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Michael Caine - Idol Chatter
Michael Caine - Idol Chatter

AT 72, WITH OVER 100 MOVIES TO YOUR CREDIT, YOUR THIRD FILM OF 2005, THE WEATHER MAN, IS OPENING. THIS MAY SOUND ODD, BUT YOU’RE REALLY VERY ‘CHER’Y’ALL BOTH JUST GO ON AND ON.
But I haven’t had my face lifted yet. (laughs) Listen, I’ve been a movie freak since I was a kid—and a very thin one, ‘cause I used to play truant from school and go to movies with my lunch money. I’m a movie person. But I don’t need money anymore so I just do what I think will be fun. So this year I was Batman’s butler, Nicole Kidman’s dad [Bewitched] and now I’m Nicholas Cage’s father—I always try to stretch myself and playing a rich American in Weather Man is about as far from me as you can get. Not the rich part, the American part. (laughs)

YEAH, YOU’RE TOTAL BRIT. WHY, YOU AND YOUR LONGTIME BUDDIES, SEAN CONNERY AND ROGER MOORE, ARE NOW EVEN KNIGHTS.
(grandly) I’m one of the queen’s knights! (laughs) We all love being it and doing it, but we don’t do anything about it. Except Ben Kingsley: Ben insists on being called ‘Sir’ by everybody everywhere. But I never use it—I just revel quietly inside.


WHAT’S BETTER? A KNIGHTHOOD OR YOUR OSCARS FOR HANNAH AND HER SISTERS AND THE CIDER HOUSE RULES?
A knighthood—an Oscar is for a single performance and a knighthood is for a life. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

BUT IT’S WEIRDI KEPT FINDING LITTLE CLASSIST JABS TO YOUR “LOWER CLASS” BACKGROUND IN THE BRITISH PRESS.
Oh, yeah. One of those guys recently said to me [re: Batman Begins’s Alfred], “Of course, it’s so much easier to play servants, isn’t it?” (laughs) The snobbery of that remark sums up really a great deal of my life. But I’ve done a lot in England to help destroy the class system and I’m very proud of that.

AND EVER SINCE THE 1-2-3 PUNCH OF [1964’S] ZULU, [1965’S] THE IPCRESS FILE, AND [1966’S] ALFIE YOU’VE BEEN ONE OF BRITAIN’S GREATEST EXPORTS. BUT, HEY, WHAT’D YOU THINK OF JUDE LAW’S ALFIE?
It wasn’t Alfie. Jude and I are good friends—we have a re-write of Sleuth by Harold Pinter we may do—but they should have called it “Charley” or “Billy” or something. Because the world has moved on: There are no real Alfies anymore—women haven’t allowed it.

IS THAT GOOD OR BAD?
A bit of both. (laughs)

YOU WERE A POSTER BOY OF 60’S ‘SWINGING LONDON,’ NOT TO MENTION A GUY WHO ONCE LIVED A THREE-BOTTLES-OF-VODKA A DAY LIFESTYLE. IS IT TRUE THAT YOU STOPPED DRINKING FOR [1972’S] SLEUTH AND LAURENCE OLIVIER?
Yes—I stopped drinking and he started drinking. (laughs) But the greatest compliment ever paid to me in my professional life was from Olivier once after we’d finished a take. He said, “I thought I had an assistant—I see now I have a partner.”

ANY UBER-HUSTONIAN MEMORIES OF JOHN HUSTON AND [1975’S] THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING?
I remember Sean [Connery] had to walk out on a very long, very scary rope bridge. He said, “I was here yesterday and this bridge was straight. Today it’s crooked.” John said, “Sean, it’s exactly the same as it was yesterday. It’s just that today you’ve got to walk on it.” (laughs) I always thought if you heard God talk it would sound like John.

BY 1983’S EDUCATING RITA YOU’D RE-JIGGED YOUR PERSONA AND
Yeah, that was the sort of turn-around from the ‘leading man’—you know, gainin’ the weight, getting’ the beard and lookin’ drunk and disorderly. I wanted to do something where you didn’t see me at all—and that’s what I’ve been trying to do ever since.

SO WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT HOLLYWOOD 2005?
There’s always been big stars with entourages, but now you get people who think they’re big stars so they have to have an entourage. They forget they’re paying them and wind up in Chapter 11 going, “Wait! Aren’t I a star?” (laughs)

NO, BUT YOU ARE. SO, SUM UP YOUR HALF A CENTURY IN THE MOVIES, PLEASE SIR.
From Alfie to Alfred. Respect at last.

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