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Malcolm McDowell: “Alex DeLarge is like a distant relative”

The British actor Malcolm McDowell is one of the guest stars at the 66th edition of the Valladolid International Film Festival. On its opening day Seminci welcomes the protagonist of A Clockwork Orange, who will be presenting in Valladolid The Forbidden Orange, a TCM documentary that will screen this evening at 8.15 pm at Teatro Carrión. The film revolves around Stanley Kubrick’s classic feature film, which was banned in Spain during the Francoist dictatorship and had its premiere in 1975, within the framework of Seminci.

Teatro Calderón’s Hall of Mirrors hosted today Saturday, October 23, 2021, a press conference starring McDowell and where the documentary’s director, Pedro González Bermúdez, and the TCM producer Guillermo Farré also took part. McDowell reflected on his own relationship with his iconic character, Alex DeLarge, whom he sees today “as a distant relative”, and denied that he is part of him in any sense: “I played him fifty years ago and I am not a method actor,” he claimed.

McDowell recalled the day when he got a phone call from Stanley Kubrick (“At first I thought he was Stanley Kramer“), a director he admired for his previous work on Lolita or Doctor Strangelove. “I went to see 2001: a Space Odyssey and I was speechless; it is one of his best films and a work that changed the way of doing science fiction in movies, accustomed as we were to Flash Gordon and papier-mâché sets,” he explained. His passion for this film, even stronger than for the one he starred in, is remarkable: “At the time it was crushed by critics and its failure led to several layoffs at MGM; but the young people of that time knew how to transform it into a triumph”.

With regard to his character in A Clockwork Orange, McDowell recalls that working with Kubrick, which he defined as “any actor’s dream,” was quite different from his previous experience with Lindsay Anderson in If…: “When I asked Kubrick who Alex DeLarge was, he told me that it was precisely to answer that question that he had hired me. I was impressed by that answer, but at the same time it was a great gift; Anderson could spend hours explaining the character to me, who his parents are,… etc. Kubrick presented me with a challenge at the age of 25 and showed me the good and fun part of being an actor.

On the eternal debate about the violence that takes place in A Clockwork Orange, McDowell insists that the brutality of the film “is more psychological than physical”, and that there are more bloody scenes in movies like Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch: “We shouldn’t get lost in the symbolic and exaggerated violence of Kubrick’s film, whose final message is about the freedom of choice than humans have,” he stressed.

The actor also confessed that he did not not know the story surrounding the premiere in Spain of this film and its ban by Franco’s government: “At that time everything that happened in Spain did not trascend beyond Spain’s borders, so when I found out later, it was a huge surprise, and I felt that we had to tell it, as a tribute to what happened and as a gift to the city of Valladolid “, he stated before adding that ” given the climate of desire for freedom that was breathed back then, it could well have happened with any other movie”.

At the press conference, director González Bermúdez recalled how “enthusiastic” McDowell was at the idea of constructing this documentary around the film and its premiere in Spain. In turn, Farré highlighted the rationale behind TCM productions: “Our intention is that the films that matter continue to have life and can be known by new generations,” he explained before describing the premiere of A Clockwork Orange in Valladolid as “an event where art and cinema functioned as a mirror of the changes that society was already undergoing.”

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