I've never been a big fan of Michael Caine, but I recognize he's done a lot of interesting work. (My favorite film of his is probably The Man Who Would Be King
.) I saw his autobiography The Elephant To Hollywood
in the library and checked it out. He wrote it five years ago, and it's actually his second memoir. The first he wrote about 25 years ago, when he figured his Hollywood career was coming to a close. How wrong he was, so he wrote another, though its still covers his life from the beginning.
Born in London in 1933, he saw both poverty and war in his childhood. At a certain point, he figured he wanted to be an actor--couldn't see himself doing anything else. There was some involuntary time off for national service and fighting in the Korean War, but aside from that he spent over a decade working in theatre, movies and TV to become an overnight success. His actual name was Maurice Micklewhite, but that wouldn't do. For a while he was Michael Scott, but when he wanted to join the union, that was taken, so he changed in to Michael Caine in honor of The Caine Mutiny
and his favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart.
His first big break was in the 1964 film Zulu
, where he played an upper class British lieutenant, even though cockney came more naturally to him. Tall, handsome and talented, he was soon offered lead roles, and made The Ipcress File
one after another. Before you knew it he was an international star. The womanizing Alfie is still one of the roles he's most identified with. These were British productions, and he was next invited to Hollywood, by Shirley MacLaine, to costar with her in Gambit
. Now he was really big time.
One thing about Caine--he believed in working. For most of his career he's appeared in at least two films a year, perhaps figuring if this one doesn't work, the next one will. He often played in action roles and crime dramas, but being in so many movies, there's hardly a genre he hasn't tried.
He's done a lot of memorable work, really too many titles to mention here. So let me just list his Oscar nominated lead performances--Alfie
(1972), Educating Rita
(1983) and The Quiet American
(2002). Then there are his two Oscar-winning roles, both for Supporting Actor: Hannah And Her Sisters
(1986) and The Cider House Rules
For years he was a leading man, but as he approached his 60s, he more and more played character roles. Over the past couple decades, he's been, for instance, quite a few fathers of the lead. Perhaps he's best known to young people today as Alfred the butler in Christopher Nolan's Batman movies. So he went from Alfie to Alfred. Quite a life.