Sir Michael Caine, CBE is an English actor, film producer and author. He has appeared in more than 130 films in a career spanning over 60 years and is considered a British film icon. Known for his cockney accent, Caine was born in Southeast London.
Icon of British cool in the 1960s, leading action star in the late ’70s, and knighted into official respectability in 1993, Michael Caine has enjoyed a long, varied, and enviably prolific career.
Although he played a part in some notable cinematic failures, particularly during the 1980s, Caine remains one of the most established performers in the business, serving as a role model for actors and filmmakers young and old.
- Born: 14 March 1933, Rotherhithe, London, UK
- Full name: Maurice Joseph Micklewhite Jr.
Michael Caine was born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite in London, to Ellen Frances Marie (Burchell), a charlady, and Maurice Joseph Micklewhite, a fish-market porter.
He left school at age 15 and took a series of working-class jobs before joining the British army and serving in Korea during the Korean War, where he saw combat.
Upon his return to England, he gravitated toward the theatre and got a job as an assistant stage manager.
He adopted the name of Caine on the advice of his agent, taking it from a marquee that advertised The Caine Mutiny (1954).
In the years that followed, he worked in more than 100 television dramas, with repertory companies throughout England and eventually in the stage hit “The Long and the Short and the Tall”.
Caine lives in Leatherhead, Surrey, in a house with a movie theatre which cost him £100,000 to build. He is patron to the Leatherhead Drama Festival. He has also lived in North Stoke, Oxfordshire; Clewer, Berkshire; Lowestoft, Suffolk; and Chelsea Harbour, London.
In addition, Caine owns an apartment at the Apogee in Miami Beach, Florida. He still keeps a small flat near where he grew up in London.
Caine has published three volumes of memoirs, What’s It All About? in 1992, The Elephant to Hollywood in 2010, and Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons in Life in 2018.
Caine was married to actress Patricia Haines from 1955 to 1962. They have a daughter, Dominique (who was named after the heroine of the novel The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand).
He dated Bianca Jagger in 1968. Caine has been married to actress and model Shakira Baksh since 8 January 1973.
They met after Caine saw her appearing in a Maxwell House coffee commercial and a friend gave him her telephone number.
He called her every day for ten days until she finally agreed to meet him. They have a daughter, Natasha Haleema.
As a Christian married to a Muslim, he says “no questions or issues ever come up” and describes his wife’s beliefs as “very benign”.
Proud of his working class roots, Caine has discussed the opportunities his film career gave him: “I got to play football with Pelé, for God’s sake. And I danced with Bob Fosse.”
He also became close friends with John Lennon, stating: “With John and I it was a case of bonding because we were both working class and we shared a sense of humour. We were pretending we weren’t who people thought we were.”
His closest friends include two James Bond actors, Sean Connery and the late Roger Moore.
Caine quit his 80-a-day smoking habit in the early 1970s after a lecture by Tony Curtis. He is a fan of cricket. This was alluded to by Gary Oldman, who acted with Caine in The Dark Knight Rises, when he talked about Caine’s acting methods: “It’s, ‘Take one’. He got it. ‘Take two’, got it. ‘Take three’, got it. He’s just on the money. […] He doesn’t fuck around because he wants to get back to cricket.”
Some time after his mother died, Caine and his younger brother, Stanley, learned they had an elder half-brother named David.
He suffered from severe epilepsy and had been kept in Cane Hill Mental Hospital his entire life.
Although their mother regularly visited her first son in the hospital, even her husband did not know the child existed. David died in 1992.
Trivia books written by Caine include Not Many People Know That!, And Not Many People Know This Either!, Michael Caine’s Moving Picture Show, and Not a Lot of People Know This is 1988.
Proceeds from the books went to the National Playing Fields Association, a UK charity for which Caine served as Vice President, and which aims to protect and promote open spaces for sports and recreation in British cities and towns.
In July 2016, Caine changed his name by deed poll to his long-time stage name in order to simplify security checks at airports. “[A security guard] would say, ‘Hi Michael Caine,’ and suddenly I’d be giving him a passport with a different name on it [Maurice Joseph Micklewhite]. I could stand there for an hour. So I changed my name.”
Caine’s big break occurred in 1963, when he was cast in a leading role in the epic, star-studded historical adventure film Zulu. Suddenly finding himself bearing a modicum of importance in the British film industry, the actor next played Harry Palmer, the bespectacled, iconoclastic secret agent protagonist of The Ipcress File (1965); he would go on to reprise the role in two more films, Funeral in Berlin (1966) and The Billion Dollar Brain (1967).
After 12 years of obscure and unappreciated work, Caine was glibly hailed as an “overnight star,” and with the success of The Ipcress Files, advanced to a new role as a major industry player. He went on to gain international fame in his next film, Alfie (1966), in which he played the title character, a gleefully cheeky, womanizing cockney lad.
For his portrayal of Alfie, Caine was rewarded with a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nomination. One of the most popular action stars of the late ’60s and early ’70s, Caine had leading roles in films such as the classic 1969 action comedy The Italian Job (considered by many to be the celluloid manifestation of all that was hip in Britain at the time); Joseph L. Manckiewic’s Sleuth (1972), in which he starred opposite Laurence Olivier and won his second Oscar nomination; and The Man Who Would Be King (1976), which cast him alongside Sean Connery.
During the 1980s, Caine gained additional acclaim with an Oscar nomination for Educating Rita (1983) and a 1986 Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Hannah and Her Sisters.
He had a dastardly turn as an underworld kingpin in Neil Jordan’s small but fervently praised Mona Lisa, and two years later once again proved his comic talents with the hit comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, in which he and Steve Martin starred as scheming con artists.
Although Caine was no less prolific during the 1990s, his career began to falter with a series of lackluster films.
Among the disappointments were Steven Seagal’s environmental action flick On Deadly Ground (1994) and Blood and Wine, a 1996 thriller in which he starred with Jack Nicholson and Judy Davis. In the late ’90s, Caine began to rebound, appearing in the acclaimed independent film Little Voice (1998), for which he won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of a seedy talent agent.
In addition, Caine — or Sir Michael, as he was called after receiving his knighthood in 2000 — got a new audience through his television work, starring in the 1997 miniseries Mandela and de Klerk.
The actor, who was ranked 55 in Empire Magazine’s 1997 Top 100 Actors of All Time list, also kept busy as the co-owner of a successful London.