The dystopian detective film A clockwork orange stunned viewers with its portrayal of “ultra-violence”. The story takes place in a futuristic Britain with a delinquent main character. Audiences almost got to hear Pink Floyd in the film, but the band snubbed Kubrick.
Actor Malcolm McDowell also had a bit of a problem with the director. Their relationship became strained when the actor failed to get his share of box office revenue in a sneaky move by Kubrick.
Stanley Kubrick chose Malcolm McDowell because of a previous film role
In A clockwork orange, McDowell portrayed Alex DeLarge, who leads a gang of droogs. At the time of casting, the actor had already appeared in several other films. According to Entertainment Weekly, 1968 British drama film if… became a hit in England, and Kubrick wanted to see it.
Kubrick’s widow mentioned that the director watched a screening of the film at his home. He replayed the scene where McDowell made his entrance four times. That’s when Kubrick cast the actor to play the role of DeLarge. He viewed McDowell as someone who could “play the smarts”.
However, Kubrick did not provide McDowell with much character direction. The director left the star to fend for the role on her own. At first, McDowell lost some of the confidence he once had. However, his friend advised him to shoot his close-up in Yes for inspiration.
Like other actors working under Kubrick, McDowell gave the performance his all. After all, the director demanded everything from his stars. McDowell allowed the director to open his eyes for each shot. Filming was painful for him; he even had trouble seeing for a while.
McDowell did not receive a percentage of the revenue from “A Clockwork Orange”
While the author of A clockwork orange, Anthony Burgess, did not like the film, it would become cult. The award-winning film has become many people’s favorite work, including Keanu Reeves. However, McDowell recalled that he was unable to benefit financially from his popularity.
According to the AV Club, McDowell asked for $100,000 and 2.5% of the profits. The actor took care of much of the promotion, especially in the United States. Yet he only received $100,000; Kubrick told him that Warner denied the 2.5% box office revenue.
McDowell discovered that Kubrick had lied to him. When the Halloween star met with the studio heads, the executives told him they had given the 2.5% to Kubrick in order to pass it on to him. When McDowell informed them that Kubrick didn’t, they laughed and said, “Ohhh, that’s like Stanley.”
Needless to say, McDowell felt betrayed. He said: “It’s so ungenerous and so mean when he got every f-king fiber of my being.” Nonetheless, McDowell was grateful for the opportunity to star in the film.
McDowell regrets not having spoken to Kubrick again
McDowell put everything he had into the film, but Kubrick barely contacted him after it was released. The actor felt hurt. Not receiving part of the benefits hurt him even more. McDowell didn’t speak to Kubrick for years.
Eventually McDowell let the event pass and forgave the brilliant director. Yet he couldn’t bring himself to look A clockwork orange. The shock value of its content has not yet disappeared.
McDowell never had the opportunity to speak to the director before Kubrick’s death. The star discovered Kubrick’s passing while he was in Ireland. A reporter asked him what he thought, and the actor went from confusion to total shock. Shortly after the discovery, McDowell felt remorse for not calling Kubrick.
“I should have done it and swallowed it. My wife tried to make me do it, and I kept saying no. But I really should have, and I kind of regret it now,” McDowell said.
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