About Sir Michael Caine

Michael Caine as Charlie Croker in the Italian Job

Michael Caine was born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite. He was born on 14 March 1933 at St Olave’s Hospital, Bermondsey, South London. Southwark Council have erected a Blue Plaque at St Olave’s to commemorate his birth. On Inside the Actor’s Studio in 1998, he indicated that it was a family tradition to name the eldest boy Maurice.

His father worked as a fishmonger at Billingsgate Fish Market, a career that young Maurice was vehemently opposed to following himself. His mother worked as a char and later as a general cleaner to give her beloved sons, Michael and Stanley, everything she could. Not long before his mother’s death, Sir Michael found out that he had an older brother, David. His mother had given birth prior to her marriage and the baby had epilepsy which, in the 1920s, was thought to be an incurable form of madness. David had been placed in a home and his mother had secretly visited him every week.

He served in the Queens Royal Surrey Regiment (now part of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment) for his national service from 1951 to 1953. His first year of service was spent in Iserlohn, near Dortmund. He was then transferred with four other members of his platoon to the Royal Fusiliers and sent to Korea. He saw action on the front lines alongside US Marines at Yong Dung Po.

When he began his career in reperatory theatre, he was known professionally as Michael Scott. But, on the phone to this agent, he was told he’d been offered a part in a film and couldn’t use that name as there was already a Michael Scott registered with Equity (the British actors’ union). Looking around, he saw the Humphrey Bogart film The Caine Mutiny (1954) advertised at the local cinema, and picked Caine as his professional name.

Following his national service, he tried his hand at various jobs, including being a bouncer in a brothel and a baker for Lyon’s Tea Rooms, to support his acting career. He spent 10 years toiling away at his profession, touring in rep and essaying bit parts and walk-ons in British TV and film. It was during this period that he met, married and divorced one of his rep co-stars, Patricia Haines. Pat was older than Michael and she was smart enough to know that he was too restless to settle down at that point; soon after the birth of their daughter, Nikki, she moved back in with her parents.

Caine became quite the playboy on the Swinging London scene of the late 1960s. He once famously woke up to find a note he’d written to himself saying “Buy Rolls Royce”, which he promptly set out to do (despite the fact that he didn’t learn to drive until the 1980s). The staff at the showroom refused to speak to him due to his unkempt appearance. Some weeks later, he went to another dealer, bought the car for cash and was then chaffeur-driven past the first showroom, giving the salesman a well-known two-fingered hand gesture.

He first saw his second wife, Shakira, on the TV in his flat when she was a model in a Maxwell House coffee advert. Having tracked her down and pursued her, they were married two years later in Las Vegas, when Shakira was already pregnant with Caine’s younger daughter, Natasha.

In the late 1970s, he relocated from Britain to Hollywood, where he mixed the critically acclaimed with the truly awful. Despite his great talent, he struggled to find decent roles in the late 1980s and early 1990s, appearing in a sequence of increasingly low-quality, mostly direct-to-video fare. It was his performance as optimistic loser Ray Say in Little Voice which turned the corner and led to his late-career renaissance. The film was loved by critics and audiences, and he won another Golden Globe, saying in his acceptance speech that he’d ‘made a lot of crap’ and ‘a lot of money’, so that now he had the luxury to be able to sit back and choose the good roles.

He has won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor twice (Hannah and Her Sisters, The Cider House Rules), and three Golden Globe Awards as Best Actor (Educating Rita, Little Voice, Jack the Ripper). He has been nominated for 8 Bafta awards, including twice for Best Actor in 1984 (The Honorary Consul, winning for Educating Rita) and was given a Bafta Fellowship in 2000.

He is one of only two actors to be nominated for an Academy Award in every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s; the other is Jack Nicholson.

Although knighted under his birth name, Sir Maurice Micklewhite continues to be known professionally as Sir Michael Caine.

He has acted in over 100 films. He formally retired from acting in 2023, aged 90, following the release of The Great Escaper.

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