WATERVILLE — Actor Malcolm McDowell was quick to point out that the Mid-Life Achievement Award given to him Saturday during the 14th annual Maine International Film Festival was not a “mid-life crisis award.”

“I’m going out to buy a Harley-Davidson next,” the British-born actor joked prior to the showing of the 1973 film “O Lucky Man!” in which he plays the lead character.

“It’s very nice; it’s a great honor,” he said. “There’s some wonderful people that have received this award before. To be mentioned in the same breath as them is an honor — Terrence Malick, (John) Turturro. It’s great. I’m very happy.”

Others who have received the achievement award at the film festival are actors Sissy Spacek, Lili Taylor, Peter Fonda, Bud Cort and Ed Harris and directors Jonathan Demme, Jos Stelling and Walter Hill.

McDowell, 68, spoke during a brief interview Saturday afternoon following the screening of Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film “A Clockwork Orange.” McDowell plays Alex DeLarge, a violent, charismatic British hoodlum who is jailed and volunteers for experimental aversion therapy developed by the government in an effort to solve society’s crime problem.

It’s supposed to be futuristic Britain, where the best laid plans get obscured by the little things — human rights and the dignity of man.

Not so far from today’s Britain, McDowell said.

“I think (the film) works today, but it’s different,” he said. “When it first came out people didn’t know it was a black comedy.

“The one constant is that the political element is the same — Big Brother. Look what’s happened in England right now with (Rupert) Murdoch; the newspapers and how they were getting their stories, hacking into phones of murder victims — horrendous things. In a way it’s very relevant to ‘Clockwork Orange’ because it’s Big Brother putting their hand in and interfering in the freedom of man to choose.”

Other films in which McDowell appears during the film festival are “Assassin of the Tsar,” “Never Apologize” and “Tank Girl,” which will be shown Thursday night at the Skowhegan Drive-in.

McDowell made his screen debut in 1968 as school rebel Mick Travis in “If….” by British director Lindsay Anderson.

McDowell mainly portrayed bad guys in the late 1970s and 1980s, including the title character in “Caligula” in 1979.

Was he attracted to scoundrels for his major cinematic roles, such as the as the campy villain Kesslee in “Tank Girl,” or did the villains seek him out?

“They found me,” he said. “Once you do one, they all love it; they want you to keep playing it over and over. I was always a character actor.”

McDowell said that, while he may be largely remembered as an actor playing villainous roles, not all of his 100 or more movies have been based on such characters. He points to his Hollywood debut as “a whimsical” H.G. Wells chasing after Jack the Ripper in the 1979 movie “Time After Time.”

His co-star in that film was actress Mary Steenburgen, whom he later married and with whom he had two children.

So how does the notorious villain in the movies get the pretty girl in real life?

“Oh well, pretty girls always love the interesting characters that have a sense of humor, you know that,” he said.

The 14th annual Maine International Film Festival began Friday and runs through July 24 at Railroad Square Cinema and Colby College in Waterville. The 10-day festival features nearly 100 films.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.