When Mick Jagger is on stage with The Rolling Stones, he oozes charisma. However, anybody who has ever sat through his acting exploits for the big screen will be all-too-aware that he’s anything but suave and sophisticate when a camera is thrust in front of him — a factor that The Beatles seemingly forgot.
The peacocking showman’s acting career has been less than glittering and, if it wasn’t for the star power attached to his name, we can be quite sure that Jagger would never have made it to the cinematic world on talent alone. The Stones frontman’s credits include a dismal lead performance in Ned Kelly — which is remembered for all the wrong reasons. Shockingly, The Beatles were unironically intent on helping their friend secure a role in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece A Clockwork Orange.
While The Fab Four had expert judgments on anything music-related, critically acclaimed films were never their repertoire. After all, aside from their own comical escapades, Paul McCartney is the man behind the repellent picture Give My Regards To Broad Street.
Shortly after A Clockwork Orange’s publication as a novel by Anthony Burgess in 1962, plans to turn it into a film swiftly began. The author sold the rights for just £500, and originally, The Rolling Stones were all muted to feature in the film, with Jagger taking the reins as the lead character Alex DeLarge, arguably one of the greatest cinematic psychopaths of all time.
Director Ken Russell was reportedly set to direct the original project and seemed intent on using a big name to add to his cache. However, the British Board of Film Certification made the film almost impossible to get off the ground, and it thankfully eventually ended up in the sacred hands of Stanley Kubrick.
In 1968, Russell was firmly out of the picture, yet, there wasn’t a director who had accepted the project. Writer Terry Southern was developing the screenplay when The Beatles came calling with an intervention. Even though Russell was no longer involved, Jagger still hadn’t given up hope on playing Alex.
Nevertheless, the film they envisioned was an entirely different one to Kubrick’s creation, and if the rock ‘n’ roll ruling class of ’60s Britain had their say, we’d be devoid of one of cinema’s all-time classic moments.
The petition read: “We, the undersigned, do hereby protest with extreme vehemence as well as shattered illusions (in you) the preference of David Hemmings above Mick Jagger in the role of Alex in The Clockwork Orange.”
In another letter, which came to light in 2008, executive producer Si Litvinoff tried to persuade director John Schlesinger to take the project and allow The Beatles to make the soundtrack. Although, whether they’d agreed to this hasn’t been confirmed. “After you’ve read the script and novel I’m sure you will see the incredible potential we all see in this project,” he said. “This film should break ground in its language, cinematic style and soundtrack. [And] the Beatles love the project.”
In the end, Schlesinger turned down the film and said it wasn’t “the sort of subject I particularly want to tackle”. David Hemmings would also miss out on the role of Alex, which Kubrick handed to Malcolm McDowell after being awestruck by his performance in 1968 project If.
In his life, Mick Jagger is a man who has ordinarily landed almost anything he has set his mind to, yet, that starring role in A Clockwork Orange is one of the few things in life that’s evaded him. While it would have been a joy to hear how The Beatles would have taken the soundtrack, if that meant Kubrick’s vision never came to fruition, then missing out on it is a low price to pay.