Meet­ing the

Plaza Uomo UK - - INTERVIEW -

leg­endary ac­tor Michael Caine is not only a great hon­our, but also hugely en­ter­tain­ing. En­thu­si­as­ti­cally shar­ing anec­dotes from his life in the lime­light, the 82-year-old is re­fresh­ingly out­spo­ken and makes no big deal of be­ing driven by money. “Un­less you get paid prop­erly there’s no point get­ting up in the morn­ing,” he tells me mat­terof-factly, as we meet on the rooftop of the Cannes Ho­tel Mar­riott on the Croisette.

You’re here at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val in con­nec­tion with your role in Paolo Sor­rentino’s film Youth. Did he base the char­ac­ter on you?

“Yes, and it cer­tainly took me by sur­prise. He even told me that he wouldn’t bother mak­ing the film if I de­clined to take part. I had seen The Great Beauty, for which he won an Os­car, and voted for it at the Os­car cer­e­mony, so af­ter read­ing the script for Youth I told him straight away I was in­ter­ested. And for once I didn’t care about the pay.”

The movie de­picts two old friends, played by you and Har­vey Kei­tel, shar­ing their thoughts and wor­ries about age­ing. In one scene you’re both sit­ting in a pool when a naked woman walks in...

“We had no idea she would be naked. Paolo for­got to tell us, so that sur­prised look on our faces is en­tirely gen­uine. She was just so beau­ti­ful!”

Do you ever con­sider re­tir­ing?

“No, the film in­dus­try re­tires you. Some­time around 60, I re­alised that I was sud­denly too old to get the girl in the films I starred in. As all the roles I was of­fered in­volved me play­ing the father fig­ure, I started count­ing my days as an ac­tor. I with­drew from the in­dus­try. I was liv­ing in Mi­ami when my good friend Jack Ni­chol­son gave me a role in his film Blood and Wine. It made me in­ter­est­ing again. Then there was Lit­tle Voice and The Cider House Rules, which won me an Os­car. My ca­reer was right back on track. But I was happy even as a pen­sioner too – I had restau­rants in Lon­don and Mi­ami and earned a cou­ple of pounds.”

You’ve made a num­ber of films with Christo­pher Nolan.

“He’s brought me so much for­tune. We’ve made six movies to­gether and they have all been box of­fice hits. He ar­rived at my house one day and asked me to read a script. I looked at the first page and saw the ti­tle, Bat­man Be­gins …. I knew I was too old to play Bat­man so I said ’you don’t want me to play the but­ler, do you?’. ’ Yes,’ he said, ’I do.’”

“Those that de­velop me as an ac­tor. I’m from a work­ing class back­ground, we were very poor. That a guy like me gets to play an in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed con­duc­tor in Youth, that’s some­thing I could never have imag­ined. Play­ing a con­duc­tor was ac­tu­ally one of the hard­est things I’ve done.”

Are there any sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween you and and the char­ac­ter?

“We’re both aged 82, but that’s about it. He’s my op­po­site in many ways. I will never stop work­ing and I adore my fam­ily.”

What’s the best thing about age­ing?

“Not hav­ing to go to dis­cos! As a young chap I vir­tu­ally lived in dis­cothe­ques. They called me Disco Mike.”

What do you miss about be­ing young?

“Noth­ing. I’ve been so lucky and I love my fam­ily. And I def­i­nitely don’t miss the ig­no­rance of youth.”

Which role best de­fines you?

“Prob­a­bly my role as Al­fie in the movie with the same name. But that’s a long time ago now. 1966, I was young then.”

Do you ever re-watch your films?

“Never. Or ac­tu­ally, I just watched Dirty Rot­ten Scoundrels for the se­cond time … It’s one of the best movies I’ve done, and film­ing it was fan­tas­tic. We spent three months here in Cannes. Aside from that I’m not one for look­ing back.”

Have you seen the scene in The Trip where a group of guys at­tempt Michael Caine im­pres­sions?

“Ab­so­lutely, it’s hi­lar­i­ous! It ac­tu­ally led to us do­ing a sketch to­gether at the Al­bert Hall in Lon­don.”

What was it like ar­riv­ing in Hol­ly­wood?

“Shirley MacLaine asked me to come over to do a film. I had never been in the US and stayed in the Bev­erly Hills Ho­tel for ten days with­out any­one get­ting in touch. But I en­joyed it. I used to go down to the lobby to see if I could spot any movie stars. One day John Wayne walked in and no­ticed me look­ing at him. He said: ’ You’re that guy from Al­fie, aren’t you?’. I nod­ded and he smiled, ’ You’re go­ing to be a star’. We be­came friends and one day he gave me a piece of ad­vice: ’Never wear suede shoes when you’re fa­mous.’ When I asked him why, he ex­plained that ’one day, when you’re a celebrity, you’ll stand in a pub­lic toi­let when the guy next to you recog­nises you, he’ll turn around to ask if it’s re­ally you, and will end up tak­ing a piss on your suede shoes.’”

Michale Caine (from above)

(1971) and (1972),

(2014).

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