The Royal Shakespeare Company 1964-66


Squire Puntila and his Servant Matti

Opened July 15, 1965
Malcolm played a worker

Program cover
Cast list signed by Malcolm

Malcolm on the role:
"That just means standing there holding a pole."


Q. When you were at RSC, did you ever have any idea of the success you would achieve?

A. Oh, I had a total premonition. No, of course not.

Q. What was your dream?

A. Certainly it wasn't to be duking it out with Patrick Stewart on top of some bloody mountain in the Valley of Fire, that's for sure, but I don't know. It is strange the way life comes into full circle, isn't it? So, I worked with Patrick when I was very young. He was somewhat younger. Although he looked just the same - bald. I always rather envied him in those days because he could play any part, you know, any age. He could play old men and did when he was in his twenties. I think he used to have this piece that he used to pop on for auditions but I think he was always more successful with the bald look.

Q. And you worked with him in which production or show?

A. I worked with him when I was on Stratford Upon Avon and I was there in 1965. Productions we did were Henry IV Part I, Part II. They were good sleeping pills. Henry V and various other productions and Patrick was a member of that company and so was I, but there were 100 actors in that company so it wasn't like we were buddies together. We weren't, but we knew each other and got on quite well.

Q. When you were that kid, in having a dream that most actors have, how was the reality different from the dream?

A. Well, my dream pretty much came true and I'm sure his did because soon after I left the Royal Shakespeare Company....I hated it by the way. I loathed it. I thought it was like working for the damn government. It was no different. All the political crap that went on.

Q. And you had to do all those plays.

A. That was the only good part about it. It was just horrendous. I mean they rehearsed, the wastage, the boredom of it. I hated it. Obviously Patrick liked it. He was there for 12 years. I thought they should all get a medal for that.

Q. How long were you there?

A. One year. That was enough for me. It was like being sentenced to Sing-Sing.

Q. How did you leave the RSC?

A. When I left the Royal Shakespeare Company I remember saying to Peter Hall, who ran the company - you have to go meet with him at the end of season and he would give you your marching orders or tell you what exciting things lay in prospect for you. So, six of us met in the pub, The Dirty Duck, and we were young revolutionaries if you like and troublemakers, agitators, you know, and we would say -- I remember saying things like, "This is all crap. I'm going in there. I'm going to tell this guy to stick this damn company -- I feel like I am here just to move furniture," because that is basically what the young actors do. They come in, they bring on the crown or throne and then the actor comes in and sits on it and you stand by it and then you take the damn thing off. That is what drove me nuts. Now, there were six of us, I remember saying, "We're going in there. We are going to tell this guy where to stick this damn company" and, of course, I was the first in and I did tell him, "There is no way. I don't care what you had in mind for me. I'm out of here. I'm gone. I'm history" and I'm going off. He said, "What are you going to do?" I said, "I'm going to be a movie star." Ha, ha, ha. Laugh, laugh, laugh. So, I'm waiting for the other five to come back to The Dirty Duck and they come in eventually and I said, "You told him?" "Well, he offered me the third duke from the right and you know, I think it could be a great part." "Twelve lines!" "Well, there are ways I could put a lot of emotion in..." I was the only one. I talked myself out of a job. But there you are. You take your chance and within, I think, a year I was starring in my first movie. So, I was very lucky.

Retrovision 1995


The stage where a young Malcolm performed


"I don't want to sound ungracious and a lot of it was tremendous fun, but in terms of work it was awful - pretentious, wasteful and unfocused. I was at the bottom of the tree. If I'd been at the top I'm sure it would have been different." - Radio Times 2/96

"I worked with Patrick (Stewart), oh, 29 years ago at the Royal Shakespeare Company. He went on to stay there for 12 years, while I was out very quickly. I just had one brief taste of being in company of 100 actors at Stratford, going crazy." he remembers. "I couldn't take it, but Patrick went on to do very well there. He's a very good actor and has certainly made his mark as Picard. It was great to work with him again after all these years." - Starlog 4/95

"Well, I was in the Royal Shakespeare Company for twelve years, Back-to-back with all the boys - with Ian Holm, Patrick Stewart, of course. We did seven years together. Malcolm McDowell; hes a crazy one. David Warner, Ben Kingsley - I come with that bunch." - W. Morgan Sheppard in Zolaco #106 4/21/97

Malcolm's Early Days

     If you can picture a 21 year old Malcolm taking the stage where he thought he had his big break, then picture this stage. This is the very stage where Malcolm worked during his 18 months in the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) from 1964-66.
     Malcolm wasn't given a chance to show his talent and often spent endless sessions holding a spear. After months of the same plays over and over it became mind numbingly boring and Malcolm resorted to practical jokes, anything to get the other actors to laugh. One time his role called for him to carry a chalice with water to the leading man, Olivier, he put a live goldfish in it. He saw the goldfish and muttered, "I'm going to get you for this." He would also make faces at the other actors while they recited their lines. Olivier got even by standing on one foot while Malcolm would recite his lines, the crowd couldn't see this, but Malcolm could and it would always break his concentration. Realizing this was going nowhere and tired holding a spear and being treated like cattle, he quit, finally meeting the director, Peter Hall.
     He vowed never to hold a spear again.

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