New Again: Michael Caine

By and
Photography Aaron Rapoport

Published March 7, 2012

ABOVE: MICHAEL CAINE IN 1986.

Happy 79th birthday, Sir Michael Caine! And Quincy Jones, who also turns 79 today (twins?). And Albert Einstein, who would be 133, but sadly died in 1955. Sir Michael has had a very fruitful and long-stretching career; when Interview last spoke to him via Joan Collins in June of 1986, (evidently, keeping in touch with old friends is not always our strong suit) Michael had just finished filming his 52nd film, Sweet Liberty. Although Caine’s most iconic roles are those of his early career—Alfie, Charlie Crocker in The Italian Job, Jack Carter, Peachy Carnehan in The Man Who Would be King—and he now tends to favour supporting roles, we still delight in Caine’s screen presence. He has the ability to make a rather suspect-sounding romantic comedy amusing (Miss Congeniality), and we wouldn’t want to watch a Christopher Nolan film in which Caine was not featured. Indeed, Caine and Jack Nicholson are the only two actors to have been nominated for an Oscar in each of the last five decades. We’ve reprinted our 1986 feature on Caine below and remembered many fun facts while re-reading it. For example: Caine’s best friend is Roger Moore (what we would give to be a fly on the wall of one of their bro-dates), and he did not learn to drive until he was 50 (The Italian Job lied to you!).

Film: Respect for ActingMichael Caine by Jackie Collins

High on a peak in the hills of Beverly lives Michael Caine. He resides in a large, comfortable house with his devastatingly beautiful wife, Shakira, his twelve-year-old daughter, Natasha—who manages to combine Shakira’s looks with her father’s savvy—and several huge dogs. Add a swimming pool and a tennis court, and you have the perfect Hollywood lifestyle.

Michael Caine has a last sexuality that hits you hard. It’s something about the eyes—blue, penetrating, always  slightly amused, and hiding behind heavy hornrims. He’s also very wise, witty and smart: a lethal combination. Not to mention extremely talented.

SIDNEY POITIER—ACTOR AND CO-STAR IN THE WILBY CONSPIRACY: “Until one works with Michael, one tends to accept him as an excellent actor. When one has worked with him, one becomes aware that he is an extraordinary actor, who borders on being truly great.”

This year Caine wiped out Woody Allen in Hannah and Her Sisters in one of the most poignant portrayals of a married man on the cheat ever seen. Michael Caine makes acting real. And that’s a rare talent.

MICHAEL CAINE ON ACTING: “The three actors I admire the most are all dead. Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy and the French actor, Jean Gabin. They’re all very natural, sort of masculine without being overly macho. They each had a sense of humor and humility, both qualities essential for a great actor. I admired Marlon Brando as I grew up. I though he was one of the finest screen actors around.”

Michael Caine enjoys Hollywood. It has been very good for his career, a fact he readily acknowledges. But he misses England and his roots. He wants to go home. And with that thought in mind he is building his dream house in the English countryside.

When he leaves, and it won’t be for another year, Hollywood will miss him, for in the seven years he has lived here, Michael has made friends and influenced people. There are not many movie stars around today who can actually act, talk, look good, think, and speak on the telephone at the same time!

IRVING “SWIFTY” LAZAR—HIGH-POWERED LITERARY AGENT: “There is more style and generosity in Michael than in any other actor I’ve met in my life.”

Recently, at a tribute dinner in Hollywood for the legendary director, Billy Wilder, it was Michael Caine the cameras went for. Ignoring very big movie stars indeed, the TV and entertainment reporters sought out Michael’s opinion.

As usual, he came out with generous and original quotes. He knows Hollywood inside out. Regards it as a game, and plays it exceptionally well.

MICHAEL CAINE ON HOLLYWOOD: “Hollywood is a cross between a health farm, a recreation center and an insane asylum. It’s a company town, and I happen to like the company!”

Michael recently celebrated his 53rd birthday. “I feel like 35,” he says, the blue eyes amused at the whole idea of being an elder statesman. “At 35 you’re old enough to know something and young enough to look forward to what you can do with the knowledge. So I stayed at 35!”

 

ANGIE DICKINSON—CO-STAR IN DRESSED TO KILL: “It’s Michael’s talent and humor that make him so sexy. If a man walks into a room and he’s a hunk, you think to yourself, “Wow!” And that’s it. Michael takes you way beyond that…”

Michael is constantly taking on new challenges. At 50 he learned to drive a car for the first time in his life. And at 52 he began to play tennis. Now he manages several punishing sets a day. He is good. He will get better. Michael likes a challenge, which, of course, will keep him perennially young.

He celebrated his birthday with good pal Quincy Jones. The two of them share a birthday and are exactly the same age. Einstein was also born on the same day, a fact that Michael always manages to point out!

Boogieing at Tramp—the private LA club in which he is an investor—Michael celebrated the evening with 40 friends including Barbra Streisand, Sidney and Joanna Poitier, Sue Mengers, and Wendy and Leonard Goldberg, and still found time to great Julian Lennon and chat with the beautifully exotic Vanity. Young people get along well with him. He never talks down to them, and always has time to listen—really listen—to what they have to saw.

He enjoys his fame in a very positive way, and uses it without conceit.

MICHAEL CAINE ON FAME: “It’s handy for getting you tables in restaurants and good hotel rooms, but I could live without it. I’m always slightly envious of people who become extremely rich without anyone knowing who the hell they are, like financiers.”

Michael has been married to former model Shakira for 13 years. He saw her in a coffee commercial on TV and fell in lust. Then he met her—their first date was Tramp in London—and fell in love. She is very strong, independent and a rare beauty. No Hollywood wife, she is secure in herself and her marriage. When I asked her what the best thing about being married to Michael is, she smiled and said “Sleeping with him!”

Other women beware. Shakira may appear calm and collected, but as Michael says: “Shakira is like a coiled spring. You can’t push her around.”

And his solution for getting rid of women who come on to him—”I just show them my wife. They give up instantly!”

Friends are important to both of them. They love to entertain, and do so often, throwing their home open for great traditional English Sunday lunches. Michael cooks a mean roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

ROGER MOORE—ACTOR: “Apart from being an extremely talented actor, Michael is an equally talented cook—not many people know that. He is also a very talented raconteur and an extremely generous host. Oh, and he has great taste in his choice of friends. I say this only because he is my best friend!”

One friend was the late Peter Sellers. Michael once phoned Peter and was startled to find he was phoning himself! Peter Sellers had impersonated his voice on the answering machine!

MICHAEL CAINE ON FRIENDSHIP: “I have a lot of acquaintances and very few close friends whom I could rely on if I were in trouble. I think most people could count them on their fingers. At the maximum, both hands. And I don’t think you’d ever get to use your feet! One you’ve got me as a friend you’ve got me forever. I’m very loyal. As you get older you can find you make fewer and fewer friends because your standards get higher. Also, I’m not looking for new friends—I don’t have the time.”

Michael is a funny and wise man, who tells the dirtiest jokes in town! And he never stops working. Last summer he lived in the Hamptons for several months where he starred in his 52nd film, Sweet Liberty. In it he acts alongside Alan Alda, Michelle Pfieffer and Lois Chiles.

MARTY BREGMAN—PRODUCER OF SWEET LIBERTY: “Working with Michael is like working with a combination of Laurence Olivier and Art Buchwald.”

Alan Alda wrote and directed the picture, and Michael says, with more than a glint of humor shining behind his glasses. “Alan is marvelous, but he worried me a bit when he offered me the part. He said “I’ve written this role especially for you.” So I asked him what it was. “A conceited old film star,” he said. “And you’ll be perfect!””

Sitting with Michael in the living room of his luxurious house, with the incredible view and the nonstop telephone, I can’t help smiling as he recounts the story.

He lights up a trademark cigar and sips his wine. “I said to Alan, ‘Thanks very much, where are you shooting?’ And Alan says, ‘In the Hamptons, all summer. And we’ll get you a house on the beach.’ So I said yes. Wouldn’t you?”

Michael grins. That famous Alfie grin. He’s a down-to-earth, talented, sexy man. Caine gives great conversation.

For more New Again click here.