His hair is clipped very short and is pure white now -
but when he isn't smiling, the starry blue eyes still have the touch of menace
that made his early performances in if.... and A Clockwork Orange
Malcolm McDowell is 47 and for the last 12 years has made his home in California. He went there to make his first Hollywood movie, Time after Time, and stayed because he married the leading lady, Mary Steenburgen, and had two children - Lilly, 9 and Charles, 7. The marriage - his second - ended two years ago and McDowell has just spent the summer in Tuscany with his children before embarking on a fascinating journey.
He is on his way to Russia, to be the only Westerner in The Assassin of the Tsar, a Russian-made film that will be released in both Russian and English. A joint venture between a British firm and Russia's largest film company, Mosfilm, it is the second of a six-picture co-production deal. Says McDowell: "Why they want a British actor to play the man who killed the Tsar I can't imagine - but the director and co-writer, Karen Shakhnazarov, told me that when he was scripting he had a picture of me on the wall. It is a brilliant script and I really wanted to go to Russia. It must be the most interesting place on the planet now, except for the Gulf.
"I am taking a lot of cigarettes and dollars and I have stocked up on pasta, tea, tinned ham and chicken. I met Anthony Andrews after he filmed Lost in Siberia and he suggested I take a hamper from Selfridges. In the last two years I have made 10 films. Since my relationship with Mary was over, I decided I wanted to get back to work. Our separation was mutual.
"It's difficult for two actors to maintain a marriage. We're both a lot happier now. Mary has a boyfriend with whom she is very much in love, and that's nice. And I have had a girlfriend for a year who travels with me, a photographer in her twenties. Marriage? I have put that on the back burner. I would get married if I thought it would last longer than two years. Divorce is too expensive. If I didn't have American children I would probably live in Europe. But I am a chameleon, I feel at home in America."
His children are with their mother in Santa Barbara, and McDowell lives down the Californian coast above a surfing shop in Santa Monica. "I don't surf, but I like to ride my bicycle along the beach front."
Later this month a retrospective of his films will be held in Moscow - the first time such an honor has been given to a Western film star - and proceeds will go to the Chernobyl disaster fund. "I chose if..., A Clockwork Orange, O Lucky Man!, Time after Time, Caligula - they asked for that - and a film I did on Albert Schweitzer. I was shocked to learn I was known at all in Russia."
Caligula, produced by Bob Guccione was a film steeped in controversy and one that for many years McDowell preferred not to discuss. He had a percentage of the takings. "I heard it made 100 million dollars, but I never saw a cent of my percentage. It is called creative accounting. It took 11 months to shoot in Italy. They had hired me for 11 weeks, so it was a bit like winning the pools. I had no English taxes to pay and was able to square off my first divorce.
"The first time I saw it was at a sneak preview in Hollywood. The people from Penthouse refused me admission. But Guccione said, 'Let him in.' They had included two 20-minute segments of hard-core porn. I now have some idea what it must feel like to be raped. The second time around they had taken out the porn and it was much better. We all had a whale of a time on the set. It was ridiculously excessive. One day I will put it all in my autobiography. Not yet - I am still too young to write it."
Note: Malcolm was married to Kelley not even 3 months later. Also Kubrick declined to show ACO at the film festival.
© The Sunday Express 9/16/90
Archived 2001-08 by Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net