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A decade after Michael Caine first collaborated with Christopher Nolan, the actor says his director friend and regular movie collaborator is at work on a new screenplay — only not even Caine knows if there’ll be a role for him.
“He’s got a new movie,” the actor said in November. “I had dinner with him last night … and he’s all secretive, and he never told me a thing. I don’t know [if there’s a role]. He won’t tell me.”
Caine, 82, who’s drawn acclaim for playing an aging composer who’s urged to conduct a famous piece one more time in Youth, noted that meeting Nolan (with whom he has made six films — including the Dark Knight series, Inception and Interstellar) marked “an incredible change in my life. I got to a stage where I was getting older, and I didn’t care whether I worked. I’m not there sitting waiting for work, worried about whether I’m going to be a star or not. We [Caine and his wife Shakira] were at our country place [in England], and he had a country place near us; I didn’t know. But one Sunday morning, he knocked at the door, and there was this man standing there, with a script in his hand. And he said, ‘My name’s Chris Nolan. I’ve got a script I want you to do.’ I said, ‘What’s it called?’ He said, ‘Batman Begins.’ And I thought to myself, ‘You’re going to be the bloody butler. I know it.’ So I said, ‘What am I going to play, Chris?’ He said, ‘The butler.’ And of course I read it and the butler is a foster father of Batman.”
Caine asked Nolan to leave the screenplay for him to read. “He said, ‘No. I want you to read it while I’m still here.’ And that’s the first thing I found out about Chris: he is the most secretive person on earth. I know him so well — I had dinner sitting next to him, last night, for three hours. And I know nothing about his next project.’ “
The actor was discussing his life and work at Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film & TV, where he was a guest in The Hollywood Reporter’s ongoing interview series The Hollywood Masters. He revealed his shock as a middle-aged man to discover that he had a brother he never knew about, who was kept in a home for the mentally challenged.
“I read it in the newspapers,” he said. “They were doing an article all about the state of mental health institutions in England. And they were in this place where there was this man who was about 20 years older than me, who couldn’t speak a proper language, but a nurse understood him. And the nurse told the reporter, ‘Do you know who that is? That’s Michael Caine’s brother.’ She knew because my mother used to go to see him]. My mother used to go shopping on Monday afternoon, and she always used to take stuff with her, and we thought, ‘Why is she going shopping and taking this stuff with her?’ ” She was visiting the actor’s brother in secret.
Caine added: “He was born with epilepsy; he was illegitimate. And in those days, they weren’t very careful, so every time he had a fit, they’d put him in a room with a stone floor. So he smashed his head to smithereens. And eventually I went to see him, and he had a picture of me on the wall in [1964’s] Zulu. And he spoke, but I couldn’t understand what he said, but the nurse translated for me. And the most amazing thing of all was that the asylum he was in was called Caine Hall.”
Returning to his acting, Caine recalled one of the best bits of advice he received — from John Wayne. Newly arrived in Hollywood as a young man, he said: “I was in a lovely suite in a Beverly Hills hotel, but nobody knew me, and I knew nobody, so I stayed in this hotel for two weeks, and nobody talked to me. I used to sit in the lobby, hoping to see film stars. And then, one day, John Wayne came in, and I was sitting there, and he was signing into the register, and he looked at me and went, ‘What’s your name, kid?’ I said, ‘Michael Caine.’ He said, ‘You’re going to be a big star. [But] let me give you a piece of advice.’ He said, ‘Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much. And don’t wear suede shoes.’ So I said, ‘Don’t wear suede shoes? Why not?’ He said, ‘Because you’re going to be very famous, and you’re going to be in the [rest room] taking a piss, and a guy’s going to be next to you, and he’s going to go, ‘Michael Caine!’ And he going to piss all over your shoe.’ “
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