a good script or write it yourself." Malcolm replied "All right, I'll write one myself." Never one to shirk a challenge he composed a 40 page script and co-produced what was the nucleus of their next project - O Lucky Man! based loosely on his own life.
    It also occurred to me that Mick Travis has the same initials as the actor's real name - Malcolm Taylor. Was it planned or a coincidence? I wasn't really there because of Lindsay, though I am a fan now, I was there because of A Clockwork Orange. I was relieved to discover I was not the only one there for this reason. Paul introduced a clip from a "little film Malcolm made in 1971." A sweet scene followed of Alex being questioned by a nurse in his hospital bed. It wasn't a scene that stuck in my mind from the last time I saw the film. It was apparently the only completely improvised scene in the film.
    Another interesting footnote is when Malcolm approached Kubrick on how to interpret Alex he told him "I'm not Rada." It was Lindsay who gave him the direction he needed to make the character so memorably menacing.
    People got to ask questions and the trivial ones were given the brush off. I apologized in advance for being obsequious and told him he was my favorite living actor, which was the truth. He agreed with me that I was indeed being obsequious. My question was, "Have you ever become emotionally unbalanced by any of your roles or ever came close to a breakdown?" The short answer was "no." The long answer was that he didn't take it seriously enough. When playing a cannibal in Evilenko the most depressing thing about the shoot was the Russian food, which was unspeakable.
    I came away from the interview piqued about Lindsay and now O Lucky Man! is one of my favorite films. I also got a comprehensive awareness of the life and times of an actor I had previously only worshipped from a distance. R. Topaz

Stories

    I was at the show and wanted to mention that Malcolm mentioned your superb, UNOFFICIAL web site in his honor and he stressed unofficial, saying it had nothing to do with him - about 4 times! What I consider most memorable about our encounter is what we spoke about, and the depth of the conversation given the typically rushed, fan/performer environment.
    I asked him about the issue of personal and emotional involvement in a role. He said it had never been an issue to him. He finds it incredibly easy to switch off, no matter how personal the material is because he doesn't take it that seriously. This has never been something I have been able to do and have gone though periods of being overwhelmed by various things in life, to the extent where my mental health has been adversely affected. I told him this and he seemed surprised. He asked me why I thought I went off the rails so often, and I replied "It's obvious, I'm psychologically unbalanced". He said that he didn't think that was the case at all, it's just that everyone reacts and copes with things differently and it didn't make me more or less unbalanced, or less of a person. He said he's had various experiences with directors that made him aware of different coping mechanisms and the trick was to become more tolerant and accepting of yourself and others instead of immediately denigrating oneself as I tended to. His blunt, Yorkshire voice and manner can be very intimidating, but he did appear to soften when he spoke to me for some reason. - R

Ojai Film Festival

News

Malcolm McDowell will appear April 1 in the U.S. premiere of his one-man stage show "Never Apologize," directed by Mike Kaplan at the Matilija Auditorium in Ojai, Calif., as a benefit for the Ojai Film Festival.

Summary © 2004-08 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net