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Malcolm McDowell on ‘Bombshell,’ The Beatles and ‘A Clockwork Orange’

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From his breakout role as Alex DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” in 1971 to his portrayal of notorious adversary Tolian Soran (the character who killed Captain Kirk) in “Star Trek Generations,” legendary actor Malcolm McDowell loves to defy expectation.

McDowell’s latest role as media mogul Rupert Murdoch in the Jay Roach-directed “Bombshell” (opening December 13) is one that the actor says he enjoyed very much, and he’s virtually unrecognizable as the acting CEO of Fox News.

“Bombshell” is based on the true story of the ladies who brought down late Fox News CEO Roger Ailes when they exposed him for sexual harassment in 2016. McDowell costars with Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, and John Lithgow as Ailes.

In the following Maine Edge interview, I asked McDowell about “Bombshell” and his portrayal of Murdoch, his delivery of The Beatles’ story as heard in the classic 1982 documentary “The Compleat Beatles,” (a Liverpool native, McDowell saw the band at The Cavern before and after Brian Epstein became their manager) and the approaching 50th anniversary of “A Clockwork Orange.”

The Maine Edge: When I heard that you had been tapped to play Rupert Murdoch in “Bombshell,” I wondered if you know him in real life?

McDowell: I’ve never met him, weirdly, although a great friend of mine in London in the ‘70s, sold him his apartment for so much money, I remember saying ‘Who would pay this kind of money for this apartment? He said it was this guy from Australia named Rupert Murdoch.

You kind of have to admire him. It was amazing when the News of the World scandal blew up in London, hacking people’s cell phones and all that went with it. They pulled Rupert in before a house committee and it was a bit like the Senate committee hearing that’s going on at the moment. They grilled him but he was pretty great and held his own.

He’s a remarkable guy and there’s no question about that. He’s one of the last great newspapermen alive, and it was fun to play him but it did require some research. Getting his accent right was quite interesting because his Australian accent is mixed with a bit of London and also New York.

The most extraordinary makeup people worked on this movie. I had one prosthetic that completely changed my face and gave me this chin that Murdoch has. It also helped enormously in creating the character because the physicality was so close.

The Maine Edge: We know of the allegations against Roger Ailes but how aware of all of that was Murdoch in your opinion?

McDowell: I don’t know, and that’s the truth. My suspicion is that he probably didn’t know much. I think he was very interested in how much revenue was being created by Fox News, which was extremely successful. I doubt that Rupert knew anything about the claims but there may have been whispers which are very hard to contain. It took a lot of courage for the first one to step forward. It’s the first one that brings down the whole house of cards.

The Maine Edge: In the 1980s, I probably watched “The Compleat Beatles” more than a hundred times on video, and your delivery of that story was unforgettable. How did you approach your narration?

McDowell: I know Paul McCartney liked that film and I think he put some money into it. It was very interesting because I wanted it to be gritty. I saw The Silver Beatles at The Cavern in Liverpool when I was 17 years old and I was blown away by them. They played at The Cavern each Friday and I kept returning to see them. One time I went back and they were wearing suits and had different haircuts because they had been taken over by Brian Epstein. I wanted to bring that gritty Liverpool experience into that voice, into the tone, and it worked very well. I was told by a sound engineer that my delivery changed how people did those kinds of documentaries.

The Maine Edge: Did you meet John Lennon at The Cavern?

McDowell: I didn’t meet him when I saw them but he was the first public person I had ever seen on stage that actually gave off profanity, and it was such a release (laughs), I can’t tell you. He just made me laugh. He had such a great sense of humor, of course, as everyone found out later. He was a very sensitive and brilliant guy.

Once in the late 1970s, I happened to be sitting with Mick Jagger on a window sill across Central Park in New York City. I guess I was on the east side of the park at a dinner thing at someone’s apartment. We were chatting and Mick just looked out across the black void of the park and he says “The king lives over there.” He was pointing at the Dakota building and of course he meant John.

The Maine Edge: In less than two years, we’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of “A Clockwork Orange.” Has there been any discussion about doing something special to mark the occasion?

McDowell: I’m sure there will be plenty of talk about that, and of course I would be thrilled to play a part. It’s pretty remarkable how that film has been rediscovered by every generation and that never ceases to amaze me. It was an extraordinary thing to be a part of and it will always be part of my DNA. There’s some talk about maybe going to the Cannes Film Festival for a midnight screening, which we did for the 40th. I know they’ll do something and I’m sure I’ll be part of it. Who knows how long we’re going to be around, you know? We’d better have the last hurrah.

Last modified on Tuesday, 10 December 2019 07:01

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