Geeky Cinephile Musings…
I don't pontificate, I blather.

My weekend with Malcolm

 Introduction

(Whew! We’z gettin’ all fancy up in heah!)

I apologize for how long it’s taken me to get back to the ol’ keyboard.  I’ve moved three times, count ‘em, THREE TIMES in about 7 weeks.  Long story.  But if that’s not a good excuse for not blathering, I don’t know what is. 

And!! All will be soon forgiven because…

…this is going to be a fantastic, stupendous posting!!

Why, you ask?

Because THIS posting is about the effervescent, the magnificent, the über-talented…Malcolm McDowell.

Oh yes.

You heard me right, er, read me…rightly??

Whatever.

Enjoy!

*           *           *           *           *           *           *           *

If this was Vanity Fair or Esquire, this essay would…well, it would be an article, not an essay (and I hate the term “blog post”…it sounds so inelegant, the verbal equivalent of a foghorn), but it also might start something like this:

“Malcolm McDowell is a veritable Tasmanian devil of a storyteller.  As he stirs his coffee, he launches into tale after tale with dizzying rapidity, and I am swept away in the whirlwind…”

Yeah, it could…but it won’t. 

Number one, I didn’t actually get to MEET Malcolm, per se, so I can’t (truthfully) say I sat across from him, drinking a macchiato.  Damn it.  And two, I ain’t no real writer.  It seems like it SHOULD begin that way, though—you know….grandiose…sounding.  After all, this is such a monumental event for me.  This is the pinnacle of my film (and actor) geekiness.  Anyone who knows me, and anyone who reads this blog should know by now, that Malcolm McDowell is my hero.  I adore this man.  I adore this man so very much that when I was 15 I wrote him a loooooong letter, 4 handwritten, tear-out, notebook pages, front AND back, telling him how much his acting affected me and my decision to become an actor, telling him I loved how he brought such a menace and yet such a vulnerability to his characters, asking him to please be my mentor, please correspond with me, yadda yadda yadda. 

I never sent it.  Too chickenshit.  Ha!

However, the gods had a surprise in store for me 18 years later.  O, Lucky March!!

My good friend and fellow geeky cinephile, Tracy Breyfogle, who has contributed to a couple of essays here on this site (click here for a wee sample), told me that The Egyptian Theater was doing a double feature of A Clockwork Orange and Time After Time, along with a special in-person introduction to the films by Malcolm himself and his ex-wife and co-star, Mary Steenburgen. 

Needless to say, I flipped my lid. 

I set Google to work and quickly learned that this event was being held in tandem with an even MORE amazing event: On March 16th, 2012, Mr. McDowell was FINALLY going to get his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! Yesiree Bob! As I type, it’s resting peacefully, right out in front of the Pig n’ Whistle, home of the most pretentious bartending staff I’ve seen in a long time, and the event at the Egyptian, sponsored by American Cinematheque, was a celebration of that fact…the star, not the shitty bartending.  I also learned that there would be a double feature of If… and Evilenko on Saturday and a screening of O, Lucky Man! on Sunday, both at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica, a sister theater to the Egyptian, with the latter promising a Q&A with the man himself. 

Well, I think it’s pretty obvious which one I decided to attend…

Ha! You don’t know, do you!? Pshaw.

Okay, okay, it was O, Lucky Man! After all, this was McDowell’s brainchild—the result of his flaming desire to work with Lindsay Anderson again (no gay jokes, please). 

So first, let’s start with the Walk of Fame ceremony on March 16th.  It was a chilly, gray morning, even an English morning, one could say.  I arrived with Paul, my sidekick, and found that a small crowd had already begun to gather.  A sample of the conversations around me:

Man 1: So what’s going on?

Man 2: Some guy’s gettin’ a star.

Man 1: Oh wow. Do you know who?

Man 2: Nope. 

Woman 1: It’s Malcolm McDowell.

Man 1: Who?

Woman 1:  (louder) MALCOLM MCDOWELL!

Man 1: No, I mean who is that?

Woman 1:  British guy.  Mean lookin’.  Clockwork Orange?

Man 1: Ohhhh, I think I know that film…real controversial, right?

Woman 2: I’m a REAL fan of his—I know him from more than just the Clockwork Orange one.  I saw him in other films too.

Man 3: Has he done a lot? Is he famous?

RIVETING.

So I’m sitting there trying to restrain myself from turning around and cracking their heads together like walnuts, when I spot my first familiar face.  And what a blast from the horror past! It’s Courtney Gains, aka Malachi from Children of the Corn! (Never did figure out why he was there, by the way.  He just stood off to the side talking on the phone most of the time.  Maybe he’s just a McDowell fan? Awesome! Malachi and I have something important in common!)

Back off, ye heathens!

And two seconds later…my breath caught in my throat…It was Julian Sands. Now, Julian Sands is THE crush to have if you were ever 17, loved Edwardian novels, used to dream that you were in Italy in waist-high grass, and he was sweeping you into his arms, and damn that Lucy—SHE didn’t really understand him, SHE was ready to marry that stuffy ol’…

Ahem!

So, Julian Sands was there.  And he still looks pretty damned fine.  Exhibit A:

Yeah, I’m Warlock. Werrrd.

Then came the entire cast of Franklin & Bash (the TV show in which Malcolm is currently co-starring) showed up, including Mark-Paul Gosselar, which prompted numerous hoots and hollers from passerby in cars shouting, “Hey!! SAVED BY THE BELL GUY!!!!!!!!!”

And then…my breath caught again…for standing near a palm tree, poised like an exotic bird in hipster specs, was the one, the only…GARY fucking OLDMAN.

No one will notice me amongst these horror film greats, right?

Gary Oldman, folks.  Unexpected goldmine, this day was turning out to be.

Hey, I just wrote that like Yoda.

So, Paul and I were well excited by this point, and my blood pressure was skyrocketing anyway, because any minute Malcolm, MY Malcolm, at long last, MY MALCOLM, was about to emerge and I would see him in the flesh, complete with evil blue eyes and twisted smirk…

(And damn it, will you back off, you seedy butthead? There is really no need to press your groin into my lower back.  EW!!)

And finally the moment arrived. 

I saw his lovely wife and four children come out of the Pig n’ Whistle (his adult son looks eerily like his father, by the way, only with Mary Steenburgen’s coloring), and following behind them in a large black trench was my childhood idol, waving and smirking and looking a bit embarrassed at all the hoop-la.  Malcolm McDowell, ladies and gents!

 

I won’t bore you with all the ceremony details (I know, too late, right?), but I’ll throw you some highlights.  The first speaker was, surprisingly, Rob Zombie.  He and Malcolm worked together on Zombie’s Halloween, and apparently they’ve remained friends ever since.  I couldn’t help but duck and hide from him, although I know there’s no way he could possibly know (or care) that I blasted his awful film, The Devil’s Rejects.  His speech was exceedingly awkward, as he kept telling stories that were meant to make Malcolm look wonderful, but kept making him sound like an asshole somehow.  It made Zombie look unprepared, to say the least.

Wrap it up, Bobby, wrap it up.

Eventually the uncomfortable moment passed, and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when Gary Oldman took over.  The gaffe was quickly mended, as Oldman’s speech was very sweet and moving, with Oldman even conjuring up a wee tear halfway through.  He said that seeing Malcolm play a wheelchair bound man in Crossroads in the early 60’s was the reason that he became an actor, to which Malcolm supplied the tidbit that HE became an actor after seeing Albert Finney in Saturday Night, Sunday Morning (FANTASTIC film, if you’ve not yet seen it, by the way).  Let me just bathe you in the awesomeness of this picture here:

Ahhhh!! Sheer bliss!!

Then Mark-Paul Gosselar spoke.  Rah Rah.  Cue annoying people in cars.

Through it all Malcolm was very gracious, slightly embarrassed, and bemused, especially when the announcer began magnanimously rattling off random titles, obviously taken off of IMDB, of the work Malcolm has done—most of which NO ONE has EVER seen.  Malcolm seemed to know this, as he grimaced good-naturedly at some of the more obscure titles.  He stayed remarkably content to take a backseat, completely contradicting what I know of him—namely that he is a total attention whore.  I sat there wondering, “Wait a second.  Where’s Malcolm McDowell? Who is this imposter!?”

The aftermath consisted of photographers yelling commands at Malcolm and the other celebs (Gosh, I had no idea how obnoxious they are at events like this!), and of Garcelle Beauvais pushing her way to the front of the group to ensure a full frame photo of herself pouting sexily, getting told to step back by one of the organizers, and then sneakily pushing her way back to the front again.  I’d been hoping to perhaps get Malcolm to autograph my special edition copy of Caligula, but I quickly assessed that this would NOT be the time, as barricades and security were keeping the throng at bay.

I went home and had a great pastrami sandwich.

Fast forward to March 18th at the Aero Theater.  Paul and I walked there from Tracy’s apartment (oddly enough, Paul and I now live in that very apartment, as we are subletting it!).  We were running a bit late, and I was worried we’d miss the Q&A.  Little did I know that fate was on my side that night…

Paul had just taken this picture of me in front of the marquee,

Hello blog folks! How’s my hair?

and I was reviewing it in order to give it my stamp of approval, when I looked up and looked right into the piercing blue eyes of my idol.  He looked at me, smiled, and then immediately folks were on him.  I shouldn’t say folks.  I should say the &*$%##@ autograph hounds.  These cats had STACKS of photos, and they were just handing them to him, one by one, while I stood there, meekly holding my copy of Caligula, liner notes open to Malcolm’s face, just taking him in and trying to wrap my brain around the fact that at long last he was only 3 feet from me. 

Finally I snapped out of it, and just in time too, as some short guy “standing guard” started shooing folks away.  I was barely able to stammer out a tiny, “Th-thank you, Mr. McDowell,” when said “guard” began leading Malcolm into the theater. 

SCORE!!!

I turned in a daze towards Paul, who gave me a grin and a thumbs up, and then I realized I was standing right next to Mike Kaplan.

For those of you who don’t know this adorable man, he has produced wonderful films with Robert Altman, Stanley Kubrick, and Lindsay Anderson, as well as a couple of documentaries regarding those distinguished gentlemen.  He also produced Whales of August, starring the late, great Bette Davis (who apparently did NOT get on well with Lindsay Anderson), Lillian Gish, and Vincent Price.  I went up to Mr. Kaplan and managed to squeak out (still reeling from extreme Malcolm intoxication),

 “Mr. Kaplan, would you please take a photo with me?”

He was quietly stunned.  “You want to take a picture with me?”

“Yes.  I’m a film blogger, and I love your work, and I really wanna take a picture with you!”

“A film blogger,eh?” (as though I’d said I collect ice cubes for a living) “Well, all right!”

Show time!

We all settled in our seats, and the interviewer introduced Malcolm with plenty of pomp and circumstance.  He was obviously thrilled to be interviewing such a legend, and I felt sorry for the poor guy immediately, as he obviously had no idea who he was dealing with.  As I previously mentioned, at the star ceremony I was left wondering if the real Malcolm McDowell would please stand up.  Well, he didn’t disappoint THIS evening.  So let’s talk about Malcolm (what, we weren’t already?) Malcolm LOOOOOVES to talk.  He is THE life of the party, always and forever and ever Amen, and woe to the person attempting to say more than three consecutive words in his presence.  The interviewer managed to ask Malcolm one quarter of one question, and Malcolm was off and running. 

Mr.McDowell? Um, ahem! Mr.McDowell? Could you please sit down, sir? Please?

For the next thirty odd minutes, as I giggled gleefully at the transformation from Friday morning, he blitzed the competition, punctuating his sentences with infectiously raucous laughter.  It’s a quality that would be obnoxious if he weren’t such an amazing storyteller.  He launched into tale after tale with dizzying rapidity…

Just making sure you’re paying attention.

My little pen was flying over the paper in the semi-darkness as I tried to capture the juicy details being rapid-fired at me.  For example, Malcolm gleefully tried for about 10 minutes to get the rather shy Mike Kaplan, who eventually joined him onstage, to spill the beans on the Whales of August shoot and the diva behavior from both Davis and Anderson.  Kaplan haltingly did so, politely leaving out any disgraceful points, although from Malcolm’s exaggeratedly dubious looks, it appears that Bette Davis and Lindsay Anderson both probably showed their asses quite a bit.

Another great moment provided by Kaplan—apparently during a big-wig publicity meeting for O, Lucky Man!, in which Lord Malcolm was supremely bored, a major studio head exasperatedly asked Kaplan, “so Mike, what is it that you want here?” to which Malcolm gleefully butted in and pronounced with gravitas, “He wants YOUR JOB!”

Malcolm also told a tale, that never fails to make me smile, about how the title of O, Lucky Man! came to be.  (And now I love that I get to tell it to you, my gentle readers!)  Originally, the title for this film was to be Coffee Man, for obvious reasons.  Well, McDowell and Mike Sherwin (who was brought in to co-write the script, as Anderson felt McDowell needed “help” with the writing) came up with the title Lucky Man one night (after a few drinks), and McDowell, who loves to rile people up, got in the nearest phone booth, called Lindsay Anderson, and demanded to come over, right away, to Anderson’s home, even though it was late.  Anderson, who under the best of circumstances was known to be a bit of a loveable curmudgeon, was understandably grumpy and demanding something along the lines of, “Oh Malcolm, you arse, why don’t you just have done with it and tell me on the PHONE?” but Malcolm persisted.  In true Malcolm McDowell fashion, he rushed over, forced Anderson to sit at attention on the sofa, and then pronounced with a terribly dramatic flair, “The new name for your film…is…Lucky Man!”  Lindsay Anderson sat quietly and thoughtfully, then beckoned McDowell over.  He motioned for him to put his ear next to Anderson’s mouth…and then he whispered…”O Lucky Man!”  

I hope you’re not looking for me to review that film here today.  This is about Malcolm and I and our lifelong love affair, not some paltry film

Oh, all right, I’ll give you this much, as I’m supposed to be…some kind of…like, film blogger, or something.  In regards to the film itself, I do love it—I love how irreverent and subversive it is, I think it’s hilarious and creepy and wonderful…but ultimately I have the same critique most folks have—it’s just too damned long for what it is, much like How I Won the War.

Malcolm, of course, is sexy and amazing in it.  Duh. 

To backtrack a little, you’re probably wondering why I said fate was on my side that night.  Or…maybe you’re…not, but whatever.  Anyway, as I mentioned, Paul and I were hurrying down the sidewalk, thinking we were going to be late.  Usually film Q&As take place after the film has finished, presumably so the audience will actually WATCH the film, rather than just play spot-the-celebrity and leave.  And I had been plotting and planning to accost him at the end of it all, say at an exit, when he was about to leave.  However, Malcolm actually left right after the Q&A at the beginning, before the film.  So if we hadn’t have been a bit late, I would’ve missed seeing him up close entirely.  My one chance in EIGHTEEN YEARS. 

How ‘bout DEM apples?

So there you have it, folks.  It’s a life-defining moment for me, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to share it with you.  i’ve even written this post in a bigger font than usual.  Just cause.  I’ve met Malcolm McDowell!!!  Sort of.  And March 16th will forever be known as Malcolm McDowell Day (you think I’m joking, but seriously—they deemed it that at the Walk of Fame Ceremony)!!! So be sure and celebrate that day appropriately—perhaps with a cup of macchiato and a good fireside chat with a subversive young man in a bronze lamé suit. 

 

 

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