It’s hard to envision veteran British actor Malcolm McDowell cooing, but the 66-year-old star of such classic films as Lindsay Anderson’s “If . . . " and Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange,” for which the actor will always be remembered as a vicious hood, turns out to have a weak spot: his three youngest children.
“It’s pretty magnificent on the whole,” says McDowell of his second time around as a father, as he scrolls through his iPhone looking for pictures of his children with third wife, Kelley Kuhr -- 5-year-old Beckett; 2-year-old Finn and 7-month-old Seamus.
“They are such magnificent creatures,” he says, flashing his magnetic blue eyes. “Here’s a picture of the whole lot of them.”
McDowell proffers a photo of the adorable trio. “This is the baby,” he adds, displaying a portrait of the equally blue-eyed, roly-poly Seamus. “He’s lovely,” McDowell beams.
He also has two adult children, Lily and Charlie, with his second wife, actress Mary Steenburgen. Back then, though, they both were working a lot and the children had nannies.
Now, if a job keeps him away from their Santa Barbara home for more than two weeks, the family goes with him -- something of a mixed blessing.
“It’s so hard to travel with them,” McDowell says. “It’s like moving an army.”
This real-life family man is a far cry from his current role in writer-director Rob Zombie’s “Halloween II,” which opens Friday. In it, he reprises his Dr. Sam Loomis character from Zombie’s 2007 remake of John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” In the sequel, Loomis, who nearly died at the hands of his psycho-killer patient Michael Myers in the first movie, has now become a self-absorbed celebrity after writing a book about Myers (Tyler Mane).
“In the first one I am very earnest,” says McDowell, who is ensconced in a suite at the Four Seasons, where he’s also keeping an eye on the TV to watch his favorite soccer team, Liverpool. “Now he’s turned into a total jerk. He’s the only one who made money from this desperate, poor family. Of course, that’s the American way. Let’s write a book about it.”
McDowell acts as the film’s much-needed comic relief as the masked serial killer returns to his hometown of Haddonfield on Halloween to slice, dice, stomp and garrote everyone in his wake.
“Malcolm was my first and only choice for that role,” says Zombie, who came to fame with his heavy metal band White Zombie. “He is a really smart guy, so you don’t want to put a straitjacket on him. You want to let him do his thing because he always brings something to each performance. We have the script, and you want to get what the script says, but at the same time, you want to filter it through Malcolm’s brain and have it come out in some other fashion. That’s what I love about working with him.”
McDowell considers Zombie as skilled a director as Anderson and Kubrick.
“He’s got a definite point of view,” he says. “He has just done horror films because that’s all they want him to make. For him to get out of that, which he will, is going to be tough. He is a far better director than a horror movie director. The way he looks at the material and the way he gives you reign but also gives you boundaries.”
Zombie also allowed McDowell to ad lib most of his scenes, to particularly comic effect when he goes on a talk show and addresses fellow guest “Weird Al” Yankovic as “Mr. Weird.”
“I thought his name was Mr. Weird,” McDowell says, laughing.
His eyes dart to the television. Liverpool is attempting to score a goal. “Oh, God, they missed it,” he groans. “We thought they were going to be champions. What happened? Who knows?”
Soccer, he says, is the last semblance of Englishness in him.
“I have been here 30 years, since ‘Time After Time,’ ” he says of the 1979 romantic fantasy in which he plays novelist H.G. Wells.
The role gave McDowell one of his few romantic parts. “I think if it had been a hit, it may have opened the door a little bit to those roles,” he says. But even 38 years after its release, it’s hard to forget McDowell’s indelible performance as the psychopathic Alex in “A Clockwork Orange.”
“When you do something as seminal and powerful as Alex in ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ nobody could look at me the same way since,” he says. “The truth is, I am not complaining. Heavies are wonderful. I have had my share of playing interesting parts,” including recently the head of a competing talent agency on HBO’s “Entourage,” and the evil Daniel Linderman on NBC’s “Heroes.”
He’s also proud of his one-man show “Never Apologize” about his relationship with Anderson, who directed him in his film debut as rebellious student Mick Travis in 1968’s “If . . . ,” as well as 1973’s “O Lucky Man!” and 1982’s “Britannia Hospital.”
A film version of “Never Apologize” premiered at Cannes two years ago.
Anderson, he says, was a brilliant director. “As good as they come. He liked actors. I didn’t know then, of course, that he was a celibate homosexual. If he cast you as the lead in a movie, it’s probably because he fell in love with you. I didn’t understand any of this. I just thought he liked me because I was very talented. It was that too, but it was much more complex. He fell in love with people who were unavailable.”
Kubrick, he says, was just the opposite. “Stanley was sort of anti-actor and anti-drama. He didn’t know what the hell you were talking about if you wanted to actually analyze the scene.”
Early into the filming of “Clockwork,” McDowell recalls, he asked Kubrick what he should do in a certain scene.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Gee, Malc, I’m not RADA [the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art].’ ”
At first, McDowell couldn’t believe Kubrick’s attitude. “Then I realized that it was an enormous gift because he was saying to me, ‘You can do it. Create it. Find it.’ That was really fabulous, and I really went for it.”