Malcolm McDowell Killed Kirk… But Hated It, Part II
Malcolm McDowell did the deed. As the villainous Dr. Tolian Soran in Star Trek: Generations, he killed the beloved Captain Kirk. Yesterday, in part one of our interview with him, McDowell discussed his role as Soran and expressed his feeling that Kirk’s demise didn’t do the iconic character justice. Now, in the second half of our conversation, McDowell talks more about his thoughts on Generations, looks back at A Clockwork Orange and previews several of his current projects.
Returning to Generations, there were reportedly calls to the studio from the set – by Shatner, Stewart, Carson, – arguing that the original death just wasn’t working and that the scene should be rewritten, but it wasn’t until a test screening that the studio gave the OK to changing the ending…
McDowell: I don’t care whose fault it was. Whoever came up with his death at the end, I thought it was really cheesy. I just think the man, whether you like him or not, should have been given a blazing death. And I, course, would have been happy to have supplied that. Look, I just think it was a missed opportunity for this great, iconic figure that everybody loved or everybody loathed. He was one of those great figures that caused dissention and debate and arguments.
What happened next is pretty well known to Trek fans…
McDowell: As soon as I’d killed him, Bill Shatner pulled up his chair and said, “Do you mind if I do a little interview?” I said, “What on earth for?” He goes, “I’m writing the book.” I thought, “My god, he’s really going to get every buck out of this that he can. And I don’t blame him.” Then his first question to me was, “What does it feel like to have killed this television icon?” I went, “Well, he’s serious about this.” So I said, “Well, Bill, as far as I’m concerned 50 percent of the people are going to love me for it and 50 percent of the people are going to hate me.” And he goes, “Who is going to love you?” I went, “Well, the people who’ve had it up to here with 35 years of you, Bill, that’s who!” And he roared with laughter. I was teasing him, of course, but what could you say? What could you say?
Was it true that you got death threats after the film?
McDowell: It is true. It was the infancy of the Internet, so it was easy to make a hollow threat. No one could check it, really. But, yes, that’s what happened.
A Clockwork Orange is just out now in a fully loaded 40th anniversary Blu-ray set. Back when you made it, even in the moment, what sense did you have that it might be something special?
McDowell: It was Stanley Kubrick. It was a great honor to be asked to be in one of his movies. I suppose it would be like Spielberg or Marty Scorsese today asking you to be in one of their movies. He was the best there was. We knew were making something special, but not special to last 40 years. Nobody can predict that. Nobody could have predicted that the film would still be so relevant all this time later.
How would you say the film holds up? And, if you can separate yourself from it enough to comment, how do you think your performance holds up?
McDowell: I’m not really the right person to ask. The audience, who packed Cannes and packed a screening here (in New York City) at the Museum of Modern Art, they seemed to love it. The word is that it hasn’t dated at all and that everything is still very modern, including my performance. But, listen, I’m only quoting what people tell me. So people should see it for themselves and make up their own minds.
If people are entertained by A Clockwork Orange, is there something wrong with them?
McDowell: No, not at all. It is an entertainment. It’s a black comedy. Of course, it has a warning in it. Like all good films, it has to have something to say about the society we live in. But it is an entertainment firstly, and Kubrick was a showman as well as everything else. So, no, I think people should be entertained.
What is the question you’re most often asked about A Clockwork Orange?
McDowell: Oh, that’d be “Tell me about the eyes…” And you’re not going to ask that one, are you?
Nope. But let’s ask this: If Kubrick were alive today and he called you to say, “Malcolm, it’s time to revisit Alex and see what our favorite hooligan is doing today,” what would you say? Could you/would you have any interest in revisiting the character if the pieces had fallen into place, which, obviously, they no longer can?
McDowell: It’s highly unlikely that it ever would’ve happened, and of course it won’t happen now because Stanley is no longer with us. But if Stanley was and he said, “Let’s revisit,” I would be an idiot not to say, “Hey, let’s do it again.” I’d love to have worked with him again, just because he was such a master. But I’d rather not have done Alex again. I’d rather I’d worked with him on a movie about another subject. I never really like to do sequels or remakes. I’ve only really done it once, and that was Halloween, but I played the character in the second one completely differently from what I’d done in the first one.
Let’s get everyone caught up on your current projects. Franklin & Bash premiered last night on TNT. Give us the set up of the series and an introduction to your character, Stanton Infeld.
McDowell: Stanton is the head of (the law firm) Infeld & Daniels, and I hire these two renegade, 30-something lawyers (Breckin Meyer and Mark-Paul Gosselaar) to come in and give a different viewpoint, an of out-of-the-box vision of what’s going on, in order to give a new energy to the firm. And we have all the shenanigans that go on. It all will rest on whether audiences will like these two guys. I think we’ve got the right two guys. They’re great. I like the writing. I think it’s a wonderful show. I’m not saying it’s going to be popular. Who knows? I’m not a prophet. But I’m saying it’s a good show.
Let us read you a list: Kill Zone 3, LA Phil Live, The Artist, Suing the Devil, L.A., I Hate You, Vamps, The Unleashed, Mischief Night, Death Method, Zombex, Silent Hill: Revelation 3D and Mind’s Eye. That’s what IMDB has down for you as completed or currently filming projects for 2011. Does that list sound right, and are there a few in there that you’re particularly intrigued by?
McDowell: Yeah, that’s about correct. Kill Zone 3 is a great game. That’s out already. I love Suing the Devil. It’s a fabulous script. Death Method; very interesting script. The Artist is an incredible movie. It has nothing to do with me. It’s just a brilliantly directed and acted movie. It’s a silent movie made in black and white and it’s absolutely charming. I think it will charm audiences in a big way, I really do. It was a sensation at the Cannes Film Festival.
What do you have that you’re about to start work on?
McDowell: I’m doing a movie called Monster Butler. It’s a movie I’ve wanted to do for many, many years and I’ve finally found the way to do it and the people that I want to do it with. It’s been in the back of my mind. It’s the Roy Fontaine story. We were going to do it this summer, but because of Franklin & Bash and because I’ve got to be back for the show if it goes a second season, we’re going to do it next spring. So I want to do Monster Butler, but I want to do it right, and so I’ve decided to push it to the spring. Peter Medak is going to direct it.
Last question: would you trade your career for anything in the world?
McDowell: No. Absolutely not. I’m still working away now after God knows, almost 50 years of being in the business. I’m still having fun. I’ve made some good movies along the way and some sh—ty ones, but, hey, that’s life. It can’t all be a bed of roses.
To read part one of this interview, click HERE.