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A Brief Oral History Of The Making Of “A Clockwork Orange”

By 05.23.11

This past week marked the 40th anniversary of the release of “A Clockwork Orange” one of the most violent and provocative films ever made and a triumph of the sci-fi genre. The movie, which was rated X, was credited with inspiring copycat crimes: A young, Dutch secretary was assaulted by a gang while they chanted “Singing in the Rain,” a Jehovah’s witness was beaten up a by a gang dressed as Droogs and an old tramp was kicked to death by a 16-year-old said to be obsessed with the film. Sixty-one weeks after its release, the film was pulled from theaters in Britain and remained banned for 27 years. Everywhere else in the world it became a cult classic, especially among the young and rebellious.

As interesting as the affects of the film’s release is, the story of the making of this film is just as fascinating. Terry Southern wrote a screenplay that was never produced. At one point, Mick Jagger wanted to play Alex with the other Stones as his Droogs. The Beatles are rumored to also have been temporarily attached to the project. And then, of course, Stanley Kubrick took to the helm.

Over the past few weeks, I read and watched interviews with the cast and crew. I’ve assembled quotes from these interviews to give you a bit of insight into what the making of this film was like.

“He told me, Burgess, [...] that he got the idea for this film from being in Moscow in the early 60s in a coffee shop. The windows were all steamed up and he was sitting by the window talking to one of his compatriots and these thugs would press their faces up to the window. He was obviously a foreigner because he was dressed differently and it was obviously threatening. And that’s what kicked off the spark of ‘A Clockwork Orange.’”

Malcolm McDowell From “A Clockwork Orange” Blu-Ray Commentary

“I was sickened by own excitment at setting it down, and saw that Auden was right that the novelist must be filthy with the filthy.”

Anthony Burgess from “A Forbidden Fruit”

“It was given to me by Terry Southern while I was making “2001,” and due to the time pressure I was in, it joined that certain number of books that one has sitting on the shelf waiting to be read. Then one evening I passed the bookshelf, glanced at the paperback still patiently waiting on the shelf, and picked it up. I started to read the book and finished it in one sitting. By the end of Part One, it seemed pretty obvious that it might make a great film. By the end of Part Two, I was very excited about it. As soon as I finished it, I immediately reread it.”

Stanley Kubrick, from Kubrick Country, Saturday Review, December 1971

After “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Stanley Kubrick attempted to make a film about Napoleon Bonaparte, but the project ended prematurely after financing fell through due to budget concerns.

“When I went to meet Stanley and I said ‘What’s the budget for the film?’ He said, ‘Well it’s going to be tight.’ And I said how tight? I looked at the front page and I was horrified. I looked at Stanley and he said, ‘Yeah I know, we’ve got to make a breakthrough and show them I can do a low budget picture.’”

Bernard Williams, Associate Producer, from “‘Great Bolshy Yarblockos!: A Making of ‘A Clockwork Orange’”

“I remember him coming up to me excited when he’d seen the dailies [of the opening scene] and said, ‘Malcolm, do you realized you toasted the camera?’ And I said, ‘That’s right.’ And he said, ‘I didn’t notice, why did you do that?’ And I said, ‘Well, Stanley I wanted to let the audience know they are in for one hell of a ride.’”

Malcolm McDowell From “A Clockwork Orange” Blu-Ray Commentary

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TAGSa clockwork orangemalcolm mcdowellstanely kubrick

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