MALCOLM McDOWELL

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Malcolm McDowell

Arguably amongst the most dynamic and inventive of world-class actors, yet one also capable of immense charm, humor and poignancy, Malcolm McDowell has created a gallery of iconographic characters since catapulting to the screen as “Mick Travis”, the rebellious upperclassman, in Lindsay Anderson’s prize-winning sensation, IF…

His place in movie history was subsequently secured when Stanley Kubrick finally found the actor he was searching for to play the gleefully amoral “Alex” in A Clockwork Orange; when McDowell conceived the idea for the further adventures of “Mick Travis” in Anderson’s comedic epic O Lucky Man!; when he wooed Mary Steenburgen and defeated “Jack the Ripper” as the romantically inquisitive H.G. Welles in Nicholas Meyer’s Time After Time; when he destroyed “Capt. Kirk” in Star Trek: Generations, and when he pranced and parried as narcissistic ballet impresario “Alberto Antonelli” in Robert Altman’s The Company.

Those legendary roles have endured with legions of filmgoers while other adherents have been won over by: his compellingly sinister Caligula; his compulsive Gangster No. 1, in which he created a character both on screen and through nuanced voice-over; his complex villain who taunts Clive Owen and traumatizes Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Mike Hodges’ neo-noir I’I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead and his conflicted “Yurovsky”, who carries out the murder of the Romanovs in Karen Chakhnazarov’s Assassain of the Tsar. For the latter, The New York Times said, ‘Not since reaching his mature years has McDowell given such a fine, strong, crafty performance. It is acted with immense skill.”

McDowell’s 100 feature film credits include: My Life So Far; Royal Flash; Cat People; Tank Girl; Hugo Pool; Figures in a Landscape and Long Ago Tomorrow. Also, the brilliant literary editor Maxwell Perkins in Martin Ritt’s Cross Creek; the Chaplin-esque studio boss in Blake Edwards’ Sunset and the final incarnation of “Mick Travis” in Britannia Hospital, the third film in Anderson’s trilogy.

On television, he made his starring debut opposite Laurence Olivier, Alan Bates and Helen Mirren in Harold Pinter’s The Collection, directed by Michael Apted. Later televison was highlighted by the influential British mini-series, Our Friends from the North, with Daniel Craig and Gina McKee, and most recently, as the agency head in the hit HBO series, Entrourage.

For PBS, he committed to film his acclaimed “Jimmy Porter” in the Roundabout Theater production of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger. On the New York stage, he received raves for the American premiere of David Storey’s In Clebration at the Manhattan Theater Club, directed by Lindsay Anderson, and for Oscar-winner Ronald Harwood’s Another Time at The American Jewish Theater. In Los Angeles, he and Swoozie Kurtz headlined Hunting Cockroaches at the Mark Taper Forum, directed by Arthur Penn. In London, he brought new life to the title character in Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr. Sloan, opposite Beryl Reid at the Royal Court, later transferring to the West End, and he undertook the Cary Grant role in Philip Barrie’s Holiday, opposite Mary Steenburgen, at the Old Vic, again under Anderson’s direction.

In addition to Entourage, McDowell’s recent films include David Greico’s Russian-made Evilenko, Paul Weitz’ In Good Company, and Tamar Simon Hoffs’ Red Roses and Petrol. He has also created a lot of buzz for his recent three-epsiode role in the hit TV series, HEROES

In the Fall, McDowell will be seen in the starring role in Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN, based on the John Carpenter classic, a major release. Future projects include Abraham Polonsky’s adaptation of the Thomas Mann novella, Mario and the Magician, to be directed by Mike Hodges.

McDowell was born in Leeds, England and acted in several British repertory companies before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company. Shortly thereafter, he began his film career with IF…

The Film Society of Lincoln Center, The American Cinematheque, The Deauville Festival, England’s National Museum of Film, Television and Photography, and the Australian Cinematheque have all accorded him major retrospectives. He is married to painter – photographer Kelley Kuhr and is the father of actress Lilly McDowell, director Charlie McDowell and the recently arrived Beckett Taylor McDowell and Finnian Anderson McDowell


The Guardian
John Patterson
Thursday November 1, 2007

Malcolm McDowell talks to John Patterson about pitting legendary directors Stanley Kubrick and Lindsay Anderson against each other - and how he moved to Hollywood by accident

Malcolm McDowell, formerly of Leeds, Liverpool and London, now lives in Shangri-La. Almost literally. We meet on the terraced restaurant of a country club near his house in Ojai, up the freeway from Los Angeles and then inland to a spectacular valley overlooked by bluffs and crags that seem vaguely reminiscent of the mountains in Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus. But I'm one Himalayan movie off, it turns out.

"This is where I've lived since 1982," he says, with some pride. "We live over there, on Meditation Mountain. It's where they put the camera for the shot of Shangri-La that they matte-painted into the 1937 version of Lost Horizon. The blue screen of its day, that view is!" McDowell's face, at 64, has lost the rounded, meat-and-milk contours of his beautiful youth, but has gained sharper, more chiselled planes that echo his still lean and athletic physique. The enormous blue eyes that Stanley Kubrick had wired open for A Clockwork Orange don't shine quite so brightly these days, but only because his splendid shock of white hair provides less contrast than it did when it was brown. It's still a great punk-rock face: tough and seemingly born for villainy and swaggering mayhem (or so an unimaginative casting director might think), but always bisected by that famous sideways grin, the smile that made Caligula, Harry Flashman, even his psychopathic Nazi in the long forgotten The Passage, seem possessed of infinite charisma.

He moved here with his second wife, the actor Mary Steenburgen. "I came to make a movie in 1979 [the time-travel thriller Time After Time], fell in love, stayed, then we had children. But when we split up in 1990, the die had been cast. Obviously, I wasn't going to move away from our children. I had never thought about moving here, it just sort of happened that way." He admits that he misses England on occasion - or rather the people. "But once you get back there," he laughs, "it's immediately, 'Get me the fuck OUTTA HERE!'"

The second act of McDowell's career has been a busy and remunerative life as a Hollywood character actor - there may be more people in the US who remember him as the murderer of Captain Kirk in Star Trek: Generations than as insurgent schoolboy Mick Travis in If ...

But we're here to talk about the earlier, British half of his career, and of his association with the director of If ..., O Lucky Man and Britannia Hospital, who discovered McDowell 40 years ago and remained a close friend until his death in 1994: Lindsay Anderson.

A year or two ago, McDowell conceived a one-man stage show as a tribute to Anderson and performed it in a nearby schoolhouse. His lifelong friend Mike Kaplan, who has worked as a publicist for Stanley Kubrick, Robert Altman and others, and as a producer for director Mike Hodges, had the show filmed, resulting in Never Apologise, which opens tomorrow.

It's an intimate piece of work, with a loose, handmade feel and the sense of an obligation fulfilled, a debt repaid with honour and gratitude. McDowell shares his memories of working with Anderson, and of the tight little community the director built around him, in which moneyed superstars of stage and screen existed on an enforced equal footing with whatever misfits, unemployed actors, mad writers and other broken-winged birds were nesting in Anderson's spare room. He recalls Anderson's (and his own) friendships with Rachel Roberts, Jill Bennett, Alan Price and Ralph Richardson, reads from Anderson's monograph, About John Ford, his cinematic idol, and, most memorably, from a lyrically aggressive letter to Alan Bates from Anderson, in which the director sort of apologises for some ancient drunken insult, even as he dismisses the entire notion of apologising.

Never Apologise is a looser companion piece to the late Gavin Lambert's beautiful memoir Mainly About Lindsay Anderson. In that book, the core sadness of Anderson's life - a tremendously gifted artist, a lacerating critic, a repressed, unhappy, celibate homosexual who may have died a virgin - is alleviated somewhat by the parallel account of Lambert's almost diametrically opposed passage in life from the same junior common room at Cheltenham College in the 1930s: contentedly out of the closet all his life, in love with exile in California, emollient rather than abrasive, happy in his skin. Never Apologise works in a different register, but again Anderson's pessimism and misanthropy are made palatable by the obvious love and admiration of an old friend.

I've brought my copy of Lambert's book along with me, and McDowell flips eagerly though the photos in search of what Anderson called "The Old Crowd", all the dead old friends.

"Look, there's Tony Page and Jocelyn Herbert - she took a lot of shit from Lindsay, and gave just as much back!" We both pause when we arrive at a famous picture of Rachel Roberts and Jill Bennett in their fur coats; doomed, gifted, insecure princesses of the London stage, both married to bastards (Rex Harrison and John Osborne respectively), both suicides.

"Gavin's thing about Lindsay," says McDowell, "was always, 'Why doesn't he just come out? Why doesn't he just get himself fucked? Lindsay needs to be buggered!' Course, he'd say it to me - but he'd never say it to Lindsay! But Gavin said Lindsay never would have made If ... if he hadn't been exactly what he was. Because he was this pent-up creature, very sardonic, and a very suppressed human being. And he had that very English thing, he hated the English, but of course, he WAS English, more English than anyone I've ever known. Lindsay could only have come out of his particular kind of pain. But you never saw this because he was very defensive, which made him laceratingly lethal. He could smell bullshit five miles away and if you tried to bullshit him, well ..." McDowell mimics a series of rapier slashes in the air, bringing Flashman and Mick Travis to mind for a moment.

If ... was finally made available on DVD last year and McDowell is ecstatic about the DVD of O Lucky Man that Warner Bros will release soon. "It's the most pristine print of it I've ever seen," he says. I never manage to ask him about it, but it must be galling for an actor as talented as McDowell to have waited this long for two of his career cornerstones to become available in his adopted country, where he is mainly renowned for A Clockwork Orange.

What were the differences between Anderson and Kubrick?

"Chalk and cheese. Kubrick was at the top of his game. I think I worked with him when he was 47, the same age Lindsay was when I did If ..., also at the height of his powers. Stanley, however, was not really a people's person; he didn't like a lot of talk about acting. Lindsay loved to talk shop: if you asked him about a role, it'd be two hours, a great discussion of history, character, framework and psychological things. But Stanley, you'd ask him something and he'd look at you, say, 'I'm not Rada,' and walk off.

"But there was something very liberating about that. At first I was very pissed off - 'You've got to be kidding!' - and then you realise he's just given you an almighty present - you can do whatever you want.

"Then, when I was back with Lindsay on O Lucky Man, I would say, 'Don't talk to me, I know what I want to do!' So the tables had turned a bit since If ..., and he had plenty to say in his diary about it. 'I'm very pissed off with Malcolm - thinks he knows it all!'

"But Kubrick could be very spontaneous, surprisingly, and I picked that up from him. Stanley at his best was at the head of a giant army, like Patton, but still he was brilliant at being able to say to suggestions, 'That's a great idea!' and telling the whole army, 'We're all going THIS way now!' And off we'd go. While with Lindsay's movies, exactly the opposite, you didn't change a word."

And did Kubrick put you through 500 takes per shot?

"No, I think that started later. I think he lost some of his confidence later, but he still had it in 1971. Stanley would have been quite happy to make a film without actors - and with the Artificial Intelligence project, he nearly did. He always thought they couldn't be relied on. He once asked me if he should send the script girl to Patrick Magee's house and go over his lines with him. I mean, this is Patrick Magee. Samuel Beckett's favourite actor! 'Not if you want a happy actor in the morning!' I said. There was a lot about actors that Stanley wasn't interested in."

"I don't think Stanley and Lindsay ever met, but if I wanted a bit of fun I would sometimes pit one against the other, for my own amusement. I'd go to Lindsay, 'I never have this problem from Kubrick, one of the world's greatest directors, and a populist director at that! Makes films that people want to see!'

"Lindsay would say, 'He's far too cynical for me,' and I'd say, 'Look who's talking! What is the difference between you and Stanley?' He'd go, 'I am a humanist. He is a satirist.' I think that is exactly the right distinction - Lindsay was always right"


The Guardian
Friday September 3, 2004

The man who gave me a slap in the face

Ten years after Lindsay Anderson's death, Malcolm McDowell explains why he can't let go of the director who changed his life.

I was Lindsay Anderson's kind of actor. I don't know why, but I was. I know he thought that I was a Brechtian (whatever that means) but I don't think I am. I think what he meant was that I play in a style that is not realistic, but which is still real. I met him at the audition for If . . . in 1967. We got on very well, but it was the second audition that was magical because it involved me getting a slap from this girl I was playing opposite. She slapped me into getting the part - and subsequently into doing Clockwork Orange, because Kubrick saw If ... five times and cast me from that.

The slap was part of a scene we were doing that I had not really prepared, but which she knew rather better than I did. When I read the script, it said: "Mick grabs hold of girl and kisses her passionately." But I did not read the following line, which said: "The girl slaps Mick like a son of a bitch." Which was exactly what she did - although in reality it was more of a punch. And I wasn't expecting it. That hit changed the whole dynamic of the audition.

Afterwards, when I was working on the original script for what became O Lucky Man!, I didn't know how to end the film, and I was also still obsessed with this slap. Lindsay just said, "Good, well we'll use it. You became a film star, so that's how you end it, with that slap." So, at the end of O Lucky Man!, as my character does an audition, just like the one for If ... , the director, played by Lindsay, hits me with the script. Later, I found a whole bit in his diary about that slap scene, in which Lindsay says of his own performance: "Am I good? I think so. Malcolm wore too much makeup."

Lindsay was an incredible man. When Lindsay walked into a room, it sort of gravitated around him somehow, partly because of who he was, and partly because of his own presence. His voice was rather clipped. "Now, now, Malcolm," he would say. "Come on, stop messing around. Good." He was a brilliant intellect and very generous with his time, just a delightful person to be around. I was young and I didn't know much about anything, so he was very important to me and we had a great friendship. He was someone you really could call at four in the morning and say, 'I'm in trouble. I need help.' "

But Lindsay was also a curmudgeon, and he could be very difficult at times. He used to write to reviewers, complaining. He was wasting his time, of course, but he couldn't help himself. If someone said to him, "Could we have an interview with you, Mr Anderson?," he would say, "Well I suppose I can give your career a bit of a leg-up." He was prickly, but you had to see under that. It was always "us and them" with him. But that's how great things are done. There's always an edge.

I used to have thunderous rows with him. I'd piss him off all the time. Sometimes I used to do things just to get a reaction, knowing he'd be listening. I'd come into his flat and rummage around in his private mail. "Good God, you were offered this film," I'd say, holding up a letter. "There's a perfect part for me in that. You should do it." I was just teasing him. "For God's sake put that down, it's private," he'd roar back. He's still very present, in a weird way.

I remember once inviting my girlfriend of the time on location at Cheltenham College. "Who's that girl?" asked Lindsay. "That's my girlfriend," I said. "Get her off the set," he replied. He thought she would be a distraction to me, and that wouldn't serve him. But that's all directors.

Working with him was like doing a film with an Oxford don - indeed he was very much the same on set as he was everywhere else. He was a wonderful director because he led the actors beautifully without them really knowing that they were being directed. He'd let you rehearse it, of course, and make a few suggestions, but usually that was it. Directors need to be prize manipulators.

What Lindsay instilled in me was nothing more than the simple confidence to be able to do it. If he wanted to interrupt your rhythm - if you'd said something really stupid - he would repeat what you said, and then just let it hang there. But I honestly can't remember him ever saying, "That's not good." It was always, "OK. Let's see how this looks."

He always pretty much knew what he wanted, though. Sometimes he would find other stuff in the scenes, and he would be very excited, but in the main he had a pretty good idea. He was very careful with his casting, too. It was hard to say which kinds of actors he preferred, but he didn't like campness; he liked real people. He liked you to make him believe - that was paramount. I honestly don't know of one actor who worked with Lindsay who didn't adore him.

From the time we met, I spoke to Lindsay at least once a week. If I had a difficult part, he'd read it and give me notes. In fact, on Clockwork Orange he gave me the key to the role. In a very simple way he helped me enormously. He told me to play Alex like a close-up I did in If ... when I smiled defiantly at the head boy as he was about to cane me. He said, "There's a close-up of you just looking at me and smiling. That's the way you play Clockwork Orange." I never mentioned this to Kubrick.

Lindsay loved gossip; that's one thing he really enjoyed. His letters were always filled with gossip. He'd like to hear you say something detrimental about another director or a production - which, of course, would have been a hell of a lot better if he had directed it. But just in a fun, friendly, game kind of way. He wheedled a few things out of me - that was part of the fun. But he'd give me all his gossip straight away: "Did you see Glenda Jackson? Oh my God, they got terrible reviews!" He wasn't one for jokes, though. I'd say, "I've got this joke," and he'd say, "Don't bother. I don't want to hear it."

I think that my show about him would have pleased Lindsay greatly - especially if he realised how much bloody effort went into it.

One of the great surprises in preparing it, for me, was seeing everything he wrote and how beautifully he expressed himself. This is from a letter to me in 1981: "I had a late supper one evening with Frank and Treat Williams ... Treat took us for a trip in his plane around the Manhattan skyline, an incredible, somehow touching sight. I wonder why? ... We passed so close to the World Trade Center buildings that we could see the diners innocently enjoying themselves in the restaurant. In the late-20th century, it's impossible not to see the whole great heart of the city as vulnerable, exposed to attack."

Lindsay was honestly my best friend who wasn't a contemporary. I never looked at him as a mentor, and I don't really like the term, but I suppose he was. I knew that if there was ever any apologising to be done, it would probably have to be from me. That was the price of the relationship.

He was gay, but he was a celibate homosexual. All the people that he loved were unattainable because they were heterosexual. I didn't really know that he was gay, and I wasn't going to ask him because it wasn't my business. He never, in any way, made a pass at me, although he took an enormous interest in me as a person, which I suppose had homosexual overtones to it. But sex was never an issue.

When he died, well what can you say? It didn't sink in for a while. And then you realise there are no more phone calls. But I never crossed his number out of my phone book. It's still there now.


Idaho Statesman
BY DANA OLAND - doland@idahostatesman.com
01/04/08

Malcolm McDowell on Lindsay Anderson

Malcolm McDowell met Lindsay Anderson at a nerve-wracking audition in 1967. At the time, McDowell had no idea that interaction would change his life.

Anderson cast McDowell as Mick Travis, the student revolutionary in "If" a film that propelled McDowell to stardom in England and led to McDowell's most famous role, as Alex de Large in Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange."

The two clicked on film and became lifelong friends. McDowell created a one-man show as an endearing tribute in 2004, on the 10th anniversary of Anderson's death. Now it's a film, directed and produced by Caldwell-based filmmaker Mike Kaplan, who, along with McDowell, will present the film, "Never Apologize," at a one-time showing Jan. 12 at the Egyptian Theatre. The showing is for an Idaho International Film Festival event.

The film is funny, poignant and fascinating as McDowell delves into Anderson's complex psyche and shares bits of theatrical and film lore and history. He recreates this evocative time in British film through his memories, Anderson's diaries, books and letters. He deftly recreates all the larger-than-life characters who intersected Anderson's story, including John Gielgud, Lillian Gish, John Ford, Bette Davis, Alan Bates and Rachel Roberts. Some may have fallen out of popular memory, but this film offers a chance to remember and explore some of the best films of that era.

As a filmmaker, Anderson helped shape our contemporary view of film as art.

Somewhat of a radical character, Anderson made movies that pushed at the social fabric of the 1960s. His films included the raw, gritty, Oscar-nominated "This Sporting Life" (1963), his groundbreaking trilogy "If," "O Lucky Man" and "Britannia Hospital" and the lyrical ode "The Whales of August."

The title for the piece comes from a mantra of Anderson: "I never apologize," even though he was easily one of the most difficult and demanding personalities around.

McDowell spoke about his friend from his California home last week.

Q: What was it that impelled you to create a piece of theater around Lindsay?

A: I was called up by the people who ran the Edinburgh Festival. They wanted me to be present at a retrospective they were going to have of Lindsay's films the next year. I rather glibly said, 'I'll do better than that. I'll do a show about him.' And I (cleared his throat) said that not really knowing what I was getting into, actually, but I did feel that a lot of people had forgotten who he was. And that I felt he was one of the greatest British directors ever. He's the nearest I've ever come to a genius. And I just wanted people to understand more about him and where he was coming from."

Q: What made him great?

A: "He could smell bullsh-- from a million miles away. Just having dinner with him was fabulous fun. He was an immense human being, a humanitarian if you like. Not in the sense of giving money out or something. His feeling for people was so immense. Lindsay and his world were very exciting during that period, which was the last really great period, I would hasten to say, in British film. Some people would argue with that. I think it was. Lindsay Anderson's work, along with Tony Richardson and Karel Reisz, was really the golden era of British film, and I got to be on the end of it, thank God."

Q: Who is continuing the legacy?

A: "The truth is, there really is no one like him. He was a rarity, like John Ford - the genius, the man himself. There are other great directors. They're very different.

"The thing that made Lindsay so special was that he took the classics at Oxford. I think, honestly, studying Greek theater had a great impact on him. Of course, Greece is where drama started. His sort of ethos was simplicity. You get to the point, without cluttering it. Keep it simple and then move on. He was such an original in that way. He was a great man of the theater who was a brilliant film director. He had a brilliant eye for the camera. Some of his shots were so poetic. I bet he lifted most of them from John Ford, I hope he did, because he lifted them from the master. But he used them with his own ironic sense.

"He was a unique voice that is sorely missed."

Jan. 12

'Never Apologize: A Personal Visit with Lindsay Anderson,' 7 p.m., Egyptian Theatre, 700 W. Main St., Boise. $50 for film and post-screening reception, at 387-1273. Film only: $15 general, $12 students. Reception only: $40.

SELECTED FILMS IN WHICH MALCOLM MCDOWELL APPEARED

"If..." (1968)

"A Clockwork Orange" (1971)

"O Lucky Man!" (1973)

"Voyage of the Damned" (1976)

"Time After Time" (1979)

"Caligula" (1979)

"Britannia Hospital" (1982)

"Cat People" (1982)

"Blue Thunder" (1983)

"Star Trek Generations" (1994)

"I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" (2003)

"Halloween" (2007)

WHO'S WHO IN 'NEVER APOLOGIZE'

In "Never Apologize," actor Malcolm McDowell takes you on a journey through a pivotal time in filmmaking. Here are some names to know to help you along the way.

Richard Harris: Today's audiences know him for originating the role of Albus Dumbledore in the "Harry Potter" films. But in his early career, he was a visceral leading man of stage and screen. He worked with Lindsay Anderson in the Academy Award-nominated "This Sporting Life" (1963) and "The Field," (1990). He received Oscar nominations for both roles. He also starred in the film version of the musical "Camelot."

Mr. Fish: Fashion designer Michael Fish led the "Peacock Revolution" in men's fashion. His designs included floral shirts adorned with ruffles and embroidery, colorful, striped jackets and slim-cut slacks. In 1968, he opened his shop, called Mr. Fish, from which he sold his very wide ties shaped like kippers.

John Ford: Ford often is overlooked in the canon of great directors because he worked in a pulp genre of Westerns. But from there, he revolutionized filmmaking and inspired multiple generations with his innovative camera shots. He is probably one of the most referenced directors in cinema. Ford directed his first film in 1917 and his last in 1976. Some of his best include "Stagecoach," (1939), "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940), "The Searchers" (1956), and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962).

David Sherwin: Screenwriter who penned Lindsay Anderson's film trilogy "If," "O Lucky Man," and "Britannia Hospital." He also worked on John Schlesinger's "Sunday Bloody Sunday," but did not receive credit.

John Schlesinger: British film director who created a string of influential films, including "Far From the Madding Crowd" (1967), "Midnight Cowboy" (1969), "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (1971) and "Marathon Man" (1976).

Rachel Roberts: Talented and hugely successful British actress who received an Oscar nomination for her role in Lindsay Anderson's "This Sporting Life." She married Rex Harrison, best known as Professor Henry Higgins and the original Dr. Doolittle. She died of an overdose of barbiturates in 1980.

Alan Bates: British actor with more than 80 films to his credit, including "Georgy Girl," "Far From the Madding Crowd," Franco Zeffirelli's "Hamlet" and was part of the award-winning ensemble of Robert Altman's "Gosford Park." He was nominated for an Academy Award in 1969 for "The Fixer."

Catherine Deneuve: This French-born actress has long been considered one of the most luminous and talented actresses of all time. Some of her best known films include "Belle de Jour," (1967) "Les Demoiselles de Rochefort," (1967) "Mayerling" (1968) and "Indochine" (1992), for which she was nominated for an Oscar

 

 


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