If you had to name one of the best British actors of the 20th and 21st centuries, we can imagine that a lot of people would at least consider naming Michael Caine. Having starred in major movies like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Miss Congeniality, and Batman Begins, it’s hard to find an actor with a more diverse career than Michael Caine.
Even now that he’s in his senior years, Caine still appears in critically and commercially acclaimed films. But of course, there are always quirky stories behind a film’s production – and not all of Caine’s movies were classics! If you’re curious to learn some interesting facts about this British thespian, keep reading!
Michael Caine Facts
1. Acclaimed Actor
Caine is one of just two actors who received Academy Award nominations in every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s. The only other person to achieve this accomplishment is Jack Nicholson.
2. A Star is Born
Caine was born on the 14th of March 1933 in South London, England – as anyone who’s heard him speak will know. However, it’s worth pointing out that his original birth name was actually Maurice Joseph Micklewhite. He later changed his name legally to his stage name to avoid questions from perplexed airport security agents.
3. Chance of a Lifetime
Caine’s breakthrough role was arguably the womanizing title character in the comedy-drama Alfie. However, Caine only received the role after many others had turned it down due to the movie’s controversial subject matter. Even Terence Stamp, who played the role in the original stage production of Alfie, refused to do it onscreen.
In a crazy coincidence, Stamp and Caine were roommates at the time, which must have led to some pretty awkward interactions after Caine’s film made over $18 million against an $800,000 budget!
4. Easy to Remember
Interestingly, Michael Caine shares a birthday with legendary, Grammy-award-winning music producer Quincy Jones. But their curious connection actually goes beyond their shared birthday: back in the 1960s, the men worked together on the comedic heist movie The Italian Job. Michael Caine played the suave conman Charlie Croker while Quincy Jones wrote the movie’s soundtrack.
5. This Place is Familiar
Caine was born in St. Olave’s Hospital. Many years later, the hospital fell into disuse and the building was used for other purposes. In the 1980s, the building was used as production offices for the film Mona Lisa – a movie that happened to star none other than… Michael Caine! We can only imagine how trippy it was for Caine to be back where he was born all those years before.
6. Call to Arms
During the 1950s, young men in the U.K. were expected to perform national service in the military. Caine was no exception, fighting in two conflicts. First he served in the British Army’s Royal Fusiliers in Germany. Afterwards, he served in the British Army during the Korean War, an experience that haunts Caine to the present day.
7. Seven Year Itch?
Caine’s first wife was actress Patricia Haines. They were married in 1955, had one daughter named Dominique, and divorced in 1962.
8. Oh What’s in a Name?
You might be wondering where Michael Caine’s stage name comes from. When Caine first began pursuing an acting career, he used the relatively common name “Michael White.” In 1954, however, Caine’s agent revealed that there was already a man with that name working in the industry. At this point, a new stage name was in order for the man we now know as Michael Caine.
As the would-be actor stood in a telephone booth covered with ads for shops, services, and events, he noticed a local cinema promoting the Humphrey Bogart film The Caine Mutiny. Inspiration struck and “Michael White” became Michael Caine. Caine later joked that he was one visual obstruction away from being called “Michael Mutiny.”
9. Makes Sense to Us!
Caine was reportedly an inspiration for the character of Austin Powers. Specifically, his performance as the ladies’ man in the film Alfie served as an influence on Mike Myers’ famous bespectacled womanizer. Fittingly, Caine later turned in a good-natured cameo in the third Austin Powers movie. Goldmember, appearing as Austin Powers’ father.
10. Two out of Six!
As of July 2019, Caine has been nominated for six Academy Awards for acting. If you’re curious about which films he was nominated for, they are (in chronological order): Alfie, Sleuth, Educating Rita, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Cider House Rules, and The Quiet American. Caine took home two golden statues, first winning for Hannah and Her Sisters in the 1980s and then for The Cider House Rules in the 1990s.
11. Hello, Old Friend
In 1976, Caine acted in the adventure drama The Eagle Has Landed alongside esteemed American actor Robert Duvall. These two brilliant actors reunited nearly thirty years later for the heartwarming family film Secondhand Lions. It seems like Caine and Duvall just have to team up for movies with animals in their titles.
12. Another One, B-Barman!
In a radio interview, Caine once talked about a moment early on in his career when he was confronted for a bad performance. The scene called for Caine to be drunk, but the scene was halted by a producer who accused Caine of overacting. He then told Caine that instead of trying to “walk crooked and talk slurred,” the struggle of a true drunken man is to hide his drunkenness by trying to speak coherently.
13. The Secret of Southern Dialect
Fans of Caine’s filmography will know that he occasionally uses an American accent. The first time he did this was for Hurry Sundown in 1967. According to Caine himself, he was taught how to do a Southern accent by veteran film star Vivian Leigh (you might remember her from the classic movie Gone With The Wind). She had Caine repeat the phrase “four door Ford” over and over for weeks on end. How he didn’t go crazy from doing that, we’ll never know.
14. Success Barometer
Caine once stated that the true sign that he’d made it as an actor was when he received scripts without coffee stains on the pages. The implication, in case you didn’t realize, is that Caine was receiving pages that no other actor had already read through and rejected.
15. Here’s Looking at You!
Caine was first inspired to become an actor by watching the films of Humphrey Bogart. Caine continues to name Bogart as his favorite actor to this day. Caine’s longstanding admiration for old Bogey might also explain why he was instinctively attracted to his stage name Caine. As we explained earlier, Caine’s last name was actually inspired by the Humphrey Bogart movie The Caine Mutiny.
16. So Everybody Wins?
In the 1960s, Caine auditioned for the role of Yuri Zhivago in the epic film Doctor Zhivago. According to Caine himself, he participated in a series of screen tests and was permitted to watch them along with the film’s director, David Lean. After seeing the results, he ended up praising Omar Sharif, who was also trying out for the part, as the better choice. Sharif went on to star in the film and Caine’s career thrived anyway.
17. Better Luck Next Time!
As of July 2019, Caine has acted in five films which were nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. These films were, in order of release, Alfie, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Cider House Rules, Inception, and Dunkirk. Sadly for Caine’s bragging rights, none of these movies actually won the precious golden statue.
18. What’s So Funny??
Reportedly, on the set of the 1964 film Zulu, Caine was the unwitting subject of ridicule. Apparently, the South African extras liked to make fun of Caine’s long blond hair. The translators had to tell the boisterous extras to stop laughing at Caine and, even more entertainingly, to stop referring to Caine as “Lady” in their language.
19. Meeting Your Heroes
Like so many young actors out there, Caine was very intimidated to be working with such an acclaimed actor as Lord Laurence Olivier. The two men were the co-stars of the 1972 mystery film Sleuth. Upon meeting him for the first time, Caine asked the esteemed Olivier what he should him. Olivier responded that he should be called “Lord Olivier,” but that Caine could call him “Larry.”
20. In Good Company
While we’re on the subject of Caine’s film Sleuth (the 1972 original, not the 2007 remake), it’s one of just nine times in Academy Award history that two men from the same film were nominated for the Best Actor award. For anyone wondering, the other eight films on that short list are The Defiant Ones, From Here to Eternity, Judgment at Nuremberg, Becket, The Dresser, Amadeus, Mutiny on the Bounty, and Network.
21. “Never Blink”
Caine considers one of his most memorable roles to have been Ebenezer Scrooge in The Muppet Christmas Carol. One aspect of his performance that Caine insisted on was that he play the role entirely seriously. He told the director, Brian Henson, that he would “play this movie like I’m working with the Royal Shakespeare Company.”
Much to Caine’s surprise, Brian Henson was totally on board with that kind of performance in contrast to the comical and goofy Muppets. In hindsight, with The Muppet Christmas Carol now treasured as a classic Christmas movie, Caine’s unconventional performance was clearly “bang on!” as the director Henson himself put it.
22. No Thanks!
Among the roles that Caine was offered but turned down are Ben du Toit in A Dry White Season, Grandpa Joe in Tim Burton’s remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Captain Smith in Titanic, and C.S. Lewis in Shadowlands.
23. Art vs. Life
Fittingly, Caine made his feature film debut in a movie about the Korean War. He acted as a private in the film and was actually cast because of his prior experience as a soldier. Caine later reflected that he gave a lot of advice on how things would realistically occur during the Korean War, but his suggestions were often ignored.
One bit of criticism that Caine kept to himself was the fact that their shooting location, Portugal, looked very little like the Korean peninsula. However, he was happy to spend his time there so he stayed quiet about that particular fact.
24. Chris and Michael Forever
Beginning with the 2005 film Batman Begins, Caine has acted in every single Christopher Nolan film to the present day (he will be in the upcoming 2020 film Tenet as well). Some of you might be pointing out that you don’t recall seeing him or his name in Dunkirk – and you’d be right. Caine went uncredited for a voice-over role he provided as the man interacting with the RAF pilots.
25. Why Hasn’t He Been on QI?!
Aside from acting, Caine is also an accomplished author. As of July 2019, he has written three memoirs about his life titled What’s It All About?, The Elephant to Hollywood, and Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons in Life. Caine also published a book on acting tips titled Acting in Film: An Actor’s Take on Moviemaking.
Less expected, perhaps, are his books on trivia. If you’re interested in those, look for Caine’s Not Many People Know That: Michael Caine’s Almanac of Amazing Information or And Not Many People Know This Either!
26. But Does He Joust?
Caine was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II on the 16th of November 2000. This means that if you meet him, you must address him not as Michael Caine but as Sir Michael Caine.
27. Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks
Acclaimed actor Jude Law has acted in not one but two remakes of films that previously starred Caine. The films in question are Alfie and Sleuth. Interestingly, Caine himself co-starred alongside Law in the 2007 remake of Sleuth, playing the role originally portrayed by Laurence Olivier in the first film. We wonder if Jude Law will play Caine’s role if Sleuth gets remade again…
28. Next Time, I’m Going to Hawaii!
Contrary to popular rumors, Caine did not feud with Steven Seagal when they collaborated on the film On Deadly Ground in the 1990s. Caine did, however, have a thoroughly unpleasant experience at the filming locations in Alaska. He later joked that the film’s title was a perfect description of the remote, snowy U.S. state.
29. My Bottom Three
Like with so many actors before and since, Caine was asked to pick the worst films he’d ever worked on. He ended up choosing these three movies: The Swarm, Ashanti, and The Magus.
30. No Need for Ambiguity!
It might be hard for some of you to remember, but the ending of The Dark Knight Rises (the final movie in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy) left a lot of fans squabbling over whether it was real or fake. Specifically, fans were uncertain about the scene where Alfred Pennyworth (Bruce Wayne’s butler played by Michael Caine) goes on vacation to Europe in the aftermath of Bruce Wayne’s alleged death.
While in Europe, Alfred is surprised to see Wayne at a café with Selina Kyle (Catwoman’s alter ego). Fans argued that because there was no way that Wayne could have survived his noble sacrifice, the scene would have to be Alfred hallucinating or displaying some wishful thinking. Caine, who played Alfred, clarified in an interview that Wayne really was there in the scene, and had faked his death. Feel free to debate how he could have done that in the comments section!
31. Love of My Life
In 1971, Caine was watching television when he saw a commercial for Maxwell House coffee. It featured a woman whom Caine described as being “the most beautiful… he had ever seen.” Remarkably, Caine discovered that the woman in question, actress and fashion model Shakira Baksh, lived only a few miles from him! The couple were eventually married in 1973 and are still married now (July 2019).
32. Just This Once
Speaking of Shakira Baksh, she and Caine have only ever appeared together in one film: the action-adventure movie The Man Who Would Be King, based on the novella by Rudyard Kipling (who also wrote The Jungle Book). Shakira’s casting was a last-minute decision done during production, as director John Huston hadn’t cast one of the roles yet.
33. Sounds Believable
Caine once claimed that early in his career, while he was out with his co-star Sean Connery, Caine ended up holding Connery’s hat while the Scottish actor took on four men singlehandedly in a fistfight. Whether this story is true or not, Caine eventually paid a sort of tribute to it in the film Secondhand Lions, when the brother of Caine’s character performs the same feat while Caine’s character watches in amusement.
34. Lone Man
One of the Oscars that Caine won during his career was for the film Hannah and Her Sisters, which was directed by Woody Allen. Caine is actually the only male actor who has ever won an Oscar for acting in one of Allen’s films. The other winners (Cate Blanchett, Penelope Cruz, Diane Keaton, Mira Sorvino, and Dianne Wiest) were all women.
35. Tough Love
Speaking of The Man Who Would Be King, Caine had quite a few anecdotes to share about working with the legendary filmmaker John Huston. One of them began with Caine being unsettled at the lack of direction and feedback that he was getting from Huston during production. At one point, he went to Huston and privately asked him whether anything was wrong with his acting or if he had any suggestions.
Huston reportedly replied, “You’re getting paid a lot of money to do this, Michael, I think you should do it by yourself.” While the film was successful critically and commercially, some critics felt that Caine had over-acted his part. In a presumably spiteful response to those critics, Caine declared that The Man Who Would Be King was his favorite film that he worked on.
36. Thanks, Johnny!
Speaking of John Huston, Caine later used Huston’s famous voice and Atlantic accent (best remembered in the animated version of The Hobbit) as inspiration for his old-timey accent as kindly Dr. Larch in the film The Cider House Rules. We’ll remind you that The Cider House Rules is one of the two movies for which Caine won Academy Awards.
37. Another Day, Another Dollar
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Caine completed what have infamously been called his “paycheck movies.” These films were lesser in quality, but for which Caine, by his own admission, received considerable amounts of money to be in. These films include The Hand, Ashanti, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, The Swarm, and Blame it on Rio.
However, Caine’s most infamous “paycheck movie” simply has to be Jaws: The Revenge. Speaking of this poorly reviewed sequel (The Revenge is the fourth movie in the Jaws franchise), Caine once quipped, “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
38. Excuse for a Vacation
While we did explain that Caine agreed to act in Jaws: The Revenge for the generous paycheck, it’s worth pointing out that there was another reason why Caine appeared in the movie. The script began by setting the film in Hawaii. Caine had always wanted to film a movie in Hawaii, so he signed on for that privilege alone.
39. Does That Make Him a Vampire?
One thing which Caine took away from his experience in the Korean War was an aversion to the smell of garlic. During the war, Chinese and North Korean troops would chew on garlic as a snack, and the association never left his mind. Reportedly, he didn’t get past this association until many years later when he invested some of his money in restaurants.
40. Wait, What?!
One of Caine’s most famous films was the 1969 heist film The Italian Job. One truly ironic aspect of Caine’s involvement, however, was that he was starring in a movie focused on driving and cars when Caine himself didn’t have a driving license at the time! He’s never seen actually driving a car in the film.
41. No More for Me
During the 1960s, Caine was living life to the extreme, by his own admission. He estimated that he was smoking around 80 cigarettes and drinking two bottles of vodka per day! In 1971, however, Caine received an intervention of sorts from fellow actor Tony Curtis. After that, he gave up cigarettes though it wasn’t until 2003 that he abandoned cigars as well.
42. What a Privilege!
Back in the 1960s, Caine was ejected from his apartment (or as he’d call it, his flat). Desperate for a place to stay, he spent a few months crashing in the home of his friend, John Barry. It just so happened that Barry was a film composer and on one occasion, he spent a whole night feverishly working on the score for an upcoming film. The next day, Caine became the first person to hear Barry’s new composition. You’ll recognize it as the theme for the James Bond classic Goldfinger.
43. There but for the Grace of God Go I
One of the grittiest performances in Caine’s oeuvre can be found in the 1971 gangster flick, Get Carter. In the film, a London gangster goes to his brother’s funeral, only to embark on a vicious quest to reveal the truth behind his brother’s mysterious death. At the time, even the film’s director was shocked that Caine wanted to be in the film (it was originally rated X when it was first released).
Caine’s reason, however, was because he was fed up with seeing gangsters portrayed as stupid or funny on screen. On a more personal level, Caine was drawn to the character’s working-class London roots. Caine reportedly felt that if his life had turned out slightly different, he might very well have been like Jack Carter.
44. What a Twist!
Caine has a younger brother named Stanley and an older half-brother named David. However, it wasn’t until the death of Caine’s mother that Caine became aware of David’s existence. Even Caine’s father hadn’t known about David. The only hints were the occasions when Caine’s mother visited David in the hospital, where he spent his entire life due to severe epilepsy.