Michael Caine, the iconic actor who tonight stars as fabled secret agent Harry Palmer in Funeral in Berlin, was hailed for his incredible attitude on set, with his co-star Gary Oldman admitting the Londoner “doesn’t f**k around” when he is on set. The pair starred opposite each other as Alfred Pennyworth and Commissioner James Gordon in Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. The fellow Academy Award winners spent time with each other during filming, with Oldman once remarking about how good Caine actually was.
Oldman, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, noted Caine’s dedication to getting the take right was down to his overwhelming talent… and his love of cricket.
According to ESPN in 2015, Oldman said: “It’s, ‘Take one’. He got it. ‘Take two’, got it. ‘Take three’, got it. He’s just on the money… He doesn’t f**k around because he wants to get back to cricket.”
Caine himself has often talked about his own acting style, which has seen him transcend the genres across his illustrious career in Hollywood.
For every appearance he made in a gritty drama or thriller such as Alfie or Get Carter, he has demonstrated his versatility in roles such as crime caper The Italian Job and comedy through The Muppet Christmas Carol.
And his reinvention as a household name came in the past two decades thanks to his roles starring in Christopher Nolan’s films such as the Batman trilogy and Inception.
But reflecting on his acting style, Caine noted that “there shouldn’t be any acting” when it came seeing people on a screen. He told About Film in 2004 that the viewer “should just be watching a real person”.
He added: “It’s much harder to act in a bad film than in a good one. A terrible script makes for very difficult acting. You can win an Academy Award for some of the easiest acting in your career, made possible by a brilliant script.”
During his performances, Caine is often known to use his familiar Cockney accent, a tone that originates from London. While iconic, there was a good reason why the Rotherhithe-born star retains it.
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“I kept my cockney accent in order to let other working-class boys know that if I made it, they could do it too,” Caine, who turned 90 on Tuesday, told CNN’s The Screening Room in 2007.
But the strong inflection has also brought with it its jibes, including by Caine’s close friend Peter Sellars, who reportedly coined the Londoner’s famous catchphrase “not a lot of people know that”.
Speaking on the BBC chatshow Parkinson in 1972, Sellars told the host: “Not many people know that. This is my Michael Caine impression. You see, Mike’s always quoting from the Guinness Book of Records.
“At the drop of a hat he’ll trot one out. ‘Did you know that it takes a man in a tweed suit five-and-a-half seconds to fall from the top of Big Ben to the ground?’ Now there’s not many people who know that!”
After the episode aired, Caine himself spoke of how Sellars even did an impression of him for his answering machine during the Seventies.
“I called Peter one day, he wasn’t in,” Caine, who was knighted for services to acting in 2000, said on Parkinson himself when asked about his relationship with the comedy actor.
He continued: “And there was me saying, ‘My name is Michael Caine. I just want you to know that Peter Sellers is not in. Not many people know that.’
“He invented that ‘not many people know that.’ And then everybody who rang him, they got me saying, ‘Not many people know that.'”
During another appearance on Parkinson, this time in 2007, Caine spoke of how there were so many impersonations of him, that he himself had taken to playing up on it for his audiences.
He added: “I can do it. ‘Hello. My name is Michael Caine. Not many people know that.’ I sound like a bloody moron. You know where they’ve got me now? On birthday cards. ‘It’s your birthday today. Not many people know that’.
“Now they’ve got me on Satellite navigation. It’s me going, ‘take the second turn on the right, and you’ll wind up right in the s**t.'”
The Sellars coined catchphrase even made it into one of his films, when Caine said “not a lot of people know that” while in his role as Dr Frank Bryant in the 1983 film Educating Rita.
Funeral in Berlin airs from 10.45pm on Thursday night on BBC Four.