Born in Leeds, Yorkshire, England, as Malcolm Taylor he received private school education at Cannock, didn't attend college even though he got accepted in a university in Sussex. At the age of 20, Malcolm changed his name to McDowell, his mother's maiden name, because there was another actor in England named Malcolm Taylor.
Before becoming an actor he worked as a waiter in his father's pub in Liverpool then moved on to become a coffee salesman and later worked as a messenger.
As a young actor, Malcolm McDowell made his name on the strength of two iconic roles: the disenchanted student turned violent anarchist Mick Travis in Lindsay Anderson's If ... and the flamboyantly brutal droog Alex DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.
Over the years, he has shown an impressive range: He was a gentler Mick Travis, now a coffee salesman, in O Lucky Man!; a coward pressed into swashbuckling service in Royal Flash; and a courtly and romantic H.G. Wells in Time After Time.
But with those two early, signature roles on his resume, over and over again directors turn to McDowell when they want a charismatic, larger-than-life heavy: the debauched ruler in Caligula, the sinister head of a clandestine political assassination operation in Blue Thunder, and the evil alien scientist who killed Captain Kirk in Star Trek: Generations.
Though an audience favorite, he has never been popular with the keepers of acting awards. Shockingly, he has only one nomination - a Golden Globe nod for A Clockwork Orange. But he may finally be starting to get his due. In June 2001, the American Cinematheque presented a seven-film retrospective of the actor's work at Los Angeles' Egyptian Theatre, while in October, the Mill Valley Film Festival hosted a tribute to him and screened five of his movies during the course of the festival.
Most recently in May 2002, New York's Film Society of Lincoln Center offered a baker's dozen of McDowell films in a nine-day retrospective titled "Malcolm McDowell: Insolent Angel." McDowell plans to return to the London stage in the near future.