Michael Caine [Maurice Joseph Micklewhite] (1933-) b. London, England.
Born Maurice Micklewhite in Bermondsey, London, the son of a fish porter and charwoman grew up in the slums of South London with dreams of becoming an actor. After dropping out of school, he was called up to do his National Service at the age of 18 and sent to fight with the Royal Fusiliers in Korea. After his discharge in 1953, he began acting in regional and repertory theatre, and took the stage name Michael Caine; taking his new surname from the film, The Caine Mutiny. He came to prominence as one of the representative figures of London’s ‘swinging 1960s’. A graduate of Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop, he played bit parts in such films as Carve Her Name with Pride (1958) and The Wrong Arm of the Law (1962), before attracting increased attention as Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead in Zulu (1964). Caine finally achieved stardom as the anti-hero Harry Palmer in the espionage trilogy The Ipcress File (1965), Funeral in Berlin (1966) and The Billion Dollar Brain (1967).
His persona as a crafty Cockney lothario was established in Alfie (1966), a film which was surprisingly successful in the US and which won him his first Oscar nomination. Never a romantic star, marked indelibly as an ordinary bloke by his accent, Caine is an intensely professional cinematic actor, whose performances are carefully measured and whose stardom is based on craft as much as charisma. He wrote himself, and the Mini car, into British iconography as the mastermind of a gold-bullion heist in the classic action comedy The Italian Job (1969). Next came another landmark film, Get Carter (1971), a noir thriller with Caine cast as a ruthless gangster seeking revenge. He stole the Oscar nomination from Laurence Olivier in their psychological duel, Sleuth (1973). He gave one of his best performances in partnership with Sean Connery in John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King (1975).
Not always wise in his choice of films, Caine churned films out at an incredible rate. In 1983, he nominated for another Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of an alcoholic professor in Educating Rita (1983). He finally won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). He continued hectically producing films of differing quality, notably a chilling pornographer in the stark Mona Lisa (1986), a dim-witted Sherlock Holmes in the spoof Without A Clue (1988), and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), in which Caine and Steve Martin played two charming con artists. During the late 1990s Caine enjoyed a career revival, as Scrooge in The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). He wrote and released the entertaining autobiography What’s It All About? in 1993 and decided to retire, but this didn’t last long as he won plaudits for his turn as Ray Say in the independent film Little Voice (1998) and scooped a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in The Cider House Rules (1999). Caine returned to British cinema to feature in Last Orders (2002), as a deceased London butcher whose family and friends perform his last wish. In the 1992 Queen’s birthday honours, he was awarded the CBE and in 2000 he was knighted by the Queen and is now Sir Michael Caine.
Caine declared he would henceforth just accept minor support roles that interested him, but rather than fade into the background he earned some of the best acting notices of his career for playing a British journalist in Phillip Noyce’s adaptation of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American (2002). Caine has since worked regularly with director Christopher Nolan, on The Prestige (2006) and two Batman movies in the role of butler Alfred Pennyworth. In 2007, he again revisited an earlier triumph with a role opposite Jude Law in Kenneth Branagh‘s remake of 1972’s Sleuth.