Malcolm McDowell & Lindsay Anderson - Never Apologize
Karl Magee, the archivist of the Lindsay Anderson Collection welcomes the arrival of a new film about the filmmaker by Malcolm McDowell
‘I got a callback for If… . I went in and there was this girl, she was gorgeous. I had to do this scene with her, but unfortunately, I didn’t have a script. I thought, you know, I’ll just wing it. I fall in love with this girl. I see the script says, “Mick grabs hold of girl and kisses her passionately on the lips.” I have no problem doing that.’ A roguish grin spreads across Malcolm McDowell’s face at the recollection.
‘The next thing I know, I’m on the floor. She reared up and hit me so hard that it brought tears to my eyes. I hadn’t read the next damn line - “Girl slaps Mick in face …”
‘Anyway, then I forget about the part. I stalked her around the stage and she was throwing out lines … Of course I didn’t have a script so I didn’t know what I was saying. And it was animalistic and it was amazing, and it was, I suppose, real.’
The fireworks that exploded on stage when Malcolm McDowell clashed with Christine Noonan resulted in both actors being cast in Lindsay Anderson’s 1968 classic. It was McDowell’s feature film debut, and now, more than 100 films later, he has created Never Apologize, a loving celebration of his friend and mentor. The film is directed by Mike Kaplan, who produced Anderson’s last feature, The Whales of August.
Never Apologize began life as a theatrical tribute to Anderson performed by McDowell at the 2004 Edinburgh International Film Festival. In 2006 he revived and refined the show for a charity event at his local film festival in Ojai, California, captured here by Kaplan.
McDowell’s energetic performance is a reminder of his charismatic screen presence. It also shows a previously underexploited gift for comedy and impersonation. He captures the personalities of a starry cast of characters; including a dithering John Gielgud and tyrannical Bette Davis. And the imperious presence of Anderson himself.
The director’s own words, taken from his diaries and letters, form the core of the film and McDowell brings the archives alive with his respectful, tender readings from Anderson’s papers. One key moment centres around a letter in which Anderson attempts, but cannot bring himself, to apologise to the actor Alan Bates, whom he insulted at a drunken luncheon. Friends such as Bates weren’t immune from Anderson’s maxim, voiced by John Wayne in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, to ‘never apologise’. John Ford’s film was one of Anderson’s favourites; his friendship with its director is recalled in a moving account of their last meeting at Ford’s ranch in the San Fernando Valley.
The macrobert arts centre is a fitting venue for the Scottish premiere of Never Apologize, as Anderson’s extensive archives sit boxed and catalogued next door in Stirling University Library. To coincide with the event, an exhibition of Anderson’s papers and photographs will provide an archival backdrop to this entertaining and affectionate cinematic tribute to a great British auteur.
macrobert, University of Stirling on Tue 23 Sep, 01786 466666, firstname.lastname@example.org; GFT, Glasgow on Sat 4 & Sun 5 Oct; Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Tue 9–Thu 11 Oct.