”A Clockwork Orange’ Star Malcolm McDowell Says Stanley Kubrick Cheated Him out of the Movie’s Profits in a Sneaky Way: ‘It’s so Ungenerous and so Mean’

The dystopian crime film A Clockwork Orange stunned viewers with its depiction of “ultra-violence.” The story takes place in futuristic Britain with a delinquent main character. The audience almost got to hear Pink Floyd in the movie, but the band snubbed Kubrick.

Actor Malcolm McDowell also had a bit of an issue with the director. Their relationship became strained when the actor did not get his share of the box office revenue in a sneaky move by Kubrick.

Stanley Kubrick cast Malcolm McDowell due to 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 movie in his home. He replayed the scene where McDowell made his entrance four times. It was then Kubrick picked the actor to play the role of DeLarge. He saw McDowell as someone who could “play intelligence.” 

However, Kubrick did not provide McDowell with much character direction. The director left the star to figure out the role on his own. At first, McDowell lost some of the confidence he had before. However, his friend advised him to picture his close-up in If 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 pin his eyes open for each shot. Filming was painful for him; he even had difficulty seeing for a while.

McDowell did not receive a percentage of the revenue from ‘A Clockwork Orange’

A bloodied Malcolm McDowell films Clockwork Orange
Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange | ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

While the author of A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, did not like the movie, it would gain a cult following. The award-winning film became a favorite piece of work for many people, including Keanu Reeves. However, McDowell recalled that he did not get to benefit financially from its popularity. 

According to the AV Club, McDowell requested $100,000 and 2.5% of the profits. The actor handled a lot of the promotion, especially in the United States. Still, he only received $100,000; Kubrick told him Warner denied the 2.5% of the 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 gave the 2.5% to Kubrick in order to pass it along to him. When McDowell informed them that Kubrick didn’t, they laughed it off and said, “Ohhh, that’s just like Stanley.” 

Needless to say, McDowell felt betrayed. He said, “It’s so ungenerous and so mean when he’s had every f–king fiber of my being.” Nevertheless, McDowell was grateful for the opportunity to star in the film.

McDowell regrets never speaking to Kubrick again

McDowell poured everything he had into the film, but Kubrick barely contacted him after its release. The actor felt hurt. Not receiving a portion of the profits wounded him further. McDowell did not speak to Kubrick for years. 

Eventually, McDowell let the event go and forgave The Shining director. Still, he couldn’t bring himself to watch A Clockwork Orange. The shock value of its contents has yet to wear off. 

McDowell never got a chance to speak to the director before Kubrick’s death. The star found out about Kubrick’s passing while he was in Ireland. A reporter asked him about his thoughts, and the actor went from confusion to utter shock. Soon after the discovery, McDowell felt remorseful about not calling Kubrick. 

“I should’ve just done it and swallowed it. My wife tried to get me to do it, and I kept saying no. But I really should’ve done it, and I sort of regret that now,” McDowell said.

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