“You’re were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off” is and will always be Michael Caine’s most iconic line of all time, uttered in the 1969
At the tender age of 84 the man previously known as Maurice Joseph Micklewhite, now known as Sir Michael Caine after being knighted by the queen in 2000, has starred in a staggering 125 films in his career to date. His big breakthrough came in 1964 as Lt. Gonville Bromhead in Zulu catapulting this working class hero from the streets of Rotherhithe into the acting elite over the following two years as Harry Palmer in The Ipcress Files and as Alfie Elkins in the original Alfie which later went on to be unwisely remade in 2004 with Jude Law in the leading role.
Caine can also proudly say he is only one of two actors to be nominated for an academy award in acting for every decade from the 1960s, the other actor being Jack Nicholson.
It’s an extraordinary feat that in his 64 year career there have only been five years in which Michael Caine hasn’t appeared in a released film. Whether all his pictures were great or complete stinkers is a completely different conversation however.
In recent years, Christopher Nolan’s dark and twisted Batman trilogy gave new life to Michael Caine’s career after being cast as Bruce Wayne’s most trusted butler, father figure and best friend Alfred Pennyworth, etching his face and acting prowess into the world of comic book adaptations. Let’s put all these aside and take a look at some of the British icon’s roles you may have forgotten.
Educating Rita (1983)
In the 80s Caine received some of his greatest critical success, none more so than for his role in Educating Rita alongside Julia Waters. He played Dr Frank Bryant, Rita’s (Julia Waters), alcoholic college literature professor whose own life was a shambles and had lost his passion for teaching. In the plot, Rita turns her back on her working class background and the expectation from her husband to be a stay at home wife who should be having kids, in order to educate herself.
Frank becomes her assigned professor, he may be there to help Rita in her pursuit to better herself but she ends up helping him in return as the pair unexpectedly bond.
In his own words, Caine described this film as one of his favourites in his extensive catalogue and the performance he is most proud, well he should be, his performance earned him a BAFTA and Golden Globe for Best Actor.
Hannah and her Sisters (1986)
Written and directed by Woody Allen with an ensemble cast of the late Carrie Fisher, Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey and Dianne West, Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters was inspired from a number of sources. The novel Anna Karenina, Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander and his own partner at the time, Farrow’s personal circumstances played a pivotal part on the basis of this story.
Broken down into three chapters, Caine plays Elliot, the husband of our protagonist Hannah (Farrow), he becomes infatuated with her sister Lee (Hershey) who he indulges in an affair with, but after Lee leaves her own husband she becomes tired of waiting for Elliot to leave Hannah and ends the affair.
Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Also known as just Jaws 4, the film was panned by critics and graced with the title of possible one of the worst films ever made. The film focuses on a now widowed Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) and her convictions that a shark is seeking revenge on her family, particularly when a great white follows her to the Bahamas.
Caine took a supporting role as Hoagie Newcombe, a carefree aeroplane pilot who miraculously escapes the humongous jaws of the shark after crash landing his plane into the water. It’s a role in which later saw Caine nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for worst supporting acting. Caine admitted it wasn’t his finest hour “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
Little Voice (1998)
Back in 1998, Little Voice and Jane Horrocks won the hearts of critics and audiences alike in this cutesy British musical which obtained 21 award nominations. The real winner, however, was Caine who took home a Golden Globe for Best Actor and a London Critics’ Circle award for British supporting actor of the year for his role.
Starring alongside the cream of British talent such as Brenda Blethyn, Jim Broadbent, Ewan McGregor and Horrocks as the reclusive Laura, Caine plays the role of sly Ray Say a music manager of third rate acts and lover of Laura Hoff/Little Voice’s promiscuous mother. For his own selfish needs, he spots her talent and takes her under his wing to nurture her talent before losing his patience and leaves with a little musical number of his own.
Miss Congeniality (2000)
Miss Congeniality was a box office hit; it was nominated for several awards and saw Sandra Bullock winning a Golden Globe for Best performance. However, critics gave this comedy caper a mixed reception.
Embracing his role as Beauty pageant coach Victor Melling, Caine wore the camp cape with pride and put in one of the funniest performances of his career. His almost impossible job was to turn a rough round the edges, tomboy FBI agent, Gracie Hart from a dowdy mess into the beautiful glamour puss, Gracie Lou Freebush for an undercover operation to flush out the terrorist threat that could bring the beauty pageant (sorry, scholarship programme…) business crashing to its knees.
Caine’s most memorable quotes here has to be the camp-tastic speech he gives to Gracie telling her “Wear the crown, be the crown, you are the crown”.
The Quiet American (2002)
A remake of the 1958 film which starred Michael Redgrave, an adaptation of Graham Greene’s bestselling novel, set in 1952; The Quiet American is a love story which delves into the story of the American involvement in Vietnam, which led to the hellish war that emerged.
Here, Caine plays narrator, one-third of a love triangle and reporter Thomas Fowler who goes up against CIA operative Pyle (Brendan Fraser) after finding out he has embarked on an affair with Fowler’s mistress Phoung (Do Thi Hai Yen) and further learns of Pyle’s involvement in the terrorist bombings of Saigon, sealing all their fates with a confrontation with an indirect killing.
The Prestige (2006)
One of many collaborations with Christopher Nolan, sandwiched in between The Batman Trilogy , The Prestige brings Caine together with Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, David Bowie, Scarlett Johannson, Andy Serkis and Rebecca Hall in a mystery thriller with a fierce rivalry at its heart.
The role as John Cutter the stage engineer who works as a father figure/teacher to Angier (Jackman) and Borden (Bale) is a supporting role which again won Caine another award from the London Critics’ Circle. Nolan said of Caine’s role, even though it feels like it was written for him it was actually created before they had even met. Nolan later said that “Michael Caine’s character really becomes something of the heart of the film. He has a wonderful warmth and emotion to him that draws you into the story”
Harry Brown (2009)
Meeting with mixed reviews, Michael Caine took the lead in Harry Brown as a vigilante pensioner after the blood of a group of youths who violently murder one of his friends. Touching a nerve on the state of the misguided youth in the heart of London’s less than affluent council estates, Harry Brown motivates feelings of disgruntlement.
Emily Mortimer stars alongside Ben Drew aka Plan B and Jack O’Connell as Michael Caine, a widower, ex-decorated Royal Marine and Northern Ireland Veteran takes matters into his own hands when police release the gang that terrorised and killed his friend for lack of evidence. After being held at gunpoint, Harry takes cunningly drastic measures, which finally frees the estate of the terror it’s had to endure at the hands of the criminal youth gangs.