An actor’s secrets for success include showing up on time.
Now 85, Caine (The Elephant to Hollywood, 2010, etc.) melds candid anecdotes and a master class on acting into an upbeat, unpretentious, and star-studded memoir. Born to poor, working-class parents, Maurice Joseph Micklewhite was not destined to become an international film icon. “I am living proof,” he writes, “that, whatever your start in life, you can make it.” Caine attributes his success to hard work, determination, stamina, the influence of his mother’s indomitable spirit, and pure luck. When he began his career in the 1960s, he observes, working-class actors like himself, Sean Connery, and Roger Moore were increasingly able to find roles in plays and screenplays by writers such as John Osborne, Alan Sillitoe, and Harold Pinter. Still, he admits that the first decade of his career was difficult. “Success is survival,” he remarks, and “comes from doing.” His Oscar-nominated performance in Alfie, released in 1966, proved a turning point; in the next four years, he made 12 movies, and by 1972, he had major roles in 20. Among at least 100 directors he worked with, he singles out for special praise the fatherly John Huston, coolly distant Brian de Palma, perfectionist Woody Allen, and the brilliant Chris Nolan, who offered him the delectable part of Batman’s butler. Although Caine enjoys the attention and perks of being a star, he cautions actors against acting like divas—e.g., the imperious Laurence Olivier or the pampered Elizabeth Taylor. Treat everyone on the set equally, he advises, and prepare assiduously. “Confidence comes from experience plus preparation,” he writes. Know your character so well “you’re thinking his or her thoughts.” Caine is forthcoming about some low points—e.g., when he tried to self-medicate with alcohol and 80 cigarettes per day until friends, and his beloved wife, intervened. When he stopped being offered major roles in the early 1990s, he thought about retiring from acting but instead decided to reinvent himself as a character actor.
Warm recollections and practical advice from an acclaimed star.