RogerBW's Blog

Blowing the Bloody Doors Off, Michael Caine 15 November 2019

2018 non-fiction, Michael Caine's (third) autobiography, shading into advice for aspiring actors.

This is another Book of the Week condensation, but rather than follow Caine's life in chronological order the book jumps around by general subject, so any gaps aren't particularly obvious. There's not much detail about his career after his first few successful films, and I assume that's been elided, as has any mention of his second (and current) wife.

There is early life, wartime evacuation, national service (including a thought-he-was-going-to-die moment in Korea which seems to have been formative in his determination to live life to the full thereafter), and acting. Indeed, there are useful acting tips here, perhaps the best being passed on from a rep. director who complained about his acting in the part of a drunk: "Yes, you're showing me a sober man acting drunk. What I want to see is a drunk man trying and failing to act sober."

There's an encouraging willingness to credit other people: many of the stories take the form "I got this tip from X" or "what I learned from that unflattering-to-me incident was Y". At least in the book, there's a strong emphasis on taking one's work seriously, but never one's self.

There's also a certain amount of philosophising, and this reinforces something I've heard from people who've worked with him: if your film has a tiny budget and all the money is going to the one big star's pay, some actors will feel they're slumming it and phone in their parts, but with Caine if you pay the money you are going to get the Full Michael Caine Performance.

All right, this is clearly the cleaned-up Michael Caine for public consumption, and occasional mentions of casting-couches and other such problems (mostly in the form of "thank goodness I never had to do anything like that") do sometimes come over as pandering to an audience newly aware of #MeToo and wanting to be reassured.

But all the same this is an enjoyable memoir about a bloke who, by all appearances, has never believed that he can't be replaced when someone prettier and cheaper comes along.

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  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 05:45am on 16 November 2019

    Caine readily admits he's been in some awful films. But he points out you often can't tell in advance, so when choosing scripts he looked at where the location shoots were. Greenland in winter no thanks, think I'll take the one set the the Bahamas instead.

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