Malcolm McDowell catapulted to fame as Mick Travis in Lindsay Anderson’s prize-winning sensation If …, but his place in cinematic history was secured when Stanley Kubrick chose him to portray the gleefully amoral Alex in A Clockwork Orange.
In Rob Zombie’s Halloween II he reprises is role as Dr Samuel Loomis, Michael Myer’s therapist for 17 years, who is now cashing in on the psychopath’s fame.
You’ve played an incredibly wide range of roles throughout your career, what is it about Dr Loomis that resonates with you?
I love the pomposity of this egomaniac that is this so-called head shrink doctor that obviously knows absolutely nothing. But, don’t most of them? I did therapy for a while and I’ve seen it firsthand and it always seems to me that really the doctors could be using the therapy rather than the patient.
But, having said that, he is such a delightful buffoon in a way and the more ridiculous you make him [the better]. He’s a total asshole. It was great fun to play.
Do you play him differently in this movie?
I didn’t want to do the same thing as I’d done in the first one. Rob and I came up with this idea that he thinks he’s the great expert on serial killers. God knows why because he’d been the doctor for Michael Myers for 17 years and the guy escapes and kills half the town.
I mean, where’s the doctoring in that? Here is this terrible situation with this family, and the only person making money out of this tragedy is the doctor who was supposed to be helping them. But, haven’t we heard that many times before? Is this not our society?
You hear of terrible disasters and then there’s always somebody writing a book or making money off of it or having a reality TV show or whatever it is. It was a comment about that really.
Were you a fan of this genre?
No, I’m not a horror film kind of person. I know people love it. I didn’t realize how many. It’s shocking how many people love horror films.
I suppose the truth is, I love the early ones, you know, those early Universal movies with Frankenstein and all that. Of course, one grew up on those. I never saw the original Halloween and still haven’t seen it. It’s not that I’m going out of my way not to see it. I just haven’t seen it.
If it’s on television, I’ll see it at some point.
There are kids that still dress up as you as Alex from A Clockwork Orange on Halloween. You’re iconic too in that way.
It’s sort of a psychological horror film in a way. I don’t quite know how you class A Clockwork Orange. It’s not really a horror film. It’s a sort of a fantasy or something. I don’t know.
Anyway, it’s still very poignant, that film. It lasts and thank God for it is all I can say.
Was it a film that was before its time?
Oh, sure it was. And the audiences have changed so much toward it. When it first came out, the audiences were stunned into silence, horror, and some women, I was there when it [happened], ran out of Cinema 1 on Third Avenue, in New York, into the foyer and literally threw up.
I mean, seriously, I saw that with my own eyes.
It was violent for that time. Would it seem tame now compared to this?
It is. Well, the violence is psychological. It’s not “rip your heads off” slasher movie time. It’s all psychological so it’s still very relevant in a way and that’s why I think every generation finds the movie and that’s why I’ve got 16-year-old fans.
It’s sort of weird that a film you made all those years ago is part of my life every day. Who would have thought that? It’s just mind boggling really.
What scares you in life?
Putting my hand under a table to move it and realizing that I am this far from a black widow spider, or on our driveway two days ago, seeing an 8-rattle rattlesnake.
Do you live out in Calabasas or somewhere?
Well, you can find them right here in Beverly Hills. Of course, they’re coming in slightly different shapes (he laughs). We have a lot of them where we live.
There’s quite a few. They are sort of scary.
You should have stayed in London. You would never find rattlesnakes in England.
That’s true. Just boa constrictors and rats. People let them go. Like in Florida, there’s like 100,000 of them.
It’s so bizarre.