Michael Caine The Prestige Interview

Michael Caine The Prestige Interview
by Paul Fischer in Pasadena.


He is still an Oscar winning legend, a teller of tales and a movie star who knows how to court the press. Arriving to interviews with a twinkle in eye and ready to share a laugh or two, the venerable busy actor, who co-stars in The Prestige, talks acting and remakes to Paul Fischer.

Paul Fischer: So... you can pick and choose what you want to do because you have, you know, money. You know, you did Jaws Returns and all that kind of stuff.

Michael Caine: I did do Jaws Returns as a co-star. I only talk about movies that I starred in, I was in Jaws for ten minutes, its not my responsibility.

Paul Fischer: So when you do pick something now, what is the most important priority for you?

Michael Caine: Its an offer I cant refuse. I dont want to get up at 6 oclock in the morning and go out and do something I dont want to do with people I dont want to be with. I dont need to pay the rent. Its okay. I dont have a mortgage. And the phone bills okay - its not very heavy. And so I just do offers, pictures that I really cant refuse, and this was one. For a start Ive got Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale, and then youve got this script which - if youve done as many scripts as I have, you know, a lot of them are pretty similar, and then you get something as different as this youve got to... you sort of think its your lucky day. Its like your birthday or something. And this... this was one of those. Its an offer I cant refuse but its nothing to do with money.

Paul Fischer: But you could have refused Batman for instance.

Michael Caine: No, I love Batman.

Paul Fischer: Why is that?

Michael Caine: Oh, because thought it was great, because to me the butler is the human representative of all of us in the middle of the movie with all these extraordinary characters, which is sort of a specialty of mine. Ive always played very human sort of characters. So for me that was great. And Id never been in one of those great big blockbusters. You know, of all the pictures… Id never been in one of those massive great deals. I think there was $180 million, and I thought this would be great. And also its an old aged pension.

Paul Fischer: When Michael Gough who played the butler before me…the last time he played it he was 83.

Michael Caine: Its true. So Ive got 10 years. The way they make em Ill make about three.

Paul Fischer: Have you seen anything on the second one yet?

Michael Caine: No. No. I know its called The Dark Knight. I know its all about the Joker. I know the Joker is Heath Ledger. And thats all I know. He wont tell you anything. Christopher wont tell you anything.

Paul Fischer: But you are doing the Sleuth remake?

Michael Caine: Im doing the Sleuth remake. Thats with Jude Law. And thats being directed by Kenneth Branagh with a script by Harold Pinter.

Paul Fischer: How different is it from the wonderful movie that you did?

Michael Caine: Yeah, its very, very different indeed. Kenneth Branagh and I were having lunch the other day and a guy came by and saw us and said are you two doing a remake of Sleuth, he said, no. He said were doing a movie based on the plotline of Sleuth and weve stolen the title. Thats it. Its very different, but the plotline obviously has to be the same.

Paul Fischer: Really?

Michael Caine: Well Ill give you a quick difference. Oliviers house in the original was a very nice English country house...

Paul Fischer: With all those mazes.

Michael Caine: Yeah, and all that. And you go in and its a very nice old English country house with lovely chincy furniture and all that. In this it starts off with a very nice English country house, just the same, and then you go in and the entire place is marble, minimal, and in the middle is a glass elevator that goes up to the roof. Thats the start. Everything from then on is different.

Paul Fischer: Is it fun to play the role that Olivier played?

Michael Caine: Well Im not playing the role that Olivier played. Im playing a role that had been written by Harold Pinter. Olivier played a role written by Peter Shaffer. For instance, I havent re-run Sleuth to see how it went, you know, because I wouldnt want anything to do with Larrys performance. Itll be very much different. Itll also be nearer to reality because Larry, you know, was sort of very flamboyant and that character played by me would not be quite as flamboyant.

Paul Fischer: How do you like playing a role in something like Prestige of serving in the background as opposed to the lead character?

Michael Caine: Well I think you dont regard yourself as that because what happens is, is when you are in front of a camera - I dont care if youve only got one line - when you speak youd better be a star and youd better get it right, and youd better be the person, otherwise youre never going to work again. What happens with me is that I used to be a leading man so I got the girl, lost the girl and then I got her back, you know, and I did that... Everybody tried to make me as good looking as possible with the nicest clothes, but that can become boring, especially if you dont want to do it anymore, and also if youve become older you obviously cant play that. So then you get the really interesting parts. What I do now is so much more interesting from an acting point of view than what I did before. And theres always a moment in your life when you realize it. You dont quite realize it, you go along... I remember I was sent a script and I read the part of the young lover and everything, and I sent it back to the producer and I said this is far too small, I dont want to be bothered with this. And he sent the script back and said read the father.

Michael Caine: So that was it. I suddenly went read the father, oh... And, you know, my wife said to me, well, youre 50, youve got two daughters, what do you think you are.

Paul Fischer: It must be a tribute to you that there are so many of your films being remade or have been remade...

Michael Caine: Well you wonder about it, dont you. I was talking to a man over there who said to me did you know that theyre doing a musical of The Man Who Would be King.

Paul Fischer: I didnt know that.

Michael Caine: I didnt know that. I dont know whether its true or not. I dont know quite how youre going to do it. Thered be lots of Arab dancing in it with all those women. Get those blue berber women out of the mountains again. Theyre good.

Paul Fischer: Do you like looking at your old stuff?

Michael Caine: I never look at anything. The only thing I ever look at - and I find myself, I get sucked into it - is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. And, you know, Im usually going through and if I see Dr. Schaffhoussen walking in I think, wait a minute, Ive got look at this for a minute and then Im stuck there.

Paul Fischer: Did you see the play?

Michael Caine: No, Im going to see the play. Im going to New York next week and Im going to see the musical.

Paul Fischer: Now I know that in the first Batman film you put in a lot of background story yourself that you created for Alfred...

Michael Caine: Yeah.

Paul Fischer: Are we going to see a little bit more of this character, you know, the background of the character?

Michael Caine: No, that was just for me. I wanted it to be a very sharp, sort of military delivery in that. I wanted to be a servant but tough, and so I figured if hed been injured in the SAS, which is like your SEALS, you know, very tough, and then he stayed on and got a job in the Sergeants mess, so therefore he knew how to do drinks and serve, but youve still got this guy who is inherently a trained killer. Thats what I wanted. And thats how I played him. I dont know whether anyone else noticed.

Paul Fischer: Did you learn any good tricks while making Prestige?

Michael Caine: Yeah. Yeah. I learned to let the camera come around on Hugh and then you can get home early.

Heath Ledger dies at age 28 in a New York City apartment.


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