Film Scouts Diaries

2005 Taormina BNL FilmFest Diaries
The Pain of Being Alex

by Philipp Hoschka

Taormina, June 14, 2005 - "A Clockwork Orange" lead actor Malcolm McDowell is in town, celebrating his 62nd birthday while at the same time introducing his two-year old son on the stage of the Greek theatre.

Yesterday, when presented with the "Taormina Award for Cinematic Excellence", a watch donated by festival sponsor and timepiece-maker Harry Winston, he quipped: "I prefer this to the Oscar - it weighs less, and it tells the time!"

In his cinema lesson today, McDowell gave away more details on one of the items on the long list of well-documented painful experiences in the making of "A Clockwork Orange". Commenting on the famous scene in which Alex has his eyes transfixed by lid locks, he said: "When you put on these lid locks, you are not blinking. Every twelve seconds, a doctor had to put drops of artificial tears into my eyes. But then Stanley [Kubrick] came and gave the doctor a line of dialogue. He was supposed to say: 'Hello little Alex, how are you feeling today?' But he was a doctor, not an actor. So he got completely obsessed with the dialogue, and forgot about putting in the drops. So I thought I was going blind, because the damned doctor has a line of dialogue."

But McDowell's ordeal continued: "On my way home, the anesthesia wore off. We hit a pothole, and suddenly the pain hit me. It was worse than giving birth. Turned out that I had scratched my cornea. I had to get a doctor, who gave me morphine. And then Stanley came to me, and said: 'I need another shot with the lid locks'. I was terrified. I tried to have my stand-in do it. But Stanley wouldn't have it. Then I thought he had forgotten about it. But when we got to the last day, he finally remembered: 'We got to do the eyes'. So he made me do it again, and of course, I scratched my cornea again!"

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