“Clockwork Orange” marked the spectators with its violence and its unhealthy atmosphere. For the 50th anniversary of its release, we are offering you three secrets from the shooting of Stanley Kubrick’s film.
Clockwork Orange : at the source of evil
Clockwork Orange is a Stanley Kubrick film adapted from the novel of the same name by Anthony Burgess. The director’s version is very faithful to the original work. The story takes place in England, in the near future. Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) is an ultra-violent, sex-obsessed young offender. He is also and incidentally passionate about the classical compositions of Beethoven, which he calls “Ludwig Van” when he refers to him.
Alex is the leader of the Droogs, a hot-blooded villainous gang complemented by Pete (Michael tarn), Georgia (James marcus) and Dim (Warren Clarke). They lead a decadent urban life and speak Nadsat, a slang that mixes English and Russian. During an evening they spend getting drunk on Moloko Plus, a milk drugged with speed, they get lost in the limbo of evil, multiplying the reprehensible acts, going from murder to rape without flinching for a second.
The cast is completed by Adrienne Corri, Patrick Magee, Anthony Sharp, Aubrey Morris, Carl Duering, Clive Francis and David Prowse. Clockwork Orange made an impression with its shocking scenes and graphic violence. The film did not want to glorify it in any way, but some saw the opposite message. Real acts of violence by people disguised as Droogs on the increase in England at the time, Kubrick pleaded with Warner to remove the movie from theaters. What happened. In France, it is a triumph with more than 7.6 million spectators in room. A cult film, a real one.
The one and only
Before Kubrick undertook the adaptation ofClockwork Orange, Ken russell and John Schlesinger were among the envisioned directors. A rumor even announced that Mick jagger could don Alex’s costume, with other members of the Rolling Stones potentially playing the Droogs. But when the director of Spartacus joined the project, he only wanted one man to play Alex: Malcolm McDowell. Kubrick saw it in If … by Lindsay Anderson in which he plays a rebellious and violent teenager. McDowell didn’t even have to audition and if the actor had turned down the role, Kubrick would have given up on the project altogether.
An influential actor
McDowell’s choice for Clockwork Orange was a stroke of genius for Stanley Kubrick. Because even more by his talent as an actor, the actor influenced the film by his finds. Before filming began, costume designer Milena Canonero wanted to instill in the film the idea of a strange society in a future not too far from that of 1970. But Kubrick and Canonero struggled to pin down the appearance. of Alex’s costume. During the tests, McDowell, a cricketer, told them he had his equipment in his car. He therefore brought back his shirt and his protective shell which he hides under his pants. Kubrick then offered to highlight it, rather over it. Alex’s cult look was born like this!
Another addition from McDowell, the idea that his character sings during the scene of the rape of the writer’s wife comes from him. During rehearsals, Stanley Kubrick found that this scene, however infamous, was a bit flat and that a little something was missing to emphasize the violent nature and sinister character of Alex. He offers McDowell to dance and the latter adds his touch by singing Singin ‘in the Rain by Gene Kelly. An impromptu appearance of this perky classic that makes the scene even more scandalous. Why this song in particular? Because she was the only one whose lyrics the actor knew by heart.
You’re the boss of me now
When you are so revered by your director, it is customary to return it to the screen with many sacrifices, while following his advice with closed eyes. Malcolm McDowell therefore gave 100%, but rather with his eyes open. For the scene in which Alex is forced to watch gruesome footage as aversion therapy, his eyelids were held open with metal tweezers.. Dr Gundry, who gave him the eye drops, was a real doctor at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. He was supposed to stay offscreen, but Kubrick ultimately put him on the scene because McDowell would have been unable to keep his eyes open without the drops.
Although his eyes were numbed, McDowell was forced to endure excruciating pain and injured his cornea. He even went blind for a few moments. The eye tweezers were only meant to be used for lying patients, but Kubrick insisted that the figure be seated during his rehabilitation. The physical ordeal was total for McDowell who also had several broken ribs during the humiliation scene on the theater stage. The violence ofClockwork Orange, for him, was very real!