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Malcolm McDowell on his new movie The Big Ugly and working with Vinnie Jones - Exclusive

The new crime flick The Big Ugly sees mob enforcer Neelyn (Vinnie Jones) accompanying his boss Harris (Malcolm McDowell) on a trip to West Virginia to launder his money in an oil company. A series of bad decisions sees Neelyn seeking revenge and Harris trying to contain him. In an exclusive interview with Looper, McDowell told us about his time on set, his career, and his love of Vinnie Jones.

McDowell has spent the past decade or so focused on television, especially TV comedy. He particularly "loved every minute" of being a "buffoon at an orchestra" in Mozart in the Jungle. But he's still maintained a solid presence in movies, averaging a few each year — a frenetic schedule he's able to keep by picking parts that only require "a week, ten days, or two weeks" on set. At 77, he's not coasting on Clockwork Orange, Star Trek Generations, or even Caligula. When asked why he still works so much, he says, "It's because I enjoy it. I love what I do... I still have a lot of fun. And I think honestly, if I'm not having fun, then the audience is not having fun watching me." And in The Big Ugly, McDowell is clearly having fun.

In his own words, "I enjoy playing the villain occasionally." Harris is, undeniably, villainous — he comes to West Virginia specifically to launder money, after all. But he also isn't totally blackhearted, remaining loyal to those who support him and begrudgingly giving second chances to several people who probably don't deserve them. He's also not the villain of The Big Ugly, though his own dirty deeds build to a climactic confrontation with Ron Perlman's Preston that McDowell calls "a powerful scene" that was "fantastic to shoot."

McDowell has a lot to say about Vinnie Jones

McDowell spoke highly of his time on the film and the people he worked with, but gave extra attention to Vinnie Jones. Most of McDowell's scenes involve Jones in some way, so he has a special affinity for the former Juggernaut.

McDowell was already somewhat familiar with Jones. "I play golf with him, and I've always been a great fan of Vinnie Jones," before coyly adding, "not that I would tell him that." Jones sent McDowell the script and "realized that this was a really good chance for [Jones] to show a little more of what he can do, you know? That he's not just a villain."

For all the teasing — McDowell would joke to Jones, "You have to get a real actor to come in to save this bloody movie" — McDowell holds Jones in high regard. He also notes that "Vinnie puts his money where his mouth is," and helped raise funding for the movie — a statement Jones confirmed to Looper himself in a separate interview. McDowell describes Jones as "loud and full of bluster, but underneath all that, he's actually a very sensitive, vulnerable guy. And a lovely man, actually." He highlights the scene where Neelyn and Harris go over their options in a jail cell, calling it "a terrific sequence."

The Big Ugly is now in select theaters and will be available in virtual cinema and on VOD/Digital July 31st.