Imagining ‘A Clockwork Orange’ Without Stanley Kubrick and Starring Mick Jagger

As infamously controversial as it has been lauded and made iconic throughout the last half-century, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange did not always belong to the celebrated auteur. Before he had signed on to direct the feature, in 1968 producer Si Litvinoff had his eye on a handful of directors whom he approached to helm the film—from Roman Polanski to Ken Russell to Nicolas Roeg—the Terry Southern-penned script floating through the hands of Hollywood. Another one of the names in the directing hat was John Schlesigner, who would go on to make the wonderful dramas Midnight Cowboy, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Marathon Man, and more. But although a brilliant director of emotionally painful and progressive films, it’s almost impossible to imagine his muted color and rawly expressive edge imposed upon the dystopian future ultra-violence world of A Clockwork Orange.

Kubrick, with his affinity for exposing the man’s natural inclination towards evil and telling a story through the psychological undercurrent of color, as a perfect fit for Anthony Burgess’ novel, and just as difficult it is to see the film through another’s eyes, it’s just as strange to imagine anyone else playing the role of Alex DeLarge more perfectly than Malcolm McDowell. But thanks to Letters of Note, we learn that Litvinoff sent Schlesigner a letter expressing his interest in having him direct—giving him the draft and novel to look over—saying, that for the lead role, Mick Jagger and David Hemmings (recently attractive for his role in Antonioni’s Blowup) were keen on playing Alex, with The Beatles very interested in doing the music for the film.

"With regard to A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, we have in mind juxtaposing the "Nasdats" (in a futuristic-Edwardian look) and their unique language, against a totally science-oriented society (with their own attitudes and language). The "Nasdats" would thus be the equivalent of that age’s Renaissance men. Only in prison, where exposure to this new life is limited, is there "normal" life and "normal" language. This has not been treated in the first draft which is just a point from which to take off. This film should break ground in its language, cinematic style and its soundtrack."

Well, now. Let’s just take a moment of our day to imagine that cinematic world, one sans Wendy Carlos’ absolutely brilliant classical moog music score, with Schlesigner behind the camera, and either Hemmings or Jagger in the iconic role dressed in white. You can check out the rest of the letter HERE, as well as Jagger-lovers’ “vehemently” unhappy reaction to Hemmings being favored for the role ahead of Mick.

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