Sir Michael Caine on Old Movie Stars, Young Cockneys, and Life Lessons


This is kick ass news. I'm Ben Mathis. With all the stresses of life. It can be easy to lose perspective on what really matters. But Heineken believes that life is about being with friends in opening yourself to new experiences because when you live spontaneously and embraced the unexpected. It's a chance to create new stories and connections. You just have to open it. So enjoy a refreshingly cold full-bodied Heineken lager today with its deep golden color, light, fruity, aroma, mild, bitter, taste and a crisp clean finish. Cheers. Hi, I'm Ben Mathis. Welcome to kick ass news with over a hundred movies and two Academy Awards to his credit over six decades Hollywood legend, Michael Caine as one of our best loved actors, he starred in a huge range of films from the classic movies, Alfie Zulu and the Italian job to the Hollywood blockbusting dark Knight. Trilogy dirty, rotten scoundrels Hannah and her sisters and the cider house rules. Michael Cain has excelled in every kind of roll with a skill that makes it look easy. He knows what success takes because he's made it to the pinnacle of his profession from humble origins. But as he says, small parts can lead to big things. And if you keep doing things, right? The stars will align when you least expect it now in his eighty fifth year, he wants to share everything he's learned in his new book blowing the bloody doors off and other lessons in life. And today he joins me over the phone to talk about the book. And his remarkable career. He discusses why he never used to believe in taking advice from older movie stars his humble beginnings in the working class projects of London known as the elephant castle. And how the nineteen sixties changed everything and made it cool to be a young cockney in the movies. He shares how he learned disciplined serving in the Korean war. And why it's not just enough to be a good actor as he says, you have to make reliability your brand he talks about coming out of his self imposed retirement some twenty years ago and says he's getting better parts now than he did when he was a young leading man, and he has no plan to stop anytime soon. Plus why John Wayne never wore suede shoes? John Houston on directors most important job doing Vegas with Frank Sinatra, and the rat pack and Michael Caine on who does the best impression of Michael Caine? All that and more coming up in just a moment. Sir. Michael Caine has been Oscar-nominated six times winning his first Academy Award for the nineteen Eighty-six film Hannah and her sisters and his second in nineteen ninety nine for the cider house rules. He has starred in over one hundred films becoming well known for several critically acclaimed performances, including his first major film role in Zulu in nineteen sixty four followed by films, including the Chris files. Get Carter Alfie the Italian job dirty rotten scoundrels in educating Rita and more recently, the dark Knight is anybody there in Harry Brown. He was appointed a CB in nineteen ninety two and knighted in two thousand in recognition of his contributions to cinema. He's written a new book, titled blowing the bloody doors off and other lessons in life, sir. Michael Caine, thanks for joining me over the phone from across the pond thank yous. A while. You're now eighty five years old and still go and strong. Still working a lot. In fact, you've done some of your best work in recent years. And now you wanna share some of what you've learned with the younger generation. That's something of a shift in your thinking, isn't it because you say in here that you never used to believe in taking advice from old movie stars. Why not well because the advice I ever got from other actors was give out you're not good enough. It is true everything and any out out director ever said to me was negative. And they said, you know, Mike, oh, you know, your your lovely, boy unite boy, and everything, you know, by looking but give up you're not gonna make a lot of producers said that to me when I first started everybody said that to me, I I'm, but one of the reasons I wrote the book was that I was watching television one day, and I saw a load of young people being off what what they wanted would going to do in life. And everybody said I want to be this. I want to do that one of the several of them said something which which truck. They said, they owe said I want to be rich and famous which I thought was very, you know, not a great idea in life because I I became an actor knowing absolutely knowing the I would never be famous. I would never be that sex. I think company accent I'd been in the army and Korea. I came out I had malaria after you by shin period. You know, it takes months malaria that he was Harman's civilian street. But when when the malaria hit me, so I was skinny pale yellow company act said not movie style material. So I said on a career just to be the best that I could possibly be with no reference to anybody else. Because you know, I knew that always be actors who were better than me, and there'd be active who it was me. I just said out. I wanted to put this point across as less of the young people. He just said out to do what you want to do and beat the best that you can possibly be acted and let God take care of the rest right because when you came up as an actor in the sixties, no leading men were glasses. But I guess you decided to be the cool guy with glasses. A no, relating med tote. We company accident leaving bed with from working class backgrounds in England. It was the sixties where I made my name. And and that was because of the social revolution. That was brought about I mean, not by any one person not even deliberately it was just a how group of young people who had grown up in very strange circumstances. If you think dubs my generation the eldest of us have which are on the in in in the nineteen thirties. Then we went in when we were six hours six to twelve I was in the second World War when I've got. Eighteen I was sent to Korea defy. Chinese me. I we this is not the noble upbringing for a young person. We got we came home. And we were in the fifties. There was still rationing. You couldn't buy anything and London where all the people co for he and so it was massive smoke, and it was a miserable city that there was no places to go nothing to do. And then in the sixties Khrushchev said, we have the atom bomb. You have full minutes to live if we drop it. I without anybody know group node leaders. No, nothing just other own thousands of just said, well, we got from minutes to live. Let's have a good time. Unless what we did you start out the book with the advice that where you start out doesn't have to be where you end up, and you would know you grew up as a working class kid from the elephant or the projects as we yanked would call them and back then England still had something of a rigid caste system. That's it because I was nobody from nowhere who knew nothing. But you said when the sixties came along it was a great time to be a young cockney with him Bishen. Yeah. Well, the first thing we got was the most important, and we got the writers. Yeah. You know, we I mean, we nobody had written. I one one of my first jobs in the theater in London. I am too studied Peter out to in a play called along the show the toll which was about British soldiers. Well, that was the first British play ever written about private soldiers. Interesting. The rest have been about officers. Yeah. That's was the stop the change. I in things and then Bill Knowlton. Alton road outfit working class. Boy, Jonah's boom rogue look back in anger about rucking costs man, the writing came along and made the rest of us. You mentioned a moment ago your service in the Korean war, you describe it as the worst experience of your life. But also, one of the most valuable or there things that you learned in the military that have served you. Well as an actor. Oh, yeah. I learned could come conserves. That's a good test. I mean, you know, something I've always said. To my children and grandchildren. I've said no matter what situation you're in is bad. Look at it because you can use the difficulty, you know, I had by using the difficulty in in in Korea was I got myself into a situation where I thought I was going to die. And I the mind why was was I counted? And I wasn't and that helped me for the rest of my life, and you can bring things like that. Right up to date in as much as if you get if you get oldest thing about producers assaulting actresses, you know, in the metoo, everything this is a terrible thing. Terrible. But a good thing, of course, is come out of it you use the difficult. They the good thing that came out of that was that for fifty years now. No producer would death sexually harassed an actress because he knows you're going to be for tomorrow morning. Absolutely. And speaking of womanisers you. You got your first Oscar nomination for playing a womanizer and Alfie. But you say that when Alfie came out a lot of people, especially women confused, Michael Cain with the character. In assume that you were the skirt-chasing love them and leave them type. But you're never liked that the way you've you'd women was entirely different from the way Alfie treated women. Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Oh, yeah. I think it started off with my mother adored my mother. My mother was a wonderful woman and a wonderful influence on me. And. I fall agents in my career and three of them women. The two women who run Mike the two people who run my career now county Howard tight. Both women, and that's right. I forgot that you were Tony Howard. She's just great. I wanna ask you about coming up in the British cinema in the sixties right in the middle of the whole mod revolution. And for movie goers around the world, and especially here in America. One British film franchise loomed, very large in the culture in those days. I'm of course, talking about the JAMES BOND movies. You were close friends with Sean Connery, and Roger Moore, and you got an early break in your career from Harry Saltzman, the producer of the bond series were you ever up for JAMES BOND or did you ever aspire to be JAMES BOND? Oh, no. No, no, no. I wasn't on. I was more real person on is a character. Fabulous carry, obviously, we know. But I wasn't. I wasn't like that. That's true. But you did kind of get to play the working man's JAMES BOND in the Chris files, I know showing was working class. But I I was real work. You know, shown was a big guy. I mean. It was it was a big write lift, they he was missed the Edinburgh news massive mind, but I never never thought of being JAMES BOND him alive. And it was right after the Chris files and Alfie that you started getting interest for movie studios in the US when you first came to Los Angeles Uribe just at the tail end of the golden age of Hollywood, and you were lucky enough to get to know some of the great screen icons, including some who were your personal heroes. Who were you most starstruck by? Well, I think it was Frank Sinatra. Yeah. You dated his daughter for a while didn't you? Yeah. We we didn't we were framed love affair or anything that we would just friend went out together case. But but that that's how I met Frank for for for Nancy junior e took a shine to me is because of my accent. He I was very funny. I made him laugh a lot, you know, what was old blue eyes. Like was he a good guy because I've heard stories of how if he was your friend. He was the best guy in the world. But if you got on his bad side, he had this hair trigger temper in his mood could just turn on a dime. And he could go from treating you like a brother to being just vicious. HA quickly. You know? A but not with me, really. He he found my accent funny. I just I moan if they start laughing. And I had this little relationship with him a. It I done it. But just weird and a took me to Vegas, you know. And I had this incredible time with him. It was wonderful wonderful who are your other favorites from the golden age that you actually got to know, you know, I'm Greg peck, who was about five, Gregory, Peck, my favorite actor, Jack Lemmon, and Walter Matthau and oldies great people, you know, I I had a wonderful time. I missed several of my favorites. I dropped Gable was already dead. Have both was already dead, but I did mate and became funds become friends with Carrie who's fabulous will carry grant is another actor who like you came from a British working class background. But then he came to Hollywood, and he sort of reinvented himself as this very posh. Well, dressed Englishman just as if he had been to the manor born. Yeah. You had to do that in order to make it you know, you had to become partially. I mean, Roger became caught push read your. He was the son of a policeman. Oh, yeah. That's true. I you know in Brixton, which is a low clouds work place of London. They avoided this working class thing. And the supreme example of that is Richard button who very working class. But that he too early for the sixties he was on his own, and he was a very poor family. But but no one was writing working Klaus stuff, and he became a classical actor just like the rest of them will Libya, the John Gielgud Ralph Richardson, he became a class British actor, the classical Shakespeare and everything, but I mean, he did look back in anger. I know he did the film. A with the first big working class play. And speaking of Richard Burton, you were part of that group of British actors in the sixties who partied hard and drank a lot like Peter O'Toole, and Richard Harris. Oh, yes, it never affected your career. But at a certain point, you're worried about your health and part of the reason you decided to curb your drinking was because you had seen what it did to Richard Burton. Oh, yeah. Richard Richard destroyed. So well lot of they, you know, they have a lot of actors who died who famous, but my friends who died of alcoholism there about five of them died of alcoholism along the way. Who could have all been famous, but they successful at least they'll famous, but but they oh died of alcoholism. Yeah. And I also want to give credit to your wife Shaquir who you say probably saved your life by getting you to moderate, you're drinking. That's a good woman. Oh, yeah. I met my wife OT seven years ago. And obviously thinking I wasn't obvious obvious probably on the fringes of alcohol. I was thinking a lot, but I met her and she stopped at well. I she didn't stop it I met, and she gave me all the reasons. She negated all the reasons I had for drinking on my own. I was lonely. I was nervous. I was in a very highly competitive business, and we were all like that. We're going to take a quick break. And then it'll be back with more with, sir. Michael Caine when we come back in just a minute. Almost every day. We hear something on the news about a cyber attack. 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Energy blend that's complete with taurine and B-vitamins Espresso monster certainly got me going this morning, and it tastes so good. I'd drink in any way. You gotta give it a try folks, close your eyes, take a sip and enjoy Espresso monster today. And now back to the podcast. You open the book by recalling some advice. You got when you first came to Los Angeles from a real Hollywood legend who started by making a hell of an entrance outside the Beverly Hills hotel where you were staying at the time story, I'm talking about could you tell it. Oh, yeah. John wayne. Yeah. The Duke John Wayne about what happened. Is that Shelly McLean seen Alfie, and they were looking for a leading man for new film. And I don't think they had to budget for big proper stuff. They chose me gambit. And I got the Hollywood the guy, and they put me in a lovely sweet in the Beverly Hills hotel, but then surely was like Hollywood because the pictures she was doing over. And so I was stuck in this Beverly Hills hotel luxury suite for week without coq into anybody because nobody knew I was there. I didn't know anybody who was there either. And so I used to go down and lobby an save Agassi any film stars. So, you know, and then what they did John Wayne landed in a helicopter. Alaba standing, and I was sitting in the lobby, you know, because I was what is Jim Wayne Blimey. It was only very impressed. And he was signing. He was filling his cowboy uniform you've been shooting in somewhere, and he came in and helicopter strike from the set because it was either the weekend or the end of the movie never found out that but he suddenly saw me and he said to me what's your name kit. I said Michael Caine, he said, you're not movie Alfie. I guess it. I saw that my home said couple of weeks ago kit head you're going to be a big stall. So I said, oh, thank you. So so he said let me give you some vice. Let's hit. Okay. He said togue LA toque slow does through fucker much. Thank you. So and then then he said, and I don't suede shoes. And he said never wish way. Choose why. Why? No, it's because as I just told you you're going to be a movie star famous said you'll be into toilet taking a piss and a guy come up next year. And they're looking recognize you're gonna turn on you as I Michael Cain and he'll piss oh, lovey issues. Vice? Royce white shoes again. Now, you've also had the privilege of working with some very talented directors including Woody Allen, Richard Attenborough. Brian depalma, Sydney lament Stanley done and Chris Nolan and you did two movies with the great John Houston was he liked to work with did to give you much direction? Abe was fabulous. What I said. In one day. I said what's the other direction? Michael he said casting cast it, right? You don't have to do anything else. If you have a rest like I said, it's like you and shown, you know, you're pretty private soldiers. That's fine. You at the both being pretty private sodas that was that. He said then went on. I was working on the movie, and I was doing this, very long speech. And I thought I was doing very well. And he he shouted Cup in the middle of these stopped. It I didn't know why it stopped it. Rod you stop that. And he just said he gave it vice about human beings. You said you could speak fast too, Michael. He's an honest man, though, whenever anyone slowly worry about them. Yeah. That makes sense because a person who's not being honest test to think about what they're saying. Think about what they're going to say. Yeah. Yeah. Exactly said if faucet, a people speak. He said the better is and then the other he said, which was impressed. We we would he never gave me any direction in one day. I said. Join us it you'd never give me any direction. He said, you get paid a great deal of money to do this, Michael. You don't need to tell you what to do. And that was it. But I I love to John who said I thought he was really really great director in you also worked with auto premature who I've heard was a notorious bully. How did you handle him? I said to him one day because I knew he was a notorious bully. Like, I said. Please bully Mesa. I said because a very sensitive busted the TIs run into. Vesey will come out. Yeah. And he said my goal. He said I would never shout a Alfie. Laid off. Late up it'd be baby fae dial away cut all the crap. She really got to go by. I wanna talk a little bit about your process. You've come to be known for having a certain economy to your acting style. You're not one for big showy gestures or loud performances is it hard to control the impulse to go big when you're acting. I take it easy because you're not playing an actor, and you are not acting. You our reveal person and people can say that they're not in the nobody is twenty feet away twenty yards away from the stage. It camera is a two feet away from your face. And if you're not a real person, they will see that they don't want to see acting. They wanna see reality. And that's that's what you do in the movie. I wonder do you think the you learn this more economical acting style of yours as a product of the fact that you grew up looking up to the American film stars like Bogart and Brando as opposed to the more theatrically trained, British actors, like say, a Livia or gilded. That's right. Yeah. See I never went to. I went to the Senate. Yeah. I know. So a lucky thing from the sixties happened was we all looked up on these Hollywood stars. You know as a great stars like like God's, right? There was a certain degree of inaccessibility movie stars back then, but what happened in the sixties with people started to look at actors who would just like them. And that's how we became stars. Because people didn't think we would God's people thought we were them, which we were. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And you're a method actor, so you're always studying people. Yeah. I went to John Littlewood's theatre in Stratford in England, which is a communist theater and Stanislavsky Russia's you know, and I learned a lot from her. But but she also fired me. Why because I was rehearsing a play. I he said, what do you think you'll doing? Because the play is is. She'd know what are you doing? Well, why are you doing this? What what what what she said? This is a group the Mico you join a group yet. We are a group. Like, what am I doing? You'll be 'having an acting like a star and India, and she fired me she said pissed off the shelf. Brave new which is where Broadway, you know? I she said I wasn't a real method of working with the other actors, Storrow Moyal wishy. Right. Like what? I suppose so but I did not have signed it. I didn't know what the hell. She was talking about. Well, you yourself have a lot of good advice for actors in this book blowing the bloody doors off you tell the Spiring actors to make reliability part of your personal brand you take your work seriously. And you're very deliberate and disciplined about it. And that seems to have served you pretty well in your career. Oh, yeah. Oh, you go to not be there. No the lines. You got to know the lines of respect your other actors, by way, of example, could you walk us through your daily process on a film shoot on film show is I I keep learning my large right up until we should then. But I'm always relaxed on the set always get the house relaxed. Then you go into the character just before and say, they're just before they say your philosophy is the rehearsal is the work in the acting is the relaxation. Yeah. Did shooting shooting of the same as you relaxed after doing all that well on rehearsals, you know, exactly what you're doing. You know over lines. Now, you can relax and do it always bring a pencil. Yeah. You've always been an actor who works a lot. Even after you supposedly retired over twenty years ago. You've still done over forty movies. Why is it as simple as the more movies? You do the minner chance you have of getting good ones. Well, I I love doing. I love I love acting yet. You remember I was an amateur actor. I did it just for fun of it. I I love doing it. I I love movies. I love making movies. You know, I thought I'd retired. When I was sixty a script of producer Senate beggar said, the pastas Morley Sunday, basically, you're not supposed to read the lover is supposed to read the father of that was it's was sixty and retired. And I wrote my autobiography at the Miami aboard an apartment for for the winter and the restaurant which was very successful a thought just stayed in Miami. And I wrote my older bug. We was just go the the elephant Hollywood based on the fact, I come from a district in love the code. The elephant because call so I wrote that I'd retired. You know, now would plenty of money in the Bank at the restaurant was making money. I became Jack Nicholson lived there, we've become friends and then one day he came to me with the script blood wine. And he said you want to go to work again is is the story of say he was a stall they've fabulous actor I loved him. And he said the wonderful part of it for you, an I've got this part, which wasn't the starring role. And that's how became a contractor movies. I gave up style them. And I mean, very up to build high up, and they'll that by how career I the kademi award for the side of the house rules. I did six movies with with Chris Nolan by mind, inception, and all those I did some of the best work of my life after I retired. Right. In fact, you say you're actually getting better parts now than you did when you were something leading man, what do you like more about the? Roles. You're playing today. Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. I I've had a wonderful time doing it. Now. I've I've come to the conclusion that you retire from movies movies and retire us. So if they keep sending me scripts, and like, why did we usually do I'll do it? Now that you have a little less time and other priorities in life. Do you find that you're becoming pickier about the roles? You choose. Oh my God. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I did many movies for the money, you know, but I but much picky now. Well, I was very broke. When I was young, you know, they'll had a whole family had no money used to do movies. Just a couple of weeks. I think that you said that now one of your biggest criteria for film is the location if it somewhere that's pleasant that your family wants to go like say, dirty rotten scoundrels. And that's a big factor in whether you do a big fight. So. Yeah. My family. Three, grandchildren. Now, they go to come home. Choose except for Prague, which I'm shooting in now, my grandchildren don't wanna go there. But everybody else does because that's a great city that I've been there before I shot a movie forget what it was. But about thirty years ago showed a movie there was sort of delighted to read that one of your favorite experiences on a film was dirty rotten scoundrels because I was a kid and that was my introduction to you win. That can I watch. Films. Riviera I mean, what could be better than that? So they rented a house for me because I was down there with my family. I had two daughters at that time. I they rented the house between Roger Moore, Leslie, Bricusse, the composer who would to my closest friends. It was wonderful wonderful laughs, you said that you once did a scene with Glenn Headley where you had fifty takes because you kept cracking up. We couldn't we couldn't stop laughing. So young, you know, a young woman like that of a how a woman of heart attack. You know, I always shade how tax with old men. And there was this young wonderful woman. Fabulous actress, I was so upset speaking of older men. I laughed out loud. When I read you say that you really don't feel your age at eighty five, but you feel it when you're on a film set, and you see your stand in. Yeah. You suddenly fade itself my daughter-in-law. And then you go who say they said this you're standing. Okay. How other people see me? Yeah. Family's definitely as you said a bigger priority. Now, you've been married to your lovely wife for forty seven years. I'm about to take myself in literally three days. Gimme a little advice. Michael, how do you keep it going that long separate bathrooms? Never share a bathroom. I love you. Anything? Let me ask you this Michael, do you think Hollywood is as glamorous today as it was when you first came to town. No, I don't think so what it is. They've come for these very big pictures. You know, like Star Wars no of that sort of thing. So you never get a glamorous personal films much any what you do. But then so so many of them Hollywood was made up of those. When when I first went there they made the occasional blockbuster. Great big film side, big Jim or something. But now, that's all they make it seems to me. Well, I've so enjoyed the book in the interview before we go I just have to ask there are many people who have made quite a thing of doing Michael Caine impressions. Who do you think does the best Michael Caine present company? Excepted, of course. Oh, yeah. Yeah. I'm well. I I've never seen it. I was doing an interview for CNN the other day. I they brought on Debbie doing clips of people who did impressions of me. I'm stunned by the impression done by Tom Hanks. Saturday Night Live on Saturday Night Live. I. He's got to do the accent. And he's an American, you know, easy. And so I I love Tom Hanks's actor anyway, so he's my favorite. Well, tell me how I'm doing here. Elo name is Michael that's a terrible one never mind. I did a better one earlier. Got it never mind. Well, once more, sir. Michael Caines book is called blowing the bloody doors off and other lessons in life. Cer- Michael Caine, this has been fun. Thanks so much for the chat. Thanks so much for me. It's been fun for me to. Thank you Bye-bye. Thanks again to serve Michael Caine for coming on the podcast order, his book, blowing the bloody doors off and other lessons in life on Amazon audible or wherever books are sold and follow him on Twitter at the Michael Cain. When you need energy on the go and don't have time to wait in line. Grab a spread Munster Espresso monster is a premium blend of Espresso in cream made with freshly brewed Espresso coffee, Mormon free milk into unique energy blend complete with taurine and B-vitamins each can has three shots of Espresso in comes in vanilla spread. So or Espresso in cream flavors, close your eyes, take a sip and enjoy a spread. So monster today, if you haven't already be sure to subscribe to kick ass news on itunes and leave us a review, you can follow us on Facebook or on Twitter at at kick-ass news pod. And as always, I welcome your comments questions and ideas at comments at kick ass, news dot com. I'm Ben Mathis. And thanks for listening to kick ass news. Kick ass. News is a trademark of Mathis entertainment Inc.

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