Not many people know this but my dad played a role in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’. As an actor he appeared in a lot of different roles, but for me, as a teenager growing up, nothing ever quite beat the ‘cool’ factor of his association with this movie.
I’d not watched it for a long time, but tonight, my wife and I sat through it, and I was reminded again of just how brilliant a movie it really is.
The part my father plays is a small one, but memorable. He plays the role of ‘The Tormenter’, the guy who when Alex, the protagonist, is being shown to an audience to be reformed, appears on stage and abuses him, punching him in the chest and pushing him to the ground. He then makes Alex lick his boots.
As I was watching the movie I began wondering where a lot of the locations were that they used to shoot the film. When it got to my dad’s part, I wondered where the auditorium was that they used for that scene.
Rewind a few hours to earlier today and I was driving out to Heathrow to meet Ashley my business partner. I figured I’d scoot round the M25 to Terminal 4, but just before I got there, I heard a traffic report saying there’d been a terrible accident. I exited the motorway just in time, and began working my way through the weird no-mans land that is north-west of the airport – an area I’d never in my life driven through before. I ended up driving through the town of Uxbridge and for some reason noticed and made a strange mental note of Brunel University, something I had heard of before but never knew where it was.
Fast forward again to about an hour ago and I decide to do a Google search on ‘A Clockwork Orange’ to find out the locations for the movie. There, in black and white, is the location for the auditorium scene – Brunel University, Uxbridge.
Serendipity is a funny thing sometimes but this was an odd one. Stranger still was reading that ‘Alex’ had his ribs cracked while shooting that particular scene. Did my dad really break Malcolm McDowell’s ribs?
I’ll have to ask him tomorrow…!
UPDATED – Just got off the phone with my dad and he confirmed that Malcom McDowell did injure himself during the filming of the humiliation scene. It was when my dad put his foot on Malcom McDowell’s chest while McDowell is lying on the floor. He’s not sure if he cracked his ribs or not but said it was quite possible – McDowell was complaining of being quite hurt afterwards.
Some other trivia… Kubrick cleared all the crew out of the theatre while the three of them rehearsed the scene. In the part where my dad slaps McDowell’s face, he wanted my dad to do it for real even during rehearsal. He made him do it several times saying “I want you to really hit him”. My dad, still reticent to hurt McDowell slapped him a bit harder but Kubrick said “that’s phoney”. My dad then had a chat with McDowell behind the curtain and said “Listen I’m going to have to really hit you this time”. McDowell said “Don’t worry about it, yesterday I had a hypodermic syringe stuck up my arse!” The two of them went out and my dad hit him so hard that spit flew out of his mouth.
After shooting the scene for real my dad was called back the next day to give Kubrick an extra shot. Kubrick wanted a point of view shot of my dad from the perspective of Alex lying on the floor. As Kubrick had been a cameraman, he himself shot this, and laid down on the floor with my dad putting his heel into Kubrick’s chest.
One bit of confusion. My father doesn’t remember the location for the scene actually being at Brunel University. He remembers it as being a library theatre in Norwood, South London. While he says he can’t be 100% sure – “it’s a long time ago son” – he says he’s almost certain it was Norwood near Croydon. No mention of Norwood on the location page on IMDB.
The plot thickens…