An Interview with Malcolm McDowell ("Admiral Tolwyn" in Wing Commander III and IV)
What was the difference between working on Wing Commander III and IV?
Of course, I had done films with green scenes and Wing Commander III used that technology. You went to your x's on the floor and read your lines...it was pretty basic. But you couldn't walk and talk. With Wing Commander IV, however, there were 38 sets. It was really a movie, even though it's on your computer. It's come a long way in the last year. We shot all my 18 scenes for Wing Commander III in two days. The shooting for Wing Commander IV was done over a period of about 7 weeks.
Sounds like Wing Commander IV was quite a change of pace...
It was no different from being in a studio shooting a movie. Of course with Wing Commander III, they put all my lines on boards, which was a great cheat! In Wing Commander IV, Chris Roberts wanted to move the camera around, so I actually had to learn my lines.
How did you enjoy working on Wing Commander IV?
It was tremendous fun coming back to the same cast and crew, like an old boys' association exchanging stories. I was fascinated to do it and liked working with Mark, Tom and the other characters. During the scene with John Rhys-Davies, we giggled the whole time telling stories about the Royal Shakespeare Company.
How about your character, Tolwyn...does he change between Wing III and IV?
In Wing Commander III, Tolwyn was a kind of "goody." In this one, I was sort of a misguided man...I won't go as far as saying "baddy."
What kind of reaction have you gotten because of playing Tolwyn?
I go to the supermarket now and kids will come up to me and say, "Hey, Admiral Tolwyn."
Have you ever gotten a chance to actually play "Wing Commander III"?
Yes I did, a little. My 11 year old son wanted to play. His mom just got a new computer and we sat down to set it up. After about two hours, we still couldn't get it loaded up so I called Chris Roberts. He asked me what kind of computer I had and I said it was a Mac. He told me I needed an IBM compatible and he ended up sending me a new computer. I didn't get much past the first couple of scenes.
What do you think about the interactive movie business? Is it just a passing fad?
They say the movie industry generates $9 billion in the states and interactive movies generate $13 billion, so interactive movies are already much bigger. I think this is where the growth market is going to be. Of course, along the way, you're going to get schlock. The players are going to have to be very discerning. There's going to be so much rubbish on the market, just like films-people will want to jump on the bandwagon thinking they can make a quick killing. I think that Chris Roberts, however, is very different. The writing, plot and characters are pretty good with the Wing Commander Series.
So, you like working on interactive movies...
Yes. And I've worked on (the) last Wing Commander like Mark and a lot of the other performers because we've wanted to be on the cutting edge of technology and to see where the movie business may be going in the next few years.
How do you think Hollywood feels about the interactive movie business?
I always have fun doing different kinds of things, like radio, for instance. Acting is acting. If you feel like breaking new ground, do it. It's always useful doing it in different kinds of mediums.
What other projects are you working on?
I'm doing a TV series on CBS with Rhea Perlman called "Pearl."
That's quite different from the futuristic roles you've been playing lately. You seem to be comfortable doing them...
I've done a lot of futuristic things, bit it's time to do something different now. As for preferring futuristic roles, it's actually because the "imagination" of the people in Hollywood is such that if you play a raving loony, you'll play a raving loony till the day you die. If you play in a space thing, you do the space thing for a while. I want the people in England to realize what a great center of imagination Hollywood is. I'll probably be in a space suit for the rest of my life. But at least I won't have to kill that boring old Captain Kirk again because once he's been put to bed...that's it. Of course, if they're looking for someone to kill Captain Picard, I will volunteer my services right now. Come on...aren't you bored with those old farts on the bridge of the Enterprise? I am (laughing).