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A Clockwork Orange

(Arancia meccanica, 1968–1969)

In contrast to its subsequent lack of popular acceptance, NEROSUBIANCO’s world première at the Cannes festival in May 1968 made an impression on some bosses over at Paramount Pictures, who immediately flew Tinto Brass to Hollywood for negotiations, and then explained that they wanted him to direct a film version of Anthony Burgess’s novel, A Clockwork Orange. As only a few people know, screenwriter Terry Southern had initiated negotiations to film Burgess’s novel with Mick Jagger playing the lead part of Alex and the other Rolling Stones playing his droogs, and a British photographer by the name of Michael Cooper directing, but this never came to be, possibly in part because of a deception concerning claims to rights. One by one, photographer David Bailey, cinematographer (lighting cameraman) Nicolas Roeg, and directors John Boorman and Ted Kotcheff were approached to direct the film, but other things got in the way. One report claims that Burgess himself thought Ken Russell would be a good choice for director, yet another report states that Burgess dreaded the thought of receiving the Russell treatment. At least one report claims that Russell seriously considered the project, but ultimately rejected it in favor of The Devils, a harrowing tale of Buffalo’s real-estate developers. When it came Brass’s turn to take up the mantle, he bungled the deal by saying that he would indeed love to make A Clockwork Orange, as he admired the book, but only on condition that Paramount first produce L’urlo. That was the end of that job. Brass apparently still harbored some hopes that after L’urlo he would return to A Clockwork Orange, for the hotel in L’urlo displayed a giant poster for Paramount Pictures as a harbinger of things not to come. As the Fates would have it, the Italian censors banned L’urlo immediately after its première screening at the Berlin Film Festival. Then Brass, like most of us, got punished for losing. See a still below, in the entry for Dropout, which was made a year before Kubrick’s film, to see where some of the props came from!!!!

Years later Brass hearkened back to A Clockwork Orange a little bit — just a little bit. In Action (1979) a gang of masked punks attacks the three lead characters. And then Snack Bar Budapest (1988) deals with all manner of gangland violence, with the town boss played to perfection by the teenaged François Négret. (In Kubrick’s film, Malcolm McDowell at the ripe age of 27 was hardly convincing as a 15-year-old delinquent.) Unlike Kubrick, Brass never tries to make watching the violence an unbearably painful task. He gets the point across without bludgeoning the audience. Further, Brass has a much more positive view of human nature than Kubrick ever had. So I wish he had been retained to make the movie after finishing L’urlo. Oh well....

HOW CONFUSING CAN IT BE? Well, I showed an earlier version of the above summary to Alex Thrawn, who runs the Malcolm McDowell web site, and he told me that I was entirely wrong. So I did some research. My conclusion: I can’t make head nor tail of the story. Anthony Burgess, Terry Southern, Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, Stanley Kubrick, Si Litvinoff, Tinto Brass, and others tell such wildly conflicting stories that I have decided it best just to give up — at least for now. So I hereby reprint the main sources. Hope you’re in the mood to get a headache. You’ll see what I mean. If you can get to the bottom of it all, please let me know. Thanks! And good luck!

What Those in the Know Have Had to Say about the Production of
A Clockwork Orange

Kevin Jackson, “Real Horrorshow: A Short Lexicon of Nadsat,” Sight and Sound 9, no. 9 (September 1999), pp. 24–27, esp. 26:

Extract from an unwritten reference book on British cinema in the 60s: “A Clockwork Orange (1967, UK). Directed by Michael Cooper. Produced by Sandy Lieberson, Si Litvinoff. Screenplay by Michael Cooper and Terry Southern, from the novel by Anthony Burgess. Starring Mick Jagger as Alex, with Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts. Score by Jagger/Richards, performed by the Rolling Stones...”

It almost happened. As Sandy Lieberson recalls, it all began when his photographer friend Michael Cooper, who had shot the Peter Black cover for Sgt. Pepper, introduced him to the novel. “I thought, ‘My God!...’ I had to go back and read it a couple of times, but I was stunned by the power of it, so I made enquiries into the rights.” Burgess’s agent put Lieberson on to Si Litvinoff, who at that time was Terry Southern’s lawyer, and who had optioned the book with his business partner Max Raab for just a few hundred dollars. “I knew Si,” Lieberson continues, “so I approached him and said, lookit, I’d like to put a film together with Michael Cooper as writer and director.”

For a while things proceeded swimmingly. “We decided where it was going to be shot, it was going to be almost all Soho — there was a rawness to Soho at that point which doesn’t exist today. We had picked out the site for the Korova Milkbar, which was some weird kind of Chinese restaurant-bar. It certainly felt possible to recreate the atmosphere of the book in a much more gritty, dirty way, more realistic than Kubrick’s approach.... I also think that our instinct was that the language had an importance as great as the visual.”

But the Stones couldn’t find time to make the film. By the time Kubrick stepped in and picked up the option — Warner’s handed over $200,000, plus 5 per cent of the profits — everyone had moved on. Lieberson finally collaborated with Jagger on Performance, and gave Burgess some work rewriting Sandy Mackendrick’s screenplay about Mary, Queen of Scots. Michael Cooper committed suicide in his early thirties, thus depriving the world, Lieberson believes, of an exceptional visual talent. Would the Cooper A Clockwork Orange have been as successful?

“It certainly would have been unusual — it wouldn’t have looked like any other film of that time. I think it would have been good....”

I just yesterday (Thursday, 21 April 2016) accidentally landed on this video, which was without explanation embedded into an unrelated page. Fearing that I’d never be able to find it again, I copied it. If you own the copyright, please contact me and we’ll make things right.

Okay. That got me curious. So here are some further sources:

Daniel Kreps, “Mick Jagger’s ‘Clockwork Orange’ Petition Signed by Beatles Up for Auction,” Rolling Stone, Thursday, 15 October 2015

 ‘Cast Mick Jagger in A Clockwork Orange’: Petition Signed by the Beatles Goes to Auction,” The Guardian, Friday, 16 October 2015

Joe Lynch, “See The Beatles’ Petition for Mick Jagger to Star in ‘A Clockwork Orange’,” Billboard, Friday, 16 October 2015

Make of this what you will. Fortunately, the petition was reproduced on two of these web pages:

Interesting that James Fox signed this. At the time, you see, he was working on
Donald “Don the Drom” Cammell’s Performance.

Anthony Burgess, You’ve Had Your Time: The Second Part of the Confessions (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1990), p. 142:

There had been an attempt, in the middle sixties, to put A Clockwork Orange on the screen, with a singing group known as the Rolling Stones playing the violent quartet led by the hero Alex, a rôle to be given to Mick Jagger. I admired the intelligence, if not the art, of this young man and considered that he looked the quintessence of delinquency. The film rights of the book were sold for very little to a small production company headed by a Californian lawyer. If the film were to be made at all, it could only be in some economical form leasable to clubs: the times were not ripe for the screening of rape and continual mayhem before good family audiences. When the times did become ripe, the option was sold to Warner Brothers for a very large sum: I saw none of the profit. There had also been attempts to make a film of The Wanting Seed, and I had written several scripts for it. Script writing can be a relief from the plod of fiction: it is nearly all dialogue, with the récit left to the camera. But it is a mandatory condition of script writing that one script is never enough. There can sometimes be as many as twenty, with the twentieth usually a reversion to the first. In any event, scripts tend to change radically once they get on the studio floor.

Ibid., pp. 148–149:

...and there was talk of filming not merely A Clockwork Orange but a great deal of my work. A clothing-store tycoon in America, movie-struck since he was a kid, was establishing a production company. He had read all the books I had written and found them cinematic, even the brief study of James Joyce. He would begin by setting up A Clockwork Orange, which the age of screwing and miniskirts was at last rendering acceptable for the screen, frontal nudity, rape and all, and he had his eye on various directors who would help me to write a script which should not reproduce the book too exactly. This was an aspect of film-making which bewildered me, the unwillingness to stick to the book. My four delinquents were variously to be turned into miniskirted girls and violent old-age pensioners. The serious music crap was to be eliminated and hard rock substituted. I was learning a great deal about the film industry, though not quite enough. One thing I was slow to learn was the importance of having something vaguely creative on paper which could be brandished in the hard faces of film financiers. An independent producer would prefer to have a first-draft screenplay to wave, but scripts cost money. If he could get a treatment for nothing he considered that he was in business.... My enthusiasm was, as most enthusiasms are, unbusinesslike.

An Interview with Terry Southern by Lee Hill

...I knew about Robert Fraser’s gallery because friends of mine like Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Larry Rivers and others would show there.... While I was there, Michael Cooper, the photographer who took some pictures, said, “You must come over for drinks. Mick and Keith are going to be there....” I met The Beatles and Stones at the same time, because Michael Cooper was doing several of their album covers. He had that market sewed up.... When Michael Cooper turned me on to that book, I read it and said this is really good and so cinematic. I sent the book to Stanley (c. 1966) and said “Look at this.” He got it and read it, but it didn’t appeal to him at all. He said, “Nobody can understand that [invented Nadsat] language.” That was that. The whole exchange occupied a day. Still I thought someone should make a movie of this book. At one point I was making so much money on movie projects that I needed someone to handle paying the bills. I got involved with this friend of mine, Si Litvinoff, who had produced some showbiz things in New York like off-Broadway theatre. He did a couple of things for me as a lawyer. I showed him the book and told him how it would make a great movie. He said, “You have enough money; why don’t you take an option on it?” So I took a six-month option on A Clockwork Orange for about $1,000 against a purchase price of $10,000 and some percentages to be worked out. I wrote a script, adapted it myself. I thought I’d show the book around, but meanwhile I would have the script too. After I finished the script, I showed it around to various producers including David Puttnam, who was working with various companies like Paramount. He was one of the people who read the script and saw the cinematic possibilities of it. In those days, you had to get the script passed by the Lord Chamberlain [the then British censor of film and theatre], so we submitted it to him. He sent it back unopened and said, “I know the book and there’s no point in reading this script because it involves youthful defiance of authority and we’re not doing that.” So that was that. About three years later, I got a call from Stanley, who said, “Do you remember that book you showed me, what was the story on that?” And I said, “I was just showing it to you because I thought it was a good book, but later I took an option on it.” He said, “Who has the rights to it now?” What had happened was that there was a renewable yearly option. I had renewed once and when it came up for renewal for another thou I didn’t have the money, so I told Litvinoff I had to drop the option. So he said “Well, I’ll take it out.” So he held the rights. So I told Stanley, “As far as I know this guy Litvinoff has it.” He said, “Find out how much it is, but don’t tell him I’m interested.” I tried to do that, but Cindy Decker, the wife of Sterling Lord, my agent at the time, found out about this inquiry of Kubrick’s, so she passed the word on to Litvinoff and his friend, Max Raab, who had put up the money for End of the Road. He and Raab sold it to Kubrick and charged a pretty penny for it. Around seventy-five thou, I think.... Well, when I learned that he was going to make A Clockwork Orange, I sent him my script to see if he would like it. I got back a letter saying, “Mr. Kubrick has decided to try his own hand.” It wasn’t really a relevant point because it was an adaptation of a novel. You’re both taking it from the same source.

Some Terry Southern Quotes:

Michael turned me onto A Clockwork Orange and so I took an option on the book and was going to write a screenplay. Then David Hemmings came out with Blowup and the agency said “We’ll package this thing with David Hemmings because he’s hot.” Michael just freaked out and said “Mick Jagger has got to play this part.” He drew up a letter edged in black which said: “We the undersigned hereby insist that Mick Jagger play the part.” It was signed by all the Beatles, Marianne Faithfull and Robert Fraser [and addressed to Southern].

I wrote the script and sent it to Stanley Kubrick, who promptly had some kind of reaction against it and rejected it. So we started putting it together independently of Stanley, but what we didn’t realize was that we’d have to get the script cleared by the Lord Chamberlain, This was normally a routine matter, but with violence on the streets between Mods and Rockers, we were at a dicey point in English social history and the British Board of Film Censors refused to clear the script on the basis of its violence and bad language.

I dropped the option, and, unbeknownst to me, Si Litvinoff picked it up. Then I got a call from Stanley asking me what had happened to the script. It transpired that he had been putting up the money for Litvinoff to continue the option — $500 for a six-month option against a purchase price of $5,000. I asked my agent to find out who owned the rights but stressed that on no account must she mention that Litvinoff and Kubrick were interested in it. However, she couldn’t really resist the temptation to blab and so when the owners found out who was interested they raised the purchase price from $5,000 to $150,000. It was a terrible mistake to tell her and it probably destroyed my relationship with Stanley.

Andrew Loog Oldham, the Rolling Stones Manager:

On reading the book it was like finding a twin for my madness. I just breathed it and lived off it; it was a great source of energy. There was just something in the way of the man — I mean, I was 18 or 19, and it made me think: “I’m not alone.” It was very easy in those days to feel alone when you were out there kicking the doors in, but regardless of what anybody says, it is nice to have company. And Anthony Burgess became my company.

We were in the business of getting space, and so I said we had the rights to A Clockwork Orange, when in fact we didn’t. It was pure speculation and energy. The intention to make a film was there but it could never be a reality. The fact was Burgess had already sold it for a meager £5,000. Keith went along with it, but Mick looked down on it — he thought we were just being little gangsters....

I met Burgess later, in 1973, because I wanted to buy another of his works, The Wanting Seed. He told me he had been wrongly diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1959 or 1960 and he chose not to sleep the time away. He decided he’d better provide for his family, so basically amphetamines and Scotch put him in the cycle — A Clockwork Orange, Inside Mr. Enderby, The Wanting Seed. Because if you look at what the man wrote before, it’s apparent that an altered state of mind had a lot to do with it.

Si Litvinoff interviewed by Luke Ford:

I was separately obsessed with making a film of A Clockwork Orange, which I had optioned in 1966 and after much time spent with Nic [Roeg], knowing that he had written screenplays, was an extraordinary cinematographer and wanted to direct, I believed that Nic could be an ideal director of the film, which I conceived as low budget, that is, if financial backing had the same faith as I did. I wasn’t getting backing for the film with such “hot” directors as John Boorman (after Point Blank) or Ted Kotcheff with such as Mick Jagger or the then very hot (after Blowup) David Hemmings and even the promise of music by some of the Beatles and Rolling Stones who were fans of the project. So as I continued to try to set it up and Nic and I continued to talk. One day I got a phone call from Max Raab who had financed a documentary film, directed by Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Lewis Clyde Stoumen, for which I had been his lawyer, saying that he wanted to finance the picture and was amenable to allowing Nic to direct. Max was an investor (as was Apple, the Beatles company and rock-and-roll legends Leiber & Stoller and which years later George Harrison produced as a movie and in which recently Ewan McGregor appeared on the London stage) and thus Associate Producer for a Broadway play directed by Alan Arkin that I had produced. He was a film buff and owned a small movie theater in Philadelphia where he lived. He also was co-owner of a large clothing operation that had provided him with a vast multi-multi-million-dollar fortune. And so I was to move to London, first to produce a film called All the Right Noises starring Olivia Hussey (her first picture following Romeo and Juliet), Judy Carne and Tom Bell and introducing Leslie Anne Down. Ironically it was Nic Roeg who asked that I read the script [Walkabout] written by a friend of his and Max Raab who agreed to finance it....

...I continued to develop Clockwork with screenplays by Terry Southern and Anthony Burgess with Nic, obviously spending much time with him socially as well, I ultimately learned from him that he was also developing a screenplay with a company that was then a mini-studio called National General and that the rights were entangled with a company headed by Richard Lester and that he was frustrated by not being able to get the go-ahead to make that film, which was his obsession. He asked me if I would be interested in seeing what I could do. Having now in my mind that perhaps he wanted to make this before Clockwork (and before some other works that I had acquired for him to do in the future), I agreed to pursue it and was so impressed that I asked Max Raab if he would finance it and in a great leap of faith he agreed....

...Stanley Kubrick (who had been given the novel by Terry Southern, at my request, about five years earlier), had finally read it and decided that he must direct Clockwork....

Probably in 1965 or early 1966, while I was ending practising law (and still producing plays), Terry Southern, who has been my client and dear friend for many years and who knew that I was starting to option books in hopes of beginning a movie-producer career, suggested that I read an English novel titled A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. I had already optioned several books including Henderson the Rain King and End of the Road by John Barth, with the hope that Terry, who was a hot novelist (Candy) and screenwriter at that moment (Dr. Strangelove, The Cincinnati Kid, The Loved One, etc.) could be proposed by me as screenwriter and thus get a studio to pay him to write the screenplay and we could co-produce together. When I read the book (no easy matter) I was electrified with excitement. All of my work has been influenced by my love of music and my history of involvement with the music industry. This book read like music to me (and, as I later found out, to some of The Beatles and to some of The Rolling Stones). The Nadsat language that Burgess created was musical to me. All of my work has always had a socially significant underpinning. This black humour book had that as well. I visualised a movie opening with a futuristic monolith of a building darkened except for one lit-up apartment wherein a young man is playing with a snake and listening to Brahms or Shubert or better still, my favorite, the chorale, Ode to Joy, from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. I was hooked and almost immediately started my quest to acquire the rights (and I also started reading other Burgess books which I would later option — but that’s another story). Being able to tell Deborah Rogers, who was the agent for Burgess, some of the higher-profile clients I represented and some of the books I had optioned, and being able to tell her that I wanted Terry to write the screenplay helped enormously. The fact that no one else was interested (despite all that is in print of people who say they sought the rights or held the rights) also helped and by March of 1966 I had the option.

The first option payment in 1966, for one year, was $1,000. Yes, I know that it has been printed that Burgess in interviews (Playboy, Rolling Stone, etc.), still in print, still taken as gospel, said he sold the rights for $500 and got only a few pennies more. I have the contract if you would like to print it. Bear in mind that that $1,000 was only for the first year and Burgess was to receive — and did receive — more $1,000 payments as well as the full-exercise price payment. Add those payments to his percentage of net profits, sales of the suddenly famous book as well as new interest in his other books and a new career as a screenwriter and celebrity and you will see how fraudulent his $500-sale-price statement was — and is. By my count to date he has received and his estate continues to receive thousands of dollars (well over $100,000) from the film (not to say the least of what he receives from book royalties which were close to nil prior to the film). I also can include the monies he received from me for options on several of his other books and the payment he received for a screenplay of Clockwork. And one can add the sums he suddenly received to write screenplays. In passing let me explode another myth which appears in a book about Stanley Kubrick by John Baxter, which states that a British critic named Adrian Turner saw the Burgess screenplay and it was more than 300 pages long. More nonsense. The Burgess screenplay, which I have, is 89 pages long. There is much more that is incorrect in that book as well as in Lee Hill’s book Grand Guy Terry Southern, which is loaded with inaccuracies (including that Terry dropped an option just as Kubrick agreed to do the picture — he had no option then as I had the only option from March 1966 on; that David Puttnam set it up at Paramount, which never happened; that Paramount put it in turnaround, which never happened; that Max Raab co-produced The Man Who Fell to Earth, which is not true, etc. etc.); and out-and-out falsehoods. Film history continues to be created by third parties who were not at the dance....

After many failed attempts beginning in 1966 of trying to get financing for the film with Mick Jagger to star, Terry and I were at the opening party at the Plaza Hotel for Antonioni’s film Blowup and we talked to David Hemmings who was an instant hot new star who was going out to Hollywood to star in Camelot and he instantly agreed to star in Clockwork. He knew the book and loved it. A few days later I flew out to LA to see if I could get his new heat to get financing. I went to the set of Point Blank, which Chartoff, Winkler and Bernard were producing, to see if the director John Boorman would be interested. I had seen a movie he had directed for a rock group and I was impressed that in my opinion he was able to make something out of nothing. Despite the fact that in my heart I really wanted Nic Roeg to direct and Mick Jagger to star, I was not getting anywhere with the studios with that desire. Well, again I got a fast yes from Boorman who also knew and loved the book. It seemed as I would continue to learn, the English were fans.

Next step was to get Hemmings and Boorman’s agency, the William Morris Agency, to know and understand the project (which was obviously not the usual kind of movie they would normally come across ) to help sell the package. Luckily the agent was Joe Wizan, who later on was a successful producer and studio executive. Joe could read and had taste. But all of his attempts to get US studio backing were unsuccessful.

Thereafter there were many trips to London to try my efforts there with the Roeg-Jagger package. The problem was that the “censor” Lord Trevelyan would give the film an X rating which would preclude all of the huge number of Mick’s teenage fans from buying theater tickets and hence investors were so wary of that economic loss that they would not finance it. I tried everywhere, Mick’s agents tried, my agents tried and tried but no takers. This even with the promise of a music score by some Stones and some Beatles.

Back in LA , with Ray Wagner we were co-developing several projects with studios when he got a “go” on his own film Loving; so my wife and I decided to sublease out my then rented Malibu beach house and go back to our Bridgehampton, Long Island, house for the summer. Soon thereafter I received a phone call from Brian Epstein, the manager of The Beatles, saying that he knew of me from the play that I produced in which the Beatles’ company had invested and of the project which “the boys” had told him about and that he would like to meet with me on his next trip to New York with regard to his desire to co-produce and finance Clockwork. Well you can imagine my excitement at the potential of that partnership for me and for the film. Unfortunately, it was not to be and before our meeting ever took place Brian was dead. But it was not too long thereafter that Max Raab called to say that he was prepared to finance the film as I originally dreamed, with Nic to direct and Mick to star.

Some time in late 1969 and early 1970 when we were in preparation I started to receive visits from some LA-based Warners executives always inquiring about Clockwork and when our New York lawyer Bob Montgomery said that a New Jersey accountant had made a $100,000 offer for the rights for some anonymous person, I intuited that it was Kubrick, to whom Terry Southern had given the book many years earlier. He had not read it earlier, apparently, because the copy Terry gave him was the US paperback with bikers pictured on the cover and which had a glossary of the Nadsat language and it was unappetising to him. Obviously someone had touted it to him all these years later. Only a few years ago I learned that he was secretly in touch with Terry with implied promises of Terry’s draft of a Michael Cooper spec version being used while trying to get information from Terry. A few years ago Terry’s son Nile gave me a copy of a letter that Stanley sent to Terry which illustrates his motives which were predominantly founded in economic greed and paranoia. It is clear in the letter he knew, even though I did not at that time, until too late, that Terry had sold his share of potential producers profits (that I had voluntarily assigned to him as part of our original arrangement) to Max Raab for $5,000 and 10% of Max’s profits and what my Burgess deal was. When I refused the New Jersey deal I knew that I would hear from someone other than him, at first, someone to ferret out information in a deceptive manner.

I just continued to go forward preparing for production until John Calley, a much wiser, more straightforward intelligence who was a friend of mine and who was as close to Stanley Kubrick as anyone could be and who was running Warner Brothers, telephoned me and became the intermediary for a deal to ultimately be made by us with Warner’s. Although it was not my original dream, it all turned well with Nic quickly able to go to his dream, Walkabout, and Stanley Kubrick making Clockwork, a big box-office hit....

I have always thought that any of the directors I had asked to do the picture would do it successfully. The difference is that they thought it was dark and Kubrick did it in bright white light....

Bernard Weintraub, “Kubrick Tells What Makes ‘Clockwork Orange’ Tick,” The New York Times, January 1972

“The book was given to me by Terry Southern during one of the very busy periods of the making of 2001,” he recalled. “I just put it to one side and forgot about it for a year and a half. Then one day I picked it up and read it. The book had an immediate impact.”

Stefano Iori, Tinto Brass (Rome: Gremese Editore, 2000), p. 72:

D: Perché pensasti di usare proprio lui che usciva dall’esperienza di Arancia meccanica e che era segnato a tal punto da quel film da divenirne un’icona personificata?

Q: Why did you think to use (Malcolm McDowell), whose Clockwork Orange experience of had left a mark on him, making him an icon personified?

R: Per spiegare quello che tu mi chiedi bisogna sottolineare un fatto precedente. Arancia meccanica dovevo farlo io, nell ’68. Agli americani era piaciuto molto NEROSUBIANCO che girai a Londra nel ’66/’67. Così mi invitarono negli States dove fui accolto in pompa magna alla Paramount. Ricordo che nella sede della casa di produzione c’era un corridoio infinito ai cui lati si aprivano le porte dei camerini e su ogni anta c’era una targhetta: una sfilata incredibile con i nomi di tutti i vecchi e più famosi protagonisti del cinema americano, sia attori che registi. Percorrendo questo lunghissimo corridoio arrivai alla targhetta col mio nome: Tinto Brass. Ero stato inserito anch’io in quella specie di Olimpo. Rimasi negli Stati Uniti dieci giorni per valutare un progetto da realizzare con la Paramount anche se io ero andato in America avendo già in mente l’idea fissa di fare L’urlo con Proietti. Non aspettavo altro che l’occasione per rifilarglielo. Il progetto che loro mi proposero era quello di realizzare Arancia meccanica. Io lessi il libro e mi piacque moltissimo, però avevo in mente Proietti e il mio progetto. Allora dissi ai produttori: sì, la vostra idea mi piace, accetto di girare Arancia meccanica, ma prima voglio fare L’urlo. Per tutta risposta mi hanno detto: vai, cammina, torna in Italia e così la loro idea l’ha realizzata Kubrick. Successivamente vidi il suo film e lo trovai davvero belissimo. Così mi nacque l’idea di utilizzare Malcolm McDowell e più tardi avviai i contatti con la produzione per ottenere proprio quell’attore per il mio Caligola.

To answer what you ask me it is necessary to stress a prior fact. I should have made A Clockwork Orange, in ’68. The Americans really liked NEROSUBIANCO, which I had filmed in London in ’66/’67. [Actually ’67/’68. — RS.] So they invited me to the States where I was received in great pomp at Paramount. I remember that in the production’s home office there was an infinite hallway opening to the walls filled with doors of dressing rooms and on every door was a nameplate: an incredible parade with the names of every old and famous celebrity in American cinema, both actors and directors. Traversing this longest of hallways I came upon the nameplate with my name: Tinto Brass. I too had been inserted into this Olympian species. I stayed in the United States for ten days to assess a project to make a film with Paramount — even though I had come to America already having in mind the overriding idea to make Howl with Proietti. I didn’t wait for another occasion to put it to them. The project that they proposed to me was to film A Clockwork Orange. I read the book and really liked it; however, I had in mind Proietti and my project. Then I said to the producers, Yes, I like your idea; I agree to film A Clockwork Orange, but first I want to make Howl. Their only answer to me was: Go, set off, go back to Italy. And so Kubrick made good on their idea. Ultimately I saw his film and found it truly beautiful. That’s how I got the idea to use Malcolm McDowell, and much later I came into contact with producers to obtain this actor for my Caligula.

D: Ti sarà dispiaciuto non aver firmato Arancia meccanica.

Q:  Are you disappointed that you hadn’t signed on to do A Clockwork Orange?

R: E certo, dopo sì. Ero ben contento di aver girato L’urlo, però, indubbiamente, avevo perso un’occasione importante. D’altro canto io non ho mai ragionato in termini di carriera; mi andava di fare quello che volevo quando lo volevo. Agivo d’istinto, forse avventatamente....

A: Afterwards, certainly. I was quite content to have made Howl, although, undoubtedly, I lost an important opportunity. On the other hand, I have never thought of things in terms of a career. I came to work on what I wanted when I wanted. I acted instinctively, maybe rashly....

Kevin Jackson, “Real Horrorshow: A Short Lexicon of Nadsat,” Sight and Sound 9, no. 9 (September 1999), pp. 24–27, esp. 26:

In other alternative universes A Clockwork Orange was directed circa 1968 by Ken Russell, who took a serious interest in the project for a while before turning to Aldous Huxley and The Devils, and/or by another hip young photographer, David Bailey.

Iain Fisher, Ken Russell: Possible and Impossible Projects :

Like all directors there have been many projects Ken Russell was lined up for, which did not go ahead. Many did not go beyond the early planning phase, some stopped after shooting.

A Clockwork Orange. A package deal with Russell directing and the Rolling Stones starring. Russell only heard about the possibility years after.

Anthony Burgess, You’ve Had Your Time: The Second Part of the Confessions (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1990), pp. 210–211:

...Before starting our journey I learned that the American director Stanley Kubrick was to make a film of my A Clockwork Orange. I did not altogether believe this and I did not much care: there would be no money in it for me, since the production company that had originally bought the rights for a few hundred dollars did not consider that I had a claim to part of their own profit when they sold those rights to Warner Brothers. That profit was, of course, considerable.

Ibid., pp. 244–245:

I knew Kubrick’s work well and admired it. Paths of Glory, not at that time admissible in France, was a laconic metaphor of the barbarity of war, with the French showing more barbarity than the Germans. Dr. Strangelove was a very acerbic satire on the nuclear destruction we were all awaiting.... Lolita could not work well, not solely because James Mason and Sellers were miscast, but because Kubrick had found no cinematic equivalent to Nabokov’s literary extravagance. Nabokov’s script, I knew, had been rejected; all the scripts for A Clockwork Orange, above all my own, had been rejected too, and I feared that the cutting to the narrative bone which harmed the filmed Lolita would turn the filmed A Clockwork Orange into a complementary pornograph — the seduction of a minor for the one, for the other brutal mayhem. The writer’s aim in both books had been to put language, not sex or violence, into the foreground; a film, on the other hand, was not made out of words. What I hoped for, having seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, was an expert attempt at visual futurism.... I feared the worst: I feared that I would have to work for the film; film companies give nothing for nothing.... Liana, Deborah Rogers and I went to a Soho viewing room and, with Kubrick standing at the back, heard Walter Carlos’s electronic version of Henry Purcell’s funeral music for Queen Mary and watched the film unroll.... After ten minutes Deborah said she could stand no more and was leaving; after eleven minutes Liana said the same thing. I held them both back: however affronted they were by the highly coloured aggression, they could not be discourteous to Kubrick. We watched the film to the end, but it was not the end of the book I had published in London in 1962: Kubrick had followed the American truncation and finished with a brilliantly realised fantasy drawn from the ultimate chapter of the one, penultimate chapter of the other. Alex, the thug-hero, having been conditioned to hate violence, is now deconditioned and sees himself wrestling with a naked girl while a crowd dressed for Ascot discreetly applauds. Alex’s voice-over gloats: ‘I was cured all right.’ A vindication of free will had become an exaltation of the urge to sin. I was worried. The British version of the book shows Alex growing up and putting violence by as a childish toy; Kubrick confessed that he did not know this version: an American, though settled in England, he had followed the only version that Americans were permitted to know. I cursed Eric Swenson of W. W. Norton....

Anthony Burgess’s Speech upon Accepting Two New York Critics’ Awards for Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange:

As far as Kubrick is concerned, I knew little about him. I was told over the telephone that Stanley Kubrick wished to make my book A Clockwork Orange into a film; and I would get no money from it. Well, I said, I’m not ignorant, I know this already; you needn’t tell me! But he said: “Would you rather he made it and get no money, or somebody else make it?” Well, I had a vision of Ken Russell making it, so I said I was prepared to pay Kubrick to make the film. It turned out to my surprise that Kubrick didn’t actually need the money at the time. Kubrick reappeared in my life or very nearly (he hadn’t really appeared at all, had he?). He reappeared by name, very nearly, when I was in Australia. And I was summoned to London to see Kubrick because of two lines in the book. He wasn’t sure whether it was a copyright or not, whether they were quotations of an existing song, or whether I had actually written them. So I rushed from Australia to New Zealand, to Hawaii, San Francisco, New York, eventually I ended up in London and appeared for lunch at that old English tavern called Trader Vick’s. After a couple of old English noggings of mai-tai, Kubrick did not turn up.

Then Kubrick used the Australian vernacular and nearly gave birth to a set of diesel engines, when he discovered that the British edition of the book was different from the American edition. Indeed, the American edition, if anyone is interested, has twenty chapters, whereas the British edition has twenty-one. There’s a cartoon in the British Daily Express which shows a man and a woman leaving the cinema, having seen Kubrick’s film, and saying: George, dear, I do hope they don’t make Son of A Clockwork Orange. Well, this is no joke because chapter 21, in the British edition, is precisely that: it’s the account of the son of A Clockwork Orange, and anybody who wishes to make this movie as a follow-up is welcome to see me afterwards.

Kevin Jackson, “Real Horrorshow: A Short Lexicon of Nadsat,” Sight and Sound 9, no. 9 (September 1999), pp. 24–27, esp. 25:

Burgess often told the story of how this final chapter was deleted from the US edition at the insistence of Norton’s vice-president Eric Swenson, who felt its hints of a happy ending — a happiness severely qualified by its horrendous vision of a cycle of adolescent mayhem going on and on unstoppably until the end of the world — amounted to a cop-out. America was tough enough for the tough ending. Burgess, uneasy but far too short of cash to object very strenuously, acquiesced. (It’s only fair to add that Swenson doesn’t agree with this version of events; as he recalled in an interview with my droogie David Thompson, “[Burgess] said ‘You’re absolutely right’ — I remember those words. ‘Take it out,’ he said. ‘My British publisher wanted to have the ending so I wrote them one, but you’re right to take it out....”

Anthony Burgess, You’ve Had Your Time: The Second Part of the Confessions (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1990), p. 248:

I left for Rome with film money much on my mind. The men who had originally bought the film rights to A Clockwork Orange, Max Raab and Si Litvinov, were prominently featured in the closing credits as joint executive producers, whatever that meant. It meant probably little more than that they were entitled to a percentage on the film’s takings. They would be doing well, if the queues and the lengthy initial bookings were any indication. I was doing badly. I had received a single small payment for the release of my rights and there was no talk of royalties. A bad contract had been drawn up. It was not long before I was forced to take Warner Brothers to court at a cost of several thousand pounds in legal fees. I was eventually granted a percentage smaller than those of Raab and Litvinov, to be available when the film was ‘in profit’. It takes a long time for the films that make a profit at all — few do — to reach that state. When my first cheque came, it came naturally through my agent, who had deducted a ten per cent commission. This was not balanced by any contribution to my lawyer’s fees. I began to wonder about the wisdom of having an agent.

Ibid., p. 253:

Before embarking with Malcolm on a publicity programme which, since Kubrick went on paring his nails in Borehamwood, seemed designed to glorify an invisible divinity, I went to a public showing of A Clockwork Orange to learn about audience response. The audience was all young people, and at first I was not allowed in, being too old, pop. The violence of the action moved them deeply, especially the blacks, who stood up to shout ‘Right on, man,’ but the theology passed over their coiffures.

Ibid., p. 254:

Malcolm McDowell... was still sore from the physical and psychological pains he had endured while making A Clockwork Orange. He was terrified of snakes, but Kubrick had announced one morning: ‘I gotta snake for you, Malc.’ His ribs were broken in the scene of humiliation where a professional comedian is brought on to demonstrate the success of the conditioning: the comedian had stamped on those ribs too hard. He had nearly suffocated when, with no cut-away, his head had been thrust for too long in a water tank. Kubrick was an imperious director, too imperious even to work with a script: script after script had been rejected. The filming sessions were conducted like university seminars, in which my book was the text. ‘Page 59. How shall we do it?’ A day of rehearsal, a single take at day’s end, the typing up of the improvised dialogue, a script credit for Kubrick.

Open-Book Test
(Passing Score: 70%)

1. Who originally optioned or purchased the screen rights — or at least claimed to have?
     a. Terry Southern
     b. Andrew Loog Oldham
     c. Si Litvinov
     d. Si Litvinov and Max Raab
     e. Sandy Lieberson

2. Did Paramount Pictures have an interest in the film?

3. How much did Kubrick and Warner Bros. pay for the screen rights?

4. What was Kubrick’s initial response to Terry Southern’s gift of the novel?

5. How familiar was Anthony Burgess with Stanley Kubrick’s works?

6. What was Mick Jagger’s rôle in the negotiations?

7. Contractually, how much, in fees and royalties, was Anthony Burgess entitled to?

8. How much money did Anthony Burgess directly earn from the film?

9. What was Ken Russell’s rôle in a failed production of the film?

10. Was chapter 21 of the novel an addition to or a deletion from the original work? Which publisher requested the change?

BONUS ESSAY QUESTION (WORTH 20%): How reliable is the written record — any written record?

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