Sir Michael Caine was born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite on March 14th, 1933. The British star of over 100 films grew up in World War II-era London, but was moved to Canada during the Blitz in the early 40s. He worked in theater in his youth, where he took on the stage name Michael Scott. His career took him back to London, where there was already an actor by the same name, so he adapted the name Michael Caine to pay homage to his favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart, whose film, The Caine Mutiny, was playing in theaters at the time. Caine’s first film role came in A Hill in Korea (1956), which co-starred Stanley Baker. It was Baker who would offer Caine the role in Zulu, a performance that made him a star.
Caine followed Zulu with two of his more memorable film roles. He starred as the spy Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File (1965) – a role that he would reprise in four additional films – and the womanizing title character in Alfie (1966) – which would earn Caine his first Academy Award nomination. Caine’s first American film was Gambit (1966), opposite Shirley MacLaine, which coincidentally is being remade this year (written by the Coen brothers and starring Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, and Alan Rickman). He finished the 60s by starring in both The Italian Job (1969) and The Battle of Britain (1969).
In the 70s, Caine starred in several classics, including Get Carter (1971), Sleuth (1972; which would bring Caine his second Oscar nomination), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), The Eagle Has Landed (1976), and A Bridge Too Far (1977). His success continued into the 80s, starring in Dressed to Kill (1980), Educating Rita (1983) – for which he received his third Oscar nomination and won the BAFTA, Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) – for which he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) – for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe. He worked on many films in this stretch, and then took a bit of a rest in the 90s. He did manage to win the Golden Globe for his performance in Little Voice (1998), and his second Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in The Cider House Rules (1999).
Caine’s career seemed to get a boost with those last two efforts in the 90s, jump-starting another string of successful films from the 00s to present day. He appeared in Miss Congeniality (2000), Quills (2000), The Quiet American (2002; receiving his sixth and most recent Oscar nomination), and Secondhand Lions (2003), before being cast as Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth, in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) – a role he would reprise in The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). He would become a favorite of Nolan’s, starring in his next film, The Prestige (2006) as well as Inception (2010). Caine would also star in Children of Men the same year as The Prestige, and did voice work for Cars 2 (2011) and Gnomeo and Juliet (2011).
Michael Caine has two films scheduled for release this year. He will play a “retired and widowed American philosophy professor” opposite Gillian Anderson in Mr. Morgan’s Last Love, release date unknown; and will appear in the magician heist film, Now You See Me, alongside Morgan Freeman, Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Dave Franco, and Mélanie Laurent, due out May 31st.
My Circuit 3 for Michael Caine:
- Inception (2010)
- Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
- The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
What are your three favorite/best Michael Caine films? You can view his entire filmography here.
For some added fun, enjoy this clip from The Trip (2010), where Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon do their best Michael Caine impersonations.