British Icon of the Week: Sir Michael Caine, the Incredibly Prolific Actor Who Still Has a Playful Side

Over the years, Sir Michael Caine has appeared in more than 130 films – the most recent of which, Christopher Nolan‘s brainy blockbuster Tenet, looks set to add to his tally of hits. So why not join us in raising a glass – or a cup of tea, if you prefer – to the two-time Oscar winner who has one of the most distinctive voices in the movies.

1. He’s more than happy to send himself up a bit.

Caine has written a couple trivia books – including Not Many People Know That: Michael Caine’s Almanac of Amazing Information – to raise money for a nonprofit protecting the U.K.’s green spaces.

Caine’s famous catchphrase – “not many people know that” – was actually coined by actor-comedian Peter Sellers, who discussed its origins during an appearance on U.K. chat show Parkinson in 1972. “Not many people know that. This is my Michael Caine impression. You see, Mike’s always quoting from the Guinness Book of Records. At the drop of a hat he’ll trot one out,” Sellers explained, before giving an example: “Did you know that it takes a man in a tweed suit five-and-a-half seconds to fall from the top of Big Ben to the ground? Now, there’s not many people who know that!”

2. At the start of his career, Caine refused to swap his distinctive cockney accent in favor of the fancier diction favored by many British actors of the time.

“I kept my cockney accent in order to let other working class boys know that if I made it, they could do it too,” he told CNN in 2007.

Over the years, Caine has made a point of calling out class prejudice. In a 2006 interview, he recalled being angered by a snobbish remark made by a journalist. “This interviewer said to me, ‘I thought you were wonderful in Batman.’ And I said, ‘Thank you very much.’ And then he said, ‘But then servants are easier to play, aren’t they?’” Caine recalled. “And that’s the closest he ever came to death, I could have strangled him! But I smiled. He thought that servants were simple, working class people, [and] were simple.”

3. He doesn’t gloss over the fact he’s made a few dud movies.

Asked about his role in the notoriously awful Jaws: The Revenge – which has a rare 0% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes – Caine quipped in 2016: “Somebody said, ‘Have you ever seen Jaws 4?’ I said, ‘No. But I’ve seen the house it bought for my mum. It’s fantastic!’”

He also admitted that the shark sequel was doomed from the start, recalling: “The bleeding shark didn’t even work on that. I thought we were in trouble when the shark didn’t work. You see the shark and a guy comes out of the mouth with a spanner!”

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4. He has a deliciously dry style on Twitter.

Caine doesn’t post often, but when he does, it’s always gold.

5. He’s a longtime feminist.

Asked if he had insisted on an equal split of male and female contributors on his 2018 documentary film, My Generation, Caine told The Guardian: “Absolutely. I’m a feminist to the core. An interviewer once asked my wife, ‘What first attracted you to Michael?’ and she said, ‘The way he treated his mother.’ I respected women tremendously, right from the start. I just didn’t know I was a feminist until they invented it.”

6. He doesn’t mess about on set.

Describing his working experience with Caine on the set of The Dark Knight Rises, Gary Oldman said: “Watching Michael Caine, as Alfred, was a great lesson for me. Just focus, concentration. He has this emotional scene; I’m kidding you not. It was tears and the whole thing. And it’s, ‘Take one.’ He got it. ‘Take 2,’ got it. ‘Take three,’ got it. He’s just on the money. Every single time. It’s just extraordinary. You get inspired by it. He loves cricket. He loves soccer, so he comes to the set and wants to get it done. He doesn’t f**k around because he wants to get back to cricket.”

7. His name once got him mistaken for a drug dealer – but he can see the funny side.

It all hinged on the fact that “Michael Caine” sounds quite like “my cocaine,” as the man himself explained hilariously on The Graham Norton Show.

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8. He released his own compilation album of Ibiza chill-out music.

Yes, really – and he was encouraged to do so by Sir Elton John, who was blown away by Caine’s knowledge of the genre. “About 10 years ago I started making my own compilations,” Caine told The Guardian in 2007. “I’ve always been interested in music, and over the years have made literally thousands of tapes. And with chill-out I suppose I finally found my forte.” The album, which was wittily titled Cained, came out later that year.

9. He’s not intending to retire yet… but we should still make the most of him while we can.

“I’ve always said that you don’t retire from movies, movies retire you,” Caine told Time Out in 2018. “They haven’t retired me just yet. I feel it’s coming. I’m 85 this week and getting up at 6.30am and learning six pages of dialogue… well, it’s not my idea of paradise.”

10. He does a hilarious impression of… Sir Michael Caine.

Check out Caine’s impersonation of everyone else’s impersonation of him in this hilarious chat show clip.

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What is your favorite thing about Sir Michael Caine?

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By Nick Levine

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Presh JM Reporter

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