If only every sitcom actor had the class of Malcolm McDowell. Whereas countless other current TV stars can cite only stand-up gigs as their pre-tube oeuvre, the charming 53-year-old British actor has carved himself a place in cinematic history with the landmark films If … , Time After Time, and A Clockwork Orange — which is why it’s sometimes jarring to see him trading yuks with Rhea Perlman as Pearl’s stuffy Professor Pynchon. We gave McDowell our own oral exam on fanatic Trekkies, tabloidy royals, and that freaky Stanley Kubrick flick he made nearly half his life ago.
You’ve said your late friend, the director Lindsay Anderson (If … , O Lucky Man!), was the inspiration for Pynchon. How are they similar?
There’s a lot of Lindsay when [Pynchon] gets very short with [Pearl] and rips off at her. Lindsay didn’t suffer fools lightly. He’d go, ”That was absolutely bloody dreadful! What the hell are you doing up there?” I loved it. Of course, he was right.
Pynchon has mostly been confined to his classroom on the show. How would you like to see his milieu expanded?
I think what they’re going to do is have an anteroom for him. I want him to have a French bulldog as a pet; he’ll be nice to the bulldog and horrible to the human beings.
Have death threats from Star Trek fans died down since you killed Captain Kirk in Generations?
Actually, I did wave the red rag at the bull by saying ”For God’s sake, all you Trekkies, get a life!” I’ve never shown up to one of their conventions. I’d probably get tarred and feathered.
Considering you’ve got two teenagers [with ex-wife Mary Steenburgen], are you concerned about the increasing amounts of sex and violence on television?
What I do disapprove of is gratuitous violence. I’m not so worried about nudity. I think it’s worse to see somebody being shot 20 times or butchered than seeing somebody’s left tit. I suppose I’m European in that way.
Are you a royals watcher?
I think the whole thing is ludicrous. All that newsprint — what a waste. The sooner it’s a republic, the better.
How painful was that eye-prying scene in Clockwork?
Very. I scratched my cornea. You don’t want to do that, believe me. I had to have a shot of morphine.
Has anyone ever told you that there’s a porn flick out there called A Clockwork Orgy?
No, but wow — I’d like to see that. I know there’s A Clockwork Banana. It was at the Cannes film festival. I gave it a miss.