Malcolm McDowell

  1. John Karlen, Rouge sur les lèvres (Daughters of Darkness), Belgium-Canadian-France-West Germany-US, 1970.  McDowell refused Belgian director Harry Kümel’s request to be Stefan and for the oddest of reasons, considering his later shenanigans as Caligula.  didn’t want to work with a porn actress.  (Tell that to Tinto Brass!)  He meant German Andrea Rau as the sensual travelling companion of Return to Marianbad’sDelphine Seyrig’s erotic Countess Bathory. finding it difficult to remain eternally young as virgins (and their blood) are hard to come by in the swinging 70s.
  2. James Coburn, Giù la testa (UK: A Fistful of Dynamite; US: Duck You Sucker), Italy, 1971.      “I wanted a boy of 20 who becomes like a father to the old Mexican peon,” said maestro Sergio Leone.  But when Eli Wallach was replaced by Rod Steiger as  Miranda, Leone ran to  Coburn.  “He was Clint Eastwood – with more humour. I loved the way he threw his knife in The Magnificent Seven… and the way he walked.”
  3. David Warbeck, Giù la testa (UK: A Fistful of Dynamite; US: Duck You Sucker), Italy, 1971.     Once Coburn became Mallory (to counteract Rod Steiger), McDowell was offered his IRA friend.  As a title, maestro Sergio Leone preferred  the French Once Upon a Time… the Revolution.
  4. Michael York, Cabaret, 1971.   Various Brits were seen for Brian Roberts – based on author Christopher Isherwood .They included Tim Curry, not yet Dr Frank-N-Furter in rights; Timothy Dalton, the most recent Heathcliff; David Hemmings, Mr Blow Up; Jeremy Irons,  not yet chosen for movies; Malcolm McDowell, the Clockwork Orange;  John McEnery,  but not his starrier brother, Peter; Paul Nicholas, singer-actor;  Leonard Whiting, the 1967 Romeo. And  Bruce Robinson, who after 15 acting gigs, became a writer-director of such underground hits as the classic Withnail & IJohn Rubinstein was the sole American, when it looked as if York could not get free in time and Brian would be American, after all. So how did York win?  “Hearing they were looking for ‘a Michael York type,’” he recalled in his 1991 autobiography, “I ventured to suggest that I might still possibly fill the bill.”
  5. Simon Ward, Young Winston, 1971.     Albert Finney and McDowell passed on on portraying the early life of The Greatest Englishman. Ward played him again in the Turkish mini-series, Kurtulus, 1993. But it was his screen headmaster, Robert Hardy, who went on to be Churchill in five TV projects over 25 years, from The Wilderness Years, 1980, to… wait for it… Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Sittaford Mystery, 2005.
  6. Kris Kristofferson, Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, 1972.
  7. Michael York, The Three Musketeers, 1973.      Director Richard Lester’s first choice for D’Artagnan passed. York did well enough in the absolutely rollicking version of the all-for-one-and-one-for-all-guys… Oruginally intended – of course, of course! – for The Beatles. With Paul as the newest recruit of The Musketeers of the Guard, circa 1625-1628.  There hadn’t been any Musketeers movies since 1948, when  39-yer-old Gene Kellh, of all people, was the 20-year-old D’Artagnan. The French tried  in 1960,  with Jean-Paul Belmondo (reprising his 1959 TV D’Artagnan), Alain Delon Sophia Loren. The project collapsed, but Bebel made a similar Cartouche, 1962, and Delon was tres Athos as La tulipe  noire, 1964, and Zorro, ten years later.
  8. Keir Dullea, Black Christmas, 1974.       What McDowell refused, Dullea shot in a week, without meeting his co-stars. Looks like it, too. 
  9. William Atherton, The Day of the Locust, 1975.     He could have  beaten Burgess Meredith to stealing the film. Rejecting Tod for being too close to his If and O Lucky Man hero, Mick Travis, is among the reasons why the Brit’s Hollywood career is less A List than Z-schlock: Buy & Cell, Moon 44, Tank Girl,  Mr Magoo, The First 9½ Weeks
  10. Dennis Hopper, Mad Dog Morgan, 1975.      McDowell, Alan Bates, Stacy Keach, playwright Jason Miller and Martin Sheen were  all in the mix for the titular Daniel Morgan, chief inspiration of Australia’s most famous bushranger, Ned Kelly. First-time  UK producer Jeremy Thomas “somehow”  got Hopper for a mere $50,000.   “He brought an insanity to the role,” said director Philippe Mora, “and an intensity that most actors would have found impossible to create.” A comeback was born and one of my most memorable Cannes festival interviews on  a rainy May 26, 1976. At one point, he and Michael Douglas split for the men’s room, when they returned I’d swear their feet weren’t touching the floor…

  11. Keith Carradine, Pretty Baby, 1977.
    The plot sickens… A prostitute allows her 12-year-old daughter’s virginity to be auctioned off in a brothel in the red-light district of New Orleans, circa 1917. French director Louis Malle saw 28 hopefuls and/or instant (parental) refusals for little Violet… 15 actresses for her mother… and 17 guys for for the really mis-shapen, hydrocephallic photographer Ernest J. Bellocq, whose Storyville work of the epoch influenced the style of the surprisingly elegant film. Robert Redford was first choice, Jack Nicholson second. Before falling for Carradine, Malle saw McDowell (the only Brit short-listed), Albert Brooks, James Caan, Robert De Niro, the new in town Mel Gibson, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Christopher Reeve (planning to make us believe a man could fly), future director Rob Reiner, John Travolta (more into Grease)… plus such flat out surprises as Joe Pesci, Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone (prepping FIST), even Christopher Walken

  12. Jack Birkett, The Tempest,  1979.      Among UK directing legend Michael Powell’s ideas for the deformed (and villainous) Caliban over 25 years of  trying to film the Shakespeare play were McDowell, Topol and even  an  extremely keen  Telly Savalas (who loves ya, Prospero baby!).  According to  Dominic Nolan in The Greatest Movies You’ll Never See book, Derek Jarman felt he’d inherited Powell’s obsession. Hah! He made a  (typically) homoerotic job of it  in 1979.  New York Times critic Vincent Canby was unimpressed by the film, “funny if it weren’t very nearly unbearable.” Nor by Birkett: “looks and acts as if he’d been borrowed from Hammer Films.
  13. Harry Hamlin, Clash of the Titans, 1980.     Roger Ebert likened it to a Greek mythological retread of Star Wars. Also in the frame for Skywalker – er, Perseus – were Richard Chamberlain, Malcolm McDowell, Michael York. Even an unknown body-builder called… Arnold Schwarzenegger. So destiny for Hamlin. Ursula Andress played Aphrodite. Soon after shooting ended, she gave birth to their son, Dimitri.
  14. Sting, Brimstone & Treacle, 1982.      David Bowie and McDowell passed on being the highly controversial Taylor in Dennis Potter’s reverse take on Pasolini’s Teorema  – the strange visitor being more Satan than  God. Banned by the BBC  in 1976 due to a rape scene, the tele-film was finally aired in 1987 with Michael Kitchen in what became Sting’s first major movie role.
  15. Sean Connery, HIghlander, 1985.   Sean brushed aside offers to be either the clansman, Connor MacLeod or the villainous Kurgan, “strongest of all the immortals,” in their tussle for… The Prize! He did exactly the same with them on-screen in his preferred role of  the 2,000-year-old nobleman, Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez… knowing full well, he could knock him off in a single week for his $1m. fee.  Connery had more panache than the movie or his rivals… and they weren’t exactly nobodies… but Michael Caine, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Malcolm McDowell, Peter O’Toole and Lee Van Cleef.
  16. Dean Stockwell, Quantum Leap, TV, 1989-1993.     The time traveling hero Scott Bakula was the first signed for creator Donald P Bellisario ‘s favourite  series and helped test actors auditoning for  the holographic Admiral Al Calavicci.  There was an immediate rapport between Bakula and Stockwell. End of story.   
  17. Tim Curry, It, TV, 1989.    Two big Macs  and  Alice Cooper topped the suits’ poll for the evil clown, Pennywise, in the 30th of Stephen King’s staggering 313 screen credits.    Tim  Curry  almost left the two-parter, worrying about too many hours in make-up as he’d suffered as Darkness in Legend, 1984.  But he finally agreed, so Roddy McDowall and Malcolm McDowell McDowell chose other  gigs. Alice Copper sounded an inspired idea, except, of course, It would have become The Alice Cooper Show…
  18. Jeremy Irons, The Lion King, 1993. In the frame to voice the villainous Scar in the 32nd Disney toon – Bambi meets Hamlet in Africa! – were either top Brits, Irons, McDowell and Tim Curry – or assorted Hollywood-mafiosi James Caan, Robert Duvall, Ray Liotta!
  19. Paul McGann, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.    
  20. Eric Roberts, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.       Hollywood goes Who. Why?  For the pilot of a USeries to exhume the BBC science-fiction cult, buried since it ran out of puff after 26 seasons in 1989. As if to prove this was big deal LA in action (!), some 63 actors were listed for Doc8 and a further 71(well, some were on both lists) for his foe, The Master. Such as… James Bond, Caligula, Dracula, Gandhi, Han Solo, Freddy Krueger, Magnum, Jean-Luc Picard,  Spock  and  – hey, they’re doctors! – Emmett Brown and Frank-N-Furter. Aka… Timothy Dalton, Christopher Lee, Ben Kingsley, Harrison Ford, Robert Englund, Tom Selleck, Patrick Stewart, Christopher Lloyd and Tim  Curry. Oh, and…Caligula.  
  21. Derek Jacobi, Love Is The Devil: Study For A Portrait of Francis Bacon, 1998.     London director John Maybury’s first choice for painter Francis Bacon upped and left. Leaving Daniel Craig as his screen lover, the (very) rough trade lover Geofge Dyer, in a panic. He knew McDowell, they’d shared Craig’s TV breakthrough, Our Friends in The North in 1996. But, Jacobi… “He’s a Shakespearian… I don’t know what that’s all about.” He didn’t need to. They were (painful) magic.
  22. David Warner, Wing Commander, 1999.     His plan to reprise his Admiral Tolwyn from the video games was stymied due to his  Fantasy Island  TV series – short-lived, as it happened, just 13 episodes, 1998-1999.
  23. Christopher Lee, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, 2000-2002.
  24. Leonardo DiCaprio, Gangs of New York, 2001.      Martin Scorsese’s odyssey began on New Year’s Day 1970, when he found a  copy of The Gangs of New York, Herbert Asbury’s 1928 history of Five Points. Scorsese immediately called a friend, Time critic turned screenwriter Jay Cocks: “Think of it like a western in outer space.”   For Martin Scorsese, casting was easy. In 1978, Dan Aykroyd-John Belushi were Amsterdam and The Butcher. (What?!!)  Or, Mel Gibson-Willem Dafoe. By 1984, Malcolm McDowell-Robert De Niro. Finally, Leonardo DiCaprio-Daniel Day Lewis.



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