Malcolm McDowell is one of cinema’s most iconic figures. Best known for portraying wicked Alex DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film “A Clockwork Orange,” his career spans more than four decades and 150-plus film and television credits. His dedication to his craft garnered him critical acclaim and earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At 68, McDowell shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, his work is more vibrant and eclectic than ever before.
For his latest outing, McDowell plays the part of the greatest villain to ever walk the Earth — The Devil. “Suing The Devil” revolves around a landmark legal battle, in which a down and out law student, Luke O’Brien (Bart Bronson), sues Satan for $8 trillion. Just as Luke is about to file a default judgement, Satan (Malcolm McDowell) appears to defend himself. Armed with a legal team of the United States’ best trial lawyers, the entire world watches intently to see who will win this Trial of the Century. Jason Price of Icon vs. Icon recently sat down with Malcolm McDowell to discuss his latest film, his longevity in the ever-changing entertainment industry and much more!
Tackling a career in the entertainment industry is often not for the faint of heart. What drove you to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
Oh my god! I can barely remember, it has been so long! [laughs] From a very early age, the age of 11, I made my very first appearance in a play at school. I always felt very comfortable being on a stage and I always felt, in the back of my mind even as a kid, if all else failed in my life, I could always be an actor! Of course, that was very naive of me to think that but, you know, that is the naivety of youth and I thank God for it!
To what do you attribute your longevity in the industry?
Well that I really don’t know. A lot of luck, I think. I imagine I have managed to adapt along the way. I have aged and I am aware of my physical appearance, meaning I am not afraid to play older, in fact, I embrace it! I love it! I also keep away from Beverly Hills surgeons! All of these lines, I have earned the ones I’ve got and I’ve got quite a few of them!
Your latest project is “Suing The Devil.” What was it about the script or the character in particular that drew you to your role in the film?
I liked the script very much because I thought it was a very modernist kind of take on it. And of course, if you are asked to play the Devil, it is a wonderful part to take on. It is sort of like playing King Lear or something! It is a larger than life character that you have to make watchable and all the rest of it. There were plenty of challenges and I just liked the idea of a courtroom drama/comedy and everything which it entailed. I enjoyed that.
You mentioned the unique challenges that present themselves when you attempt to play the role of the Devil. What can you tell us about those?
Well, everyone has preconceived ideas about the Devil, don’t they? I really wanted to make the character watchable and enjoyable, as much as I possibly could, without cheating, without being sentimental or anything like that. I wanted to show the danger when it was required but have fun with it. [POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT!] And keep in mind, I am not really playing the Devil, I am playing the leading character’s idea of what the Devil might be. And don’t forget, he dreams it. So, I had to play a sort of heightened caricature in a way. Not a caricature per se because you had to believe it but, you know, something was slightly heightened. When we discover at the end of the film that it is all a dream, you think, “Oh, OK, that is why!”
Are there elements of your personality we see come through to this character?
It’s not a question of my personality particularly, it is that the character had to have the elements that make it watchable. He had to enjoy what he was doing, relish it, have great energy and try to make people laugh. I felt that the humor was a very big part of this role and a lot of it I ad-libbed. I really wanted to go for the comedy a lot because I felt it was so important.
Well, you did a great job with that and it does shine through in the film.
You have played some amazing villains in your career.
Do you tend to gravitate towards those type of roles? What intrigues you about those type of characters?
No, I think they gravitate towards me to be honest. You can only do what you are offered in the end, you know? I don’t go looking for them, believe me, but they always seem to find their way to me. But this part, if it wasn’t called the Devil, it’s not really a heavy. It is sort of a rather buffoonish character in many ways but he is a lot of fun to play. A lot of fun to play for the reasons I have stated but it was great fun to do the long speech at the end of the film. I think we got it in one take! It is an eight-minute monologue where all of the characters true feelings really come out. That was pretty cool actually! That was a real challenge!
You career has been and continues to be very diverse. Is there a particular type of film or genre that you are anxious to tackle in the future?
No. I am not anxious to pursue anything. That is the truth because I feel that if you have any sort of hope to play any particular part that, one, you will never be offered it and, two, when you are and if you are you have already played it through in your mind and you have blown it. I would just prefer to take it one job at a time and my favorite one is always going to be the next one.
Looking back on your career so far, how do you think you evolved in your craft since starting out?
Oh my god, I don’t know! I feel I have been very blessed with the work that I have had. I feel I am now going through a very purple patch where I can’t cope with all of the stuff I am being offered right now. I am able to pick and choose from some really terrific things. I am very excited that I will probably be going back to the theater in the fall. I am also excited that I am doing a wonderful show on TNT called “Franklin and Bash” where I am a regular on the show. Actually, I am in Winnipeg right now where I am doing a movie with Debi Mazar. From here, I will be off to New York to do a movie with Olympia Dukakis. I have so many things on right now it is insane!
I imagine that is a good problem to have for someone in your profession.
Yes, it is a very good problem to have!
Any chance of us fans getting an autobiography out of you in the future when you slow down?
Well, I did a one man show about my relationship with the great director Lindsay Anderson. In fact, they made a film of it which is called “Never Apologize.” That, in a way, serves as an autobiography because not only is it about him but it is about me too — my early career, how it all came about, the people I met along the way and all the rest of it. But when I slow down? Well, maybe I better write it all down before I forget it!
Being an icon in the industry, what is the best advice you can pass along to someone looking to follow in your footsteps?
I would add another string to your bow. It is very, very difficult at this time. It’s not at all like it was in my day. It was much easier and there weren’t quite so many young actors and I felt like there were more parts which was probably not true. I would say, only the ones that want to do it so much that they can taste it and they won’t take advice from anybody no matter what, they are the ones that will survive. The ones that think they want to do it, but are perhaps in the third or fourth year of being out of work, have no money and tiring of being a waiter, who think, “Maybe it’s not quite for me.” — They are the ones that shouldn’t have done it in the first place.
Thank you for your time today, sir. We really appreciate it and best of luck to you in the future!
Thank you. It has been my pleasure!
For more information on the film, check out the official website for ‘Suing The Devil’ at www.suingthedevil.com. The film is available On-Demand nationwide April 6th, 2012!
Official Synopsis: Luke O’Brien, a washed-up law student, decides to sue Satan for $8 trillion dollars. On the day Luke files a default judgment, Satan appears to defend himself. On Satan’s legal team are 10 of the country’s best trial lawyers. The entire world watches on Legal TV to see who will win the Trial of the Century.