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Malcolm McDowell -- so good at playing evil

September 03, 2007|Sean Patrick Norris | Baltimore Sun

In the original "Halloween," Donald Pleasence played the antihero Dr. Loomis as an eccentric who ultimately proves himself good, rescuing hunted baby sitter Laurie Strode from psychopathic Michael Myers.

Leave it to bloodthirsty director Rob Zombie and actor Malcolm McDowell, who specializes in villainous characters, to craft the ambitious doctor as much less of a white knight in the "reimagined" "Halloween," which opened Friday.

"It's a very different story line. We are reinventing the characters," says McDowell. "I am not Donald Pleasence, and I didn't want my character to be an imitation of his."

McDowell's icy eyes and booming voice are just as piercing in person as on screen. But he dotes on Zombie. "When I first saw him sitting there, I thought, 'Holy God, I'm having lunch with Charles Manson,' " McDowell says. "And he turns out to be the sweetest guy I ever met."

No horror fan, the British actor hasn't seen the original film. But he has faith in the one-time heavy metal frontman who now makes movies such as "House of 1,000 Corpses" and "The Devil's Rejects."

McDowell's own film résumé starts with his 1968 role as the gleeful rebel in "If." That caught the interest of Stanley Kubrick, who cast him as the nihilist gang leader Alex in "A Clockwork Orange" (1971). Even people who hated the movie, like critic Pauline Kael, said that McDowell had the amoral magnetism of James Cagney in his gangster roles.

McDowell's mean streak has continued in film and in voice roles for video games and cartoons. Recently, he's been seen on HBO's "Entourage" and as the villain Linderman in NBC's "Heroes."

Of all his roles, who is the most evil? Probably Linderman, McDowell says, "from the standpoint of a character deliberately choosing to be evil." Though the character died in the first season, he says not to assume he's gone forever. "When I left, they told me, 'Malcolm, just so you know -- nobody ever really dies for good on 'Heroes.' I'm glad, because I loved doing it."

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