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Time Capsule: Michael Caine On Michael Caine
Celebrating the great man’s birthday in style

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Michael Caine turns 80 today (March 14, if you're reading this on March 14; if you're reading it after March 14, he turned 80 on March 14). The voice, as Rob Brydon so adroitly noted, has changed: all the brandy and cigars have lowered its timbre, putting anyone who can only do the Italian Job-era Caine out of work. The glasses, so long chunky-framed and modish, are thinner, less Harry Palmer, more Dennis Taylor. The hair is still curly and tight on the head, albeit white rather than that sunflower yellow that first captivated the world in Zulu.

But Michael Caine is still Michael Caine. One of the great icons of cinema and one of the best actors these shores have ever produced, still going strong. And he’s quite unlike any other big name you care to mention. When Empire met him he'd walked to the top London hotel, because it’s just around the corner from where he lives. He’s alone. No entourage. He’s full of laughter and anecdotes and a sense of contentment; at a life lived, at a career that knocks spots off most others — even when you count The Swarm and all those terrible cash-ins he did in the early ’80s. So, when Empire took him down Memory Lane via an iPad loaded with pictures, there was lots to talk about.

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Zulu (1964)

There’s my guide and mentor, Stanley Baker. He was the producer. [For research] I looked at powerful people, and one I looked at was Prince Philip. Prince Philip always has his hands behind his back, so Lieutenant Bromhead always had his hands behind his back. About two weeks in, one of the heads said, ‘Suggest firing actor playing Lieutenant Bromhead. Doesn’t know what to do with hands.’

I went to Stanley and said, ‘I’ve heard there’s been some negative reports about me.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Who’s the producer on this movie?’ I said, ‘You are, Stan.’ He said, ‘Have I said anything?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Well, fuck off and mind your own business!’ (laughs) That was Stanley in a nutshell.
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