As his film about the 1960 s opens, the veteran actor talks working-class culture, Woody Allen and why he never liked drugs
Now 84, Michael Caine has appeared in 127 cinemas, including Zulu , Alfie and The Italian Job , em> and been Oscar-nominated six hours, winning twice. Caine is the narrator, co-producer and star of new documentary film My Generation , em> about his expedition through 1960 s London.
What inspired you to construction My Generation ? strong>
Simon Fuller[ Spice Girls /< em> Pop Idol svengali] and I are friends, and over dinner, dialogue maintained coming round to the 60 s. He was too young, so was always asking about it. One evening he said,” Let’s make a documentary. You can tell the narratives and I’ll find the music .” It’s taken a few years, but that’s what we did. I have a very good recollection, which is fortunate at my age, so there’s a lot of substance left over. We’re becoming that into a six-part TV series.
The film is studded with sun epithets, but they don’t appear in traditional “talking heads” style. Why ? strong>
I interviewed loadings of people- McCartney, Twiggy, Roger Daltrey, Joan Collins- but we purposed up taking the footage out of the movie. It bolt it up, because you’re no longer immersed in the 60 s, you’re too busy running” Oh look, he’s gone bald ,” or” Ain’t she got fat ?” So you merely hear their voices; we’ll use the footage in the TV series instead.
I supposed the saying moved” If you remember the 60 s, you weren’t really there “? strong>
That’s more the late 60 s/ early 70 s. In the 60 s, we were drinkers. What ruined the 60 s, towards the end of the decade, were medicines. If people were taking cocaine, they’d start talking bollocks and not stop for hours. If they were on other narcotics, they’d simply sit around, going” Wow, humankind .” So it was either people talking too fast to understand, or people not saying anything at all. It brought to an purpose the 60 s as we knew it- which was a loading of drunks get up to all sorts and dancing like mad.
Is it true you smoked marijuana only the once ? strong>
Yes, and I giggled for five hours. I virtually got a hernia. I must have been very tense ahead! When I left the party at 1am in Grosvenor Square, I was standing alone on a corner, roaring with laughter, and no taxi would stop for me. I had to walk to my flat in Notting Hill, and when I got back, I swore I’d never take bloody narcotics again. And I never did. I’m not anti-drugs: I’m sympathetic to people who take them, because they’ve got themselves in a situation that I genuinely do not jealousy. Most drugs are dreadful … at least marijuana’s good for medicinal purposes.
You permanently had a fag in your mouth during the course of its 60 s, though … strong>
I smoked a lot, but Tony Curtis saved my life. I was at a party, chain-smoking by the hearth, when a hand came round from behind me, took the cigarettes out of my pocket and threw them in the burn. I became round and it was Tony Curtis. We’d never satisfied, but he said:” I’ve been watching you, Michael. You’re going to die if you maintain doing that, you idiot .” So I quit.
I later took up cigars, but gave them up because of Hurricane Higgins, the snooker player. I knew Alex quite well, and one night I was smoking a cigar while watching Tv. Alex came on the screen with a voice-box and I could see he was dying. I stubbed the cigar out in the ashtray and never smoked again.
In the documentary you sometimes seem like the more senior, sensible one … strong>
Well, I was a serious actor. I’d spent nine years on stage and ran my way up to leading roles in movies. I’d be up at 6.30 am for a day’s worth of talk, so I couldn’t stay up all nighttime, dancing and getting laid. Don’t worry, though … between cinemas I’d go a bit mad.
My Generation has a 50/50 gender separate of contributors. Did you insist on that ? strong>
Absolutely. I’m a feminist to the core. An interviewer once asked my spouse,” What first attracted you to Michael ?” and she said,” The behavior he treated his mother .” I respected girls tremendously, right from the start. I only didn’t know I was a feminist until they devised it.
Social change is a big theme in My Generation … strong>
That’s the serious point of the cinema, truly. Society was transformed by the 60 s. I was born during the course of its Depression, then came the Blitz. I was evacuated and spent six years waiting for a telegram telling me my dad was dead. A tough start. Six years after the war, I was in the army myself – first in the occupation force in Berlin, then the Korean war, fighting the Chinese. When I got home, London was all smog and rationing. The last straw was[ Soviet president] Khrushchev’s speech saying they now had the atom bomb and could mail it here in a rocket to annihilate us within four minutes. So the stance became:” We’re miserable as sin, we’ve got four minutes to live, let’s have a little fun .” And boy, did we have fun.
Was there a working-class takeover of culture ? strong>
Yeah, slowly but surely. Small things happened: Radio Caroline launched, before the BBC ultimately gave in and started playing pop music. Coffee bars started putting on live groups, like the Beatles. Discotheques arrived from Paris. The first night I went to the Ad lib club- run by my friend Johnny Gold, who later opened Tramp and called me “Disco Mike”- every single Beatle and every single Rolling Stone was in there dancing. Pop culture ran bang, explosion, and just maintain going. Working-class children everywhere
David Bailey and Terry O’Neill became almost as famous as the people they were photographing. I shared a flat with Vidal Sassoon and got free haircuts. Terence Stamp was another flatmate. It seemed like everyone I knew became famous.
You were good friends with Roger Moore. Did his death last year hit you hard ? strong>
Yeah, we were close. But at my age, you get are applied to your friends dying.
You’ve been cronies with two Bonds, Moore and Connery. Who would you like to play 007 next ? strong>
Tom Hardy. And attain him do a posh accent.
You won an Oscar for Hannah and Her Sisters . What do you build of the accusations against Woody Allen ? strong>
I am so stunned. I’m a patron of the NSPCC and have very strong opinions about paedophilia. I can’t come to terms with it, because I adoration Woody and had a wonderful time with him. I even introduced him to Mia[ Farrow ]. I don’t regret working with him, which I did in complete innocence; but I wouldn’t work with him again , no.
Last time, you were in yet another Oscar-nominated film, Dunkirk … strong>
Only a cheeky little cameo. Christopher[ Nolan, administrator] and I have done six very successful movies together. I’m his good-luck appeal. Or is he mine? Anyway, I had to be in Dunkirk , but there was no proper component for me because of my age. Instead I did the voice of the Spitfire squadron leader over the radio. I looked at the gross yesterday: half a billion. The lucky charm ran again.
You seem almost as busy as ever … strong>
What’s come into fashion, fortunately for me, is films for older people. Ever since The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel took $150 m, they’ve realised there’s a generation who still go to the cinema. So last year I made Going in Style with Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin, all of us in our 80 s. I’ve just done Night in Hatton Garden , about the oldest robbers in history. It’s like the audience have grown up with me.
Tess Daly says you’d be her dream celebrity contestant on Strictly Come Dancing . Fancy it ? strong>
Oh, truly? I’m afraid I’m beyond that. She should be mighty allayed. I watch Strictly every weekend with my three grandchildren. We all shout out the scores together.
Was the 60 s the best decade of your life ? strong>
At the time it was. Since then, my life has improved from decade to decade. My exultation nowadays is not movies, money or women- I’ve been happily wedded for 45 years to the most wonderful lady I ever fulfilled – it’s my grandchildren. I’m devoted to them.
You’re 85 next week. How are you celebrate ? strong>
My wife’s organising something but won’t tell me what. My 80 th was in Las Vegas with Quincy Jones. We call ourselves” the celestial twins “. He composed the music for The Italian Job and when he came on determine, we worked out we were born at exactly the same hour. We’re not identical twins, clearly, we’re celestial ones. One thing I love about Quince is he’s always late for everything. He invited me around for lunch lately and he was an hour late. In his own house.
Will “youve been” retire ? strong>
No. The movie business retires you. I’ve just turned away a film, actually; but if I get a script I really want to do, I will. I’m busy enough. I’ve got the TV series and a volume I’m writing. I did a guide to play, which went very well, so now I’m writing one on stardom. It’s full of funny narratives and I name-drop like fury, obviously. You might have noticed.
My Generation is released 16 March. On 14 March a preview screening in cinemas will be followed by a live Q& A with Michael Caine, broadcast from BFI Southbank