WATERVILLE, Maine — The Maine International Film Festival honored Malcolm McDowell Saturday night with its Mid-Life Achievement Award — a hand-crafted moose by Laurel McLeod — and in turn, McDowell honored his great friend, director Lindsay Anderson.
Anderson, who died in 1994, directed McDowell in “If ….” “O Lucky Man!” and “Brittania Hospital,” collectively known as the “Mick Travis Trilogy.”
“We were talking a lot about [Anderson], and he’s come up a lot this weekend,” McDowell said during a nearly 45-minute Q&A with an audience of 325 after a screening of “O Lucky Man!” “Thank you, I can’t think of a better way to receive it than on one of his movies. He meant so much to me, and we were such great friends.”
McDowell spent much of his time at Colby College’s Given Auditorium reminiscing about his work with Anderson, and his experience filming “O Lucky Man!” McDowell has a never-ending cache of stories about his working relationship and friendship with Anderson — from being repeatedly slapped with a 158-page script while putting on a smile to sowing the seeds of insecurity before Anderson filmed a bit role in “O Lucky Man!”
A naturally gifted storyteller, McDowell engaged his audience by fielding questions and making them laugh.
He also thanked screenwriter Jay Cocks, who introduced “O Lucky Man!” at MIFF, and briefly roasted producer-director Mike Kaplan, with whom McDowell has been great friends for 40 years.
“’O Lucky Man!’ is a sort of rarely seen masterpiece. And it is a masterpiece,” McDowell said in an earlier one-on-one interview. “God, they’d never make that movie today.”
“O Lucky Man!” is the second in Anderson’s “Mick Travis Trilogy” and was based on an original idea by McDowell. The film’s focus is Mick Travis, who begins the movie as a coffee salesman and goes on to become a tortured prisoner, a medical test subject and the assistant of an evil industrialist.
The idea for “O Lucky Man!” began after Anderson’s “If ….” won the grand prize at Cannes.
McDowell told the director that they made a really good team and that they should make another film together.
“He stopped, and his eyes rolled in the back of his head, and he said, ‘Look, Malcolm. If you want to make another film with me, then I suggest you write the script.’ And he just walked off,” the actor said at the Q&A.
“And I was a kid, and I went, well, [expletive] you. I will write the script!”
From there, McDowell wrote a 40-page treatment, which McDowell then took to Anderson. The director’s reaction was less than enthusiastic, but McDowell convinced him that it was going to be his next project, and it was.
Before “O Lucky Man!” MIFF screened Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange,” which is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The festival also has scheduled showings of “Assassin of the Tsar,” “Tank Girl” and Kaplan’s “Never Apologize,” a one-man show featuring McDowell talking about Anderson.
“Well, I think they’re all special. But for very different reasons,” McDowell said of the films being shown at MIFF. “God, they become like your kids, and how do you choose one child over another? You can’t. I suppose ‘O Lucky Man!’ would be a favorite, because it’s from my original idea.”
And what does McDowell think of Maine? “I’m amazed that it’s now a Republican state. I never thought Maine would be Republican like that. It’s a shock.
“Maine is one of the most beautiful states. If it had the weather of California, you’d have 16 million people here. So just thank your lucky stars.”
For more on the Maine International Film Festival, visitwww.miff.org.
Joel Crabtree is a Bangor Daily News digital desk editor. You can read his movie reviews at bdn.to/movies.