Graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
He worked in British theatre for a while and he had a scene cut from Poor Cow (67, Ken Loach) before he got the role of the rebel schoolboy in If. . . (68, Lindsay Anderson). He was in Figures in a Landscape (70, Joseph Losey); as a paraplegic in love (with Nanette Newman) in The Raging Moon (70, Bryan Forbes). Then, after Clockwork Orange, he was reunited with Lindsay Anderson for O Lucky Man! (73).
Me was the lead in the swashbuckling Royal Flash (75, Richard Lester); Voyage of the Damned (76, Stuart Rosenberg); Aces High (76, Jack Gold); very overdone as a Nazi in The Passage (79, J. Lee Thompson); as H. G. Wells in Time After Time (79, Nicholas Meyer), playing with Mary Steenburgen, who would be his second wife (1980-90); the title role in Caligula (80, Tinto Brass); the feral brother in Cat People (82, Paul Schrader); Britannia Hospital (82, Anderson); Cross Creek (83, Martin Ritt), playing Max Perkins to Steenburgens Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings; Mick Jaggerish in Get Crazy (83, Allan Arkush).
That's when things seemed to fall apart: for TV in Gulag (85, Roger Young); Sunset (88, Blake Edwards); Buy & Cell (89, Robert Boris); The Caller (89, Arthur Allan Seidelman); Class of 1999 (90, Mark L. Lester); the lead in Schweitzer (90, Gray Hofmeyr); very funny in Disturbed (91, Henry Winkler); Moon 44 (91, Roland Emmerich); a rather humiliating cameo in The Player (91, Robert Altman); the awful Chain of Desire (92, Temistocles Lopez); Boplia! (93, Morgan Freeman); Milk Money (94, Richard Benjamin); Star Trek: Generations (94, David Carson); Tank Girl (95, Rachel Talalay); Hugo Pool (97, Robert Downey Sr.); The First 9'A Weeks (98, Alex Wright); My Life So Far (99. Hugh Hudson); on TV as Jack Cassidy in The David Cassidy Story (00, Jack Bender); the spirit of underworld malice in Gangster No. 1 (00, Paul McGuigan).
This is a strange, thwarted career if one recollects McDowells emotionally greedy look in the late sixties, to say nothing of his being one of the classic images of film history—the elaborately made- up eyes gazing up at the camera with all the loaded essence of charm, insolence, and trickery. He seemed then less an actor than a life force, but someone who could have made twins of Ariel and Caliban. The potential was enormous. But it has led in so many forlorn directions.
Married Margot Bennett, April 21, 1975 (divorced September 15, 1980). Married Mary Steenburgen, September 2, 1980 (divorced October 1, 1990). 2 children; Married Kelley Kuhr, November 12, 1991.
Children: Beckett Taylor, Finnian Anderson.