- Golden Globe Awards
Michael Caine at 90: What It’s All About
“What’s It all About” is the title of one of Michael Caine’s autobiographies, written in 1992. At 90 he no longer poses the sentence as a question. He has it figured out.
Witty. Smart. Talented. Sir Michael Caine – after all he is a Commander of the British Empire, knighted by the Queen, one of whose favorite actors he was – is all that and more. He is one of the hardest working actors of all time: to date he has appeared in 177 films and TV productions, with another one coming out this year, The Great Escaper, a lovely story about a man who runs away from from his care home to attend the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings in France. As he once laughingly told the HFPA: “I’m a workaholic who was an alcoholic who needed the work to finance my addiction.” His work ethic did not change after he quit drinking, however. And he still has not stopped, despite the fact that a year ago he had surgery on his spine to repair his walking ability, and briefly considered retirement. As he told the BBC: “I’m now not an actor, I’m a writer, which is lovely because as an actor, you have to get up, out by six in the morning and go to the studio. The writer, you just start writing without leaving the bed.”
In the summer he revised that plan, was seen out and about, braving London’s streets with a walking stick and signing on to do Now You See Me 3. “I haven’t retired and not a lot of people know that,” he tweeted on October 16 of last year.
Here are a few fun facts about Caine, who was born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite in an undesirable London neighborhood and grew up with a heavy Cockney accent that he got rid of when he was cast against type in Zulu (1964) as a snobbish, aristocratic army officer.
His agent advised him to ditch his last name, and he chose Caine after seeing a billboard of The Caine Mutiny, but did not legally change his name until 2016, when he admitted to being sick of having his documents not matching his stage name, which led to his not being treated favorably while traveling.
In the 1960s he was smoking four packs of cigarettes and drinking two bottles of vodka a day. He quit smoking in 1971 after Tony Curtis lectured him at a party, but continued to smoke the occasional cigar until he was 70. In the delightful documentary about his life, 2017’s My Generation, he recounts the moment when he also gave up drinking and drugs after he failed to flag down a London taxi because he was so high: “It was midnight. I was trying to get a cab home from Grosvenor Square to Notting Hill Gate and I was standing on the corner, laughing maniacally. No cab would stop for me. I had to walk all the way home to Notting Hill. It also affects the memory and as an actor, I have to remember lines.”
He shared an apartment with Terence Stamp when they were both struggling actors and tried to talk him into taking the title role in Alfie, the film that ultimately turned him – Michael – into a star. He also turned down Doctor Zhivago and even suggested that David Lean hire Omar Sharif. Richard Burton owes him the lead part in Where Eagles Dare (1968), which he had also rejected. Roles that he was considered for but didn’t get include Tootsie, Fellini’s Casanova and a bunch of Bond villains.
In the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s he could often be seen at his favorite restaurant, Spago on Sunset, and later in Beverly Hills with his group of best friends, the Bonds Sean Connery and Roger Moore, and the music legends Andrew Lloyd Webber and Elton John, all Sirs like him.
He never really contemplated retirement: “If I retired at 65, I would never have won an Academy Award for The Cider House Rules, I would never have done a picture with Jack Nicholson and would not have done all those Batman movies with Christopher Nolan.”
He won three Golden Globes (for Educating Rita, 1984, Jack the Ripper, 1989 and Little Voice, 1999), was nominated another eight times and gave one of the funniest speeches in Globe history:
He met his second wife, Shakira, after seeing her in a coffee commercial directed by then unknown Ridley Scott and chased her until she agreed to go on a date with him. They have been married for almost five decades and after many years of avoiding the British taxes by making a home in Los Angeles, they now reside in London, living close to their daughter, Natasha, 48.
And, like fine wine, the star continues to age well.