Malcolm McDowell: His Life and Career

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Malcolm McDowell.

Malcolm McDowell in a scene from "A Clockwork Orange" (1971).

An intelligent and compelling force on the screen, Malcolm McDowell established his career as an actor playing rebellious youths for two of the world’s great directors, Lindsay Anderson (“If…”) and Stanley Kubrick (“A Clockwork Orange”). For over four decades, he has amassed a formidable array of credits, ranging from the teen comedy “Easy A” to the action-packed thriller “Blue Thunder.”
McDowell was born on June 13, 1943, and discovered his love of acting while at boarding school. After touring in repertory theater and appearing in bit parts with the Royal Shakespeare Company and on British television, he was cast in “If…” (1968), Lindsay Anderson’s surreal depiction of student abuse and unrest at a British boarding school. McDowell’s portrayal of Mick Travis garnered laudatory notices worldwide, and he went on to reprise the role for Anderson in the films “O Lucky Man!” and “Britannia Hospital.”

His performance in “If…” also caught the eye of director Stanley Kubrick, who cast him as the narrating antihero Alex in “A Clockwork Orange,” adapted from the novel by Anthony Burgess.  The film was instantly controversial and highly acclaimed, and over the past 40 years, its powerful and often satiric depictions of sex and violence continue to generate heated discussion about its message of the importance of free will.

McDowell went on to prove his versatility in a variety of roles, including the all-star drama “Voyage of the Damned,” and made his American film debut in 1979 as H.G. Wells in “Time after Time.” Over the course of his career he has worked with many major directors, including Blake Edwards, Paul Schrader, Joseph Losey, Roland Emmerich, Richard Lester, John Badham and Martin Ritt, while also enjoying recurring roles on television shows such as “Entourage,” “Heroes” and “Franklin & Bash.”

Did You Know?

  • Malcolm McDowell has two significant connections to the “Star Trek” franchise; he played Dr. Soran, the man responsible for the ultimate fate of Captain Kirk in the film “Star Trek Generations,” and his nephew is Alexander Siddig, who played Dr. Bashir on the TV series “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”
  • His birth name is Malcolm Taylor, but because another actor was already registered under that name with British Actors’ Equity, he took his mother’s maiden name, McDowell.
  • During the making of his first American film, “Time after Time,” McDowell met his second wife, actress Mary Steenburgen, who co-starred with him.
  • He has played both King Arthur and Merlin, in the made-for-TV film “Arthur the King” (1985) and “Kids of the Round Table” (1995), respectively.
  • He was the first (and to date, the only) actor to appear on the TV series “South Park” as a live-action, non-animated character. In a spoof of “Masterpiece Theatre,” he plays “a British person” and narrates the story of Pip.
  • He worked with director Robert Altman twice, in a leading role in “The Company,” and as himself in a cameo for “The Player.”
  • He is an avid golfer whose ambition is to break 70.

Photo Gallery

Malcolm McDowell in "A Clockwork Orange"

Malcom McDowell.

Selected Filmography

  • “Easy A” (2010)
  • “Bolt” (2008)
  • “Doomsday” (2008)
  • “Never Apologize” (2008)
  • “Halloween” (2007)
  • “Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius” (2004)
  • “The Company” ( 2003)
  • “Gangster No. 1” (2002)
  • “I Spy” (2002)
  • “Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures” (2001)
  • “Tank Girl” (1995)
  • “Star Trek Generations” (1994)
  • “Milk Money” (1994)
  • “Bopha!” (1993)
  • “Moon 44” (1990)
  • “Class of 1999” (1990)
  • “Sunset” (1988)
  • “Blue Thunder” (1983)
  • “Britannia Hospital” (1983)
  • “Cross Creek” (1983)
  • “Get Crazy” (1983)
  • “Cat People” (1982)
  • “Caligula” (1980)
  • “The Passage” (1979)
  • “Time after Time” (1979)
  • “Voyage of the Damned” (1976)
  • “Royal Flash” (1975)
  • “O Lucky Man!” (1973)
  • “A Clockwork Orange” (1971)
  • “Figures in a Landscape” (1970)
  • “If…” (1969)
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