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Interview: Malcolm McDowell

We had the chance to talk to screen legend Malcolm McDowell at his Toronto hotel this weekend. He was in town to help promote Toronto-based film company Dark House’s blood curdling new film The Unleashed, which screened at the Royal Friday night.

During our conversation he discussed how he came to be involved with the Canadian film house, the greatly anticipated next chapter of the Silent Hill franchise, and taking on the role of serial killing con man Roy Fontaine in the up-coming Monster Butler!

First of all, just wanted to say congratulations on getting your star on the Walk of Fame. How does it feel to own Hollywood’s smallest and most prestigious piece of real estate?

Honestly, I haven’t been back to see it. I just hope they keep the dog walkers down to a minimum. Otherwise there is going to be a lot of pooper scoopers around Hollywood boulevard. It was a fun day. It was fun.

Let’s talk about The Unleashed. I’d be curious to know how your name got attached to this indie Canadian horror flick?

Well Dark House Films, is a very fledgling production house here. At the time that I met them, I met them at the Cannes Film Festival where I was there for the festival screening of A Clockwork Orange the 40th anniversary. So, I met with Wilson Da Silva, who is the guy at Dark House.

And how did your relationship progress from there?

We got to talking and I started to interest him into this script that I own called Monster Butler, which is a fantastic  script. I wasn’t really thinking, I thought maybe they would invest or something, but he obviously wanted to take Dark House Films up a notch. I had Warner Bros. already invested in it. It was a good investment for them and it was a great investment for me. The script is terrific, we’re going to get a great cast. And that’s what we’re doing right now. They’re just sending back pictures of stately homes in Scotland, oh my god, it’s fantastic. It’s going to look like a 25 million dollar budget.

The film deals with some paranormal events. Do you have any spooky stories from working on location? 

I’ve never had a a ghostly story type thing. I wish I had, I would love it.

Are you superstitious?

I am a little superstitious, I mean not to make me a paranoid mess. Yeah, there are certain things that I would kind of ritualistically do, which I suppose is just superstition. But I’ve never really been involved. I’ve been in supposedly haunted places, but they seem to bypass me, maybe I’m just not a good receiver of it, you know? They’re probable thinking, “Lets leave that grumpy old bugger alone”.

I know horror fans are rabid about the Silent Hill sequel, can you shed some light?

[Interrupts] Oh, God no, they’d kill me! I can’t tell you, they’d lynch me!

Maybe you can just tell us about your experience on set. 

Fantastic! The character I play, is blind. Totally blind. Been in a prison for 30 years. This pathetic creature, sorta scary! But it is sort of like your nightmares, really. Thereabout for the grace of God. He’s lived in the dark all of his life, basically. And he’s blind anyways so he has lived in the dark. But wonderful character, great scene! fantastic!

The thing that struck me about the first one were the startling visuals and nightmarish characters.

Visually it’s going to be stunning. Wonderfully directed, wonderfully shot. I think it’s going to be the best one.

(Scene Creek interviewing Malcolm McDowell. Photo Credit: Mr. Will-W)

I’m quite excited for Amy Heckerling`s Vamps. How was it donning fangs?

I loved that. I loved playing Vlad the Impaler. Who is reformed and they go to AA for Vampires, to talk about their feelings. Vlad is sitting there knitting the whole time, pull one, knit one, pull one, whatever. He likes to feel those needles [grunts]. It’s a very nice cast. Alicia Silverstone is wonderful. Amy Heckerling is beautiful, it’s a very gentle film. It’s a beautiful film. You know I’m glad it found it’s audience, I’m glad it’s found a distributor anyways. It will find it’s audience.

Could you talk a bit about the prospect of taking on a con man/serial killer servant for Monster Butler?

The thing about this character is that he is a very charismatic extraordinary man. Literally, he could’ve been a politician or a captain of industry. Just the circumstances, probably his childhood, the die was cast when he was a child. Which is sort of sad in a way. He’s a very knowledgeable, very smart thief. Which he was, it’s based on a true character. He was a con man. He’s the kind of person who would walk into a pub or bar and within 10 minutes, thirty people are surrounding him, listening to his bullshit and being regaled by his these extraordinary stories that he made very real. They’re probably all untrue, but he was larger than life person. We need people like this, or life would be very dreary and boring. That’s why people were so taken with him, but that was all apart of the con. So, it was to lull people into letting their guard down.

It sounds like a really exciting film.

It is, it’s a wonderful script. Scary. Funny. Hilarious. Outrageous. It’s everything you want to see. I do, I mean listen, it’s not Transformers. It’s not.

Could you tell us a bit about Fangoria’s “Dreadtime Stories” and what we can expect coming up with that?

Oh, I love those! Well, I love doing radio plays. And because as a kid, I remember sitting, listening to the wireless with my mother. In England it was Dick Barton, Special Agent. I suppose I was four or five I think, and she would let me stay up and listen to this and it was so scary. I always loved driving in England with Radio 4 and listening to wonderful dramas on radio. I’ve been brought up on it, I love it. So anytime I can do it, I do it. So they came to me about this, and it’s Carl Amari and he’s the producer and writes a lot of them.

I love listening to radio dramas, too. But nowadays, they are few and far between. 

Have you heard any of them?


How do they sound?

Fantastic. The scripts are great.

I think they are! They’re little gems, it’s better than doing a television show, because it lets the listeners imagination just run wild. It’s so much fun to do, of course, you would t want to do it all the time, but for an occasional change up, it’s fabulous.

Genevieve Walker

Toronto cinephile and lady about town.