Michael Caine


  1. Jeremy Kemp,  Z Cars, TV, 1962-1978.   Being a TV star was never in his sights. Even in the first of the gritty, in-yer-face cop shows, hitting headlines from episode one when the Caine-refused PC Steele beat up his wife, Dorothy White.  (She later joined Caine in Get Carter, 1971).

  2. Dirk Bogarde, HMS Defiant, 1962. One of many youngsters trying out  for Lieutenant Scott-Page in tests with Alec Guinness’ Captain Crawford being played by Maurice Denham.   Rather like  the  upper-class officer  role that shot Caine to glory in Zulu, 1963.
  3. John Leyton,Guns At Batasi,1964. Britt Ekland says Caine was due as her lover in her English debut.He left before shooting began and she left in the middle to join husband Peter Sellers in ollywood – Hollywood -makingthe lovers, Mia Farrow and current pop rage Leyton.
  4. James Fox,Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes, 1964.  Not only Oskar Werner but Mike Caine lost a  role in the mad  comedy about a 1910 air race providing roles  and gags for everyone  from  Alberto Sordi and Sarah Miles to Gert Fröbe and  Benny Hill. Plus the uncredited film debut of Vernon Dobtcheff’s astonishing 374 screen roles  in 67 years: 1962-2023. No wonder Rupert Everett called him  “the patron saint of the acting profession.”

  5. Omar Sharif, Dr Zhivago, 1964. 
    When Julie Christie was testing  for director David Lean, her pal went with her –  to help out as  “the back of the head” of whoever she was talking to. Lean then asked him  to support other testees. “It was I was just doing it as a favour but it was obviously going well because  David suggested that he actually test me…  ‘Look,’ he said, ‘if we shoot it this way and maybe comb yoiur hair like this…’  But it  didn’t work.”  So what do you want?” ”asked Caine. ”A man who’s taken a long hard look at life and has decided there’s absolutely nothing to do done,” Omar Sharif, yelled Caine. “Really” said Lean. Tnen: “You know, you could be right – I’m going to test him.”
    He also checked top Brits Dirk Bogarde, , Sean Connery, Albert Finney, Peter O’Toole (Lean’s  Lawrence of Arabia, 1961);  two Americans, Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman; and a single Swede, Max von Sydow. The Egyptian won.

  6. Terence Stamp, Modesty Blaise, 1965. Mim Scala of London’s  Scala Browne Agency was among the many falling for Peter O’Donnell’s comic-strip heroine and – sensibly – snapped up the rights for Sidney Gilliatt to direct –Barbara Steele as the master criminal often helping Her Majesty’s Secret Service  and Michael Caine as her loyal Cockney lieutenant (and lover?) Willie Garvin.  Scala then sold his rights to the Italian-born UK producer Joseph Janni who, after doing everything right with Darling,  made every possible mistake – signing Michelangelo Antonioni’s Italian muse, Monica Vitti ((instead of Romy Schneider) and Terence Stamp as the anti-heroes and, of all possible directors, Joseph Losey. (Would you ask Losey to direct a Bond movie?  No. So why pick him for  an 007- wannabe!)  Stamp was so keen he  gave up Alfie – and that;’s how Michael Caine, rather his old flat-mate, became the UK’s biggest superstar in, by 2023, 177 movies. While  Modesty remains the most wasted star of British fiction.
  7. Ian Hendry,The Hill, 1965. “This is terrible,” Caine told director Sidney Lumet.”You may never want to work with me again but I’ve just been offered the part of a lifetime.” Alfie.Hendry inherited a a good role but still disliked Caine. Intensely.
  8. Richard Harris, The Bible… in the beginning,1966.Orson Wellesoffered Caine the role of Esau “who was a hairy man.”Mike was “worrying about how uncomfortable a chest wig would be,” when Welles fell outand John Huston fell in.Caine and Huston would meet again. And again.
  9. Richard Johnson, Khartoum, 1966.  He had already done the upper-class officer bit. His motto was: “I’m not really star materialbut if I work fast enoughand pack enough bleedin’ pictures in, I’ll be a star before anyone realises it.”
  10. Albert Finney, Two For the Road, 1966.    Originally, Audrey Heburn’s husband was American and rejected bv Paul Newman and (so he claimed in his 2008 auto-bio) Tony Curtis.  Then, he was nearly Michael Caine before Albie rushed to work with the glorious Hepburn in Stanley Donen’s delightful take at love and marriage, written by Frederic Raphael.

  11. Dirk Bogarde, Sebastian, 1967. Although refusing to postpone the shooting to suit Rex Harrison, director Michael Powell was willing to do soforDavid Warner. When Patrick McGoohan, Peter O’Toole, Christopher Plummer refused, producerHerbert Brodkin suggested: “Get the boy with the glasses.”
  12. .Richard Burton, Where Eagles Dare, 1968. Caine and Lee Marvin were first offered Major Smith and Schaffer. But Burton’s step-son wanted tyo see him in a full blown adventure. And Burton needed a box-office hit. This was his last big winner, due to his co-star – Clint Eastwood. He called it: Where Doubles Dare. (The first of my many interviews with Clint was on the Elstree set).

  13. Alan Bates, Women In Love, 1969.
    “Choose which part you want,” said director Ken Russell, offering the film to Caine before Oliver Reed. It would have been the first time they shared the screen as stars.  (They had already done so as nobodies –  glorified extras, in fact,  in the 1960 Norman Wisdom comedy, The Bulldog Breed). Bu it was not to be. Caine told Russell  why… “I wouldn’t appear nude standing still by myself, let alone wrestling with another naked man. Repulsive! Nothing to do with art or pornography – a purely emotional thing.Either you can appear nude in front of a camera or you can’t. And I can’t.Nude women are very beautiful. Nude men are ridiculous – and ridicule is the arch enemy of the actor. However good your performance is…   the audience would be looking at one thing only: to see how long it is.”

  14. Mick Jagger, Ned Kelly, 1970.  When Albert Finney’s production with Karel Reisz collapsed, Mike and his Alfie-maker Lewis Gilbert had Welshman Alun Owen tackle the script.  “Then, Albert looked ready again and we said: Go ahead. I didn’t want to be caught in a rat-race – nobody wins. I don’t regard this business as a competition.”
  15. Christopher Plummer, Waterloo, 1971. Among director John Huston’s varying plans:Caine as WellingtonoppositePeterSellers as Napoleon. Huston had something far more tasty next time. Finally, the Russian Sergei Bondarchuk directed -with mostofthe Red Army to play with!
  16. Barry Foster, Frenzy, 1971..   “It was so brutal and disgusting I just didn’t… want to be associated with the part.” The lad from the Elephant and Castle was always dropping his H’s…  Harris, Hendry and now Hitchcock would never talk to him again (“So much for Cockney solidarity”) after refusing to be a serial killing greengrocer. This is the  first Hitch film with nudity – in four scenes; a fifth with nude model Margaret Nolan was cut. Just too “loathsome” for Caine… while actors the world over would have played a bar-code if Hitch was directing. Well, Caine, Helen Mirren, Laurence Olivier, Vanessa Redgrave all rejected The Master’s penultimate movie and his last made in Britain. He settled for Foster from the HitchcockianTwisted Nerveand close to Caine’s looks ie: a handsome, blond, unsuspicious-looking killer, like (and this was the point) Neville Heath, probably the UK’s most famous por-WWII murderer – of two women –  in 1946.
  17. Edward Fox, The Day of the Jackal, 1972.   Universal wanted A Star – Caine, Roger Moore, Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford – director Fred Zinnemann did not. The assassin shouldbeanonymous, not famous, he said. He felt otherwise when the thriller tanked. Caine later filmed another Frederick Forsyth thriller, The Fourth Protocol, 1986. .
  18. Donald Sutherland, Fellini’s Casanova, Italy-USA, 1975.As per usual, Dino De Laurentiis wanted superstars – Brando, Pacino, even Redford!! With his secondproducer Andrea Rizzoli (son of La Dolce Vita producer Angelo Rizzoli) in 1974,Fellini dreamt of Caine, Nicholson,a “greatly flattered” Gian-Maria Volonte or the unknown cabaret performer Tom Deal.Whenthe ten month (!) shooting started on July 20,1975, it was “Donaldino.” He had shared Paul Mazursky’s , Alex in Wonderland, 1970, with Fellini in Hollywood and they metagain on the set of Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 in 1975.
  19. Nicol Williamson,The Human Factor,1979. “He was very keen,”recalled OttoPreminger,”but I can’t change it to Ireland because he doesn’t want to pay tax… But I can understand him.”
  20. Harvey Keitel, Saturn 3, 1980. The role: an android!  Producer Lew Grade wanted Connery-Caine; made do with Douglas-Keitel. And after all that, Keitel was dubbed by Roy Dotrice.|

  21. Peter Sellers, The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu, 1980. “Next to Fu Manchu,” said Sellers, “Dr No was a yes man.” Caine was talked of as Fu’s nemesis, Inspector Nyland Smith. But in what sadly proved his finalfilm, Sellers decided on a dual role. The script never matched his (dying) enthusiasm.
  22. Rock Hudson, The Starmaker, TV, 1981.  Caine didn’t mind bad movies – everyone made them. But bad TV, no thank you.   And this was “total sleaze,” admitted  actor-turned-director Lou Antonio. That’s why he needed Rock. For some class.  “He epitomised a positive side of Hollywood and this thing was so anti-Hollywood.”   His character (Danny Youngblood, no less) was a movie-maker famous for bedding, even marrying his discoveries (Melanie Griffith,  Susanne Pleshette, Brenda Vaccaro). Obviously, he was based on French réalisateur Roger Vadim, who had directed Hudson in Pretty Maids All In a Row, in 1970.
  23. James Caan, Kiss Me Goodbye, 1982. Caine refused to be the ghost of Sally Field’s husband in this un-acknowledged re-hash of Brazil’s Don Flor and Her Two Husbands. For one thing, he knew Jeff Bridges had the better role as the newhubby.For another, it was time to start Educating Rita… with his Alfie maker, Lewis Gilbert.
  24. Dudley Moore, Six Weeks, 1982. Considering some of his movies, it’s refreshing to recall that he does know a bad script is and where to flushit.(As for his horrors like The Swarm, 1978, he says: “By all accounts it’s terrible. Butthe house that it builtis terrific”).
  25. Dustin Hoffman, Tootsie, 1982. Producer Martin Baum’s idea when Don McGuire’s script was doing the rounds as Would ILie To You?and Calling Diana Darling.

  26. Tom Courteney, The Dresser, 1983. 
     “The best film I never made…”   Indeed, his only professional regret was never making it with… Orson Welles. They’d met in 1963, when Welles went backstage to praise Caine’s performance in the play, Next Time I’ll Sing To You.  About 20 years later, Welles approached Caine with a plan to film the hit play by ex-actor Ronald Harwood, about his days as dresser to the great theatrical knight, the more ham than mustard Sir Doanld Wolfit. Too late! Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay had snapped up the rights of Sir and his gay assistant –  and won Oscar nominations for their gloriousdmagic. . A further 33 years later, Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellan made a BBC version “And it was wonderful all over again,” said Caine. Wistfully. Except, alas, Welles would have been an elephant in the dressingroom, lacking the subtlely of Finney or Hopkins.  PS Stanley Baker also saw Caine in that West End play. Result: Zulu, 1963, and a star is born…

  27. Peter Firth, Lifeforce, 1984. 
  28. Sean Connery, HIghlander, 1985.   Sean brushed aside ooffers to be either the titular  clansman,Connor MacLeod or the  villainous Kurgan, “strongest of all the immortals,”  in their tussle for… The Prize! He did exacytly the same with them on-screen in his preferrred role of  the 2,000-year-old nobleman, Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez… knowing full well, he could knock him off in a single week for his $1m. fee.  Connery had more panache than the movie or his rivals… and they weren’t exactly nobodies… but Michael Caine, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Malcolm McDowell, Peter O’Toole and Lee Van Cleef.
  29. Sean Connery, The Name of The Rose, 1986.   After Caine and Connery had to go to court for their cut of The Man Who Would Be King, Caine sued the French company that announced him as the medieval monk detective the previous year. Réalisateur Jean-Jacques Annaud looked at Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Albert Finney, Frederic Forrest, Vittorio Gassman, Richard Harris, Ian McKellen, Yves Montand, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Christopher Plummer, Roy Scheider, Terence Stamp, Donald Sutherland.   Connery’s reading was the best and his career exploded anew. Two years later, he won his support Oscar for The Untouchables.
  30. Gene Hackman, No Way Out, 1986.  For his excellent thriller (labyrinthine and ingenious, said Roger Ebert) the under-praised Aussie director Roger Donaldson tried all ages for the villain politico. From James Caan and Al Pacino at 46 to Gregory Peck at 70. Plus James Coburn, Sean Connery, James Cromwell, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Dustin Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Mitchum, Donald Moffat, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Jason Robards Donald Sutherland and Jon Voight.   Hackman was 56.  Second time Caan and Reynolds were suggested for the same role. Reynolds was in two minds about Caan. In his celebrated 2018  interview with Deadline Hollywood’s co-editor-in-chief Mike Fleming Jr, Burt said Caan was a good actor but “a poser of a tough guy.”
  31. Burt Reynolds, Switching Channels, 1987. Sinking with Jaws IV meant missing his Oscarnight and the third Front Page re-make. Reynolds saidthe sight ofco-star Kathleen Turner made him physically sick. “She tried to have me fired every single day.”

  32. Steve Martin, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, 1989. “We couldn’t find anyonetoplay the otherpart,so I changed roles.” No wonder directors agreer that he’s no trouble. “I just do it and get inthe car and go home.

  33. Donald Sutherland, A Dry White Season, 1989. Martiniquian director Euzhan Palcy (first black woman to direct a Hollywood production) contacted Albert Finney, as well.
  34. Terence Stamp, The Limey, 1989. Set for Mike, until director Steven Soderbergh bought Ken Loach’s cinema debut, Poor Cow, 1967, to provide flashbacks of a younger Terence Stamp as Wilson with his baby daughter and wife.
  35. Ian Hogg, Doctor Who #153: Ghost Light, TV 1989.Notta lotta peopel know dat… producer John Nathan-Taylor aimed a smidgen high for the mysterious Josiah Samuel Smith in Doc7 Sylvester McCoy’s favourite serial.Denis Lill, who had twice visited planet Who, was also in the mix.The winning Hogg was a Shakespearean actor with more than 65 screen credits in 43 years.
  36. Gérard Depardieu, Green Card, 1990. Inthe late 80s, Peter Weir told Caine of a comedy they might tackle- “aboutthe trials and tribulations of someone like myself emigrating to America.” They vowed to keep in touch.They did not.
  37. Gary Oldman, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, 1990. Director John Boorman had the great idea, in 1970, of having old flatmates Mie and Terry Stamp as the titular duo.
  38. Anthony Hopkins, Shadowlands, 1993. Director Sydney Pollack considered Streisand opposite Sean Connery or Caine as Narnia author CS Lewis – in love with his terminally ill wife, Joy Gresham.
  39. James Woods, The Simpsons #94:  Homer and Apu, TV, 1994.   Since its 1989 birth, the yellowtoon family Simpson smashed records for episodes, audiences, and the most guest stars (as themselves or others). From Buzz Aldrin, Glenn Close (Homer’s Mom), Dennis Franz (Evil Homer!), George Harrison, Stephen Hawking, Dustin Hoffman, Bob Hope, Eric Idle to Paul and Linda McCartney, Conan O’Brien (a Simpsonswriter made good), Michelle Pfeiffer, Mickey Rooney, Ringo Starr, Meryl Streep plus Barry (and Betty) White! Not all celebs won through…Not all celebs played ball… Caine refused to be the actor taking over Apu’s Kwik-E-Mar job. Woods nailed  it and two years later became  a hottest voice at Disney since Robin Williamsa – in every possible version (TV, video-gmes, etc), of Hades in Hercules. This Simpsons chapter chapter had refeeces to various films including The Hard Way, 1900, which starred… Woods!
  40. Burt Reynolds, Striptease, 1996.  Burt  makes a comeback. “I didn’t  know I was gone until they told me.” Reynolds  moaned he was  uncomfortable playing a porno director in Boogie Nights in 1996 – more than this Congressman? He was so sleazy that Caine, Gene Hackman and Donald Sutherland refused the role!   Burt still hated Boogie Nights – and refused to see it The ever foolish Reynolds then fired his agent… before his one and only Oscar nomination!  Which he lost for denigrating the very film he was nominated for!  Foolish? No, plain dumb ass stupid.

  41. Bernard Hill, Titanic, 1996.
  42. Sean Connery, The Avengers, 1998. “Sean came into the frame and… blows everyone out of the water.” Mike was upset by losing what he saw as a high profile role that could bring him back in a new mode. “It turned in to a stroke of luck” as director Jeremiah Chechik blew his own stupid movie out of the water… and landed in TV.
  43. James Caan, City of Ghosts, 1999.Matt Dillon turns director and the only member of his first-choice castto stay on board was… Matt Dillon.
  44. Bob Hoskins, Danny The Dog (UK, US: Unleashed), 2004. But didn’t French producteur LucBesson say he wrote it for Albert Finney?
  45. David Kelly, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, 2004.    Among Tim Burton’s Grandpa Joe choices. Two passed before passing: Gregory Peck  and Peter Ustinov. Also in  the loop: Caine, Richard Attenborough, George Calin (yes, not Carlin), Kirk Douglas, Albert Finney, Richard Griffiths, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Lloyd (favourite of author Roald Dahl’s widow, Liccy), Ron Moody, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Paul Newman, Peter O’Toole, Max von Sydow, Eli Wallach, David Warner.   Burton finally gave the role to Kelly (“in three minutes”) on running into him at Pinewood studios on  another film.

  46. Peter O’Toole, Venus, 2005.
    “Don’t see the point of juggling yoghurt with this mad fucker any longer…  I think he is genuinely crazed. It’s like dealing with a six-year-old.  He is clearly under the illusion that he is a genius. Alas, his last good film was 20 years ago.” Notting Hill director Roger Michell’s diary notes about Peter O’Toole’s final film. He interferred with the script and the casting and “made the whole process… as miserable as possible from practically the first moment,” said Michell, who even discussed replacing him with Caine, Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon or John Hurt. Shooting was delayed when O’Toole cracked a rib and contracted a chest infection, returning to work as “a very doddery O’Toole, who was knackered, ill, slow and fragile. But I must finish the film before he croaks [He looked like a corpse on the poster], breaks a bit more of himself or contracts.” End result: O’Toole’s eighth and final Oscar nomination. He never won any of them.  Not even for Lawrence of Arabia.

  47. John Hurt, The Oxford Murders, 2008. Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia chased various candidates to play his hotshot maths professor Arthur Seldom: Caine, Jeremy Irons and… Hurt.  
  48. James Corden, Into The Woods, 2013.   
  49. Jeremy Irons, The Borgias, TV, 2010. The Italian Caligula director Tinto Brass offered Caine Pope Alexander VI long before Irish director Neil Jordan got his version off the ground – as a TV series. 
  50. Christopher Plummer, Danny Collins, 2014.     Schedules stopped Caine being the long-suffering manager of ageing rocker Al Pacino in what was first called Imagine. (It concerns the life-changing impact of a long lost letter from John Lennon). Plummer and Caine both starred in the BBCTV’s Hamlet At Elsinore in 1964. Plummer as the prince, Caine was his mate, Horatio.

>>> Tribute

Not often one can pay tribute to someone still with us. Such words usually flow when you’re ready for your final close-up. [EXT Cemetery. Raining]. But since you announced that Best Sellers “is my last part really,” I must say: Thank you! Not only for the films (good and awful; but two Oscars; 176 roles including Alfie, Harry Brown, Harry Palmer, Jack Carter, Charlie Crocker, Horatio, Jekyll and Hyde, Alfred Pennyworth, Stalin(!) and, best, Peachy Carnehan with Sir Sean in The Man Who Would Be King), but also for all the interviews in the late 60s when I was assistant-editing Showtime and you were filming non-stop on both sides of the pond. We’d meet up once you were back at Pinewood, say, you’d give me enough material for your releases over the next three/four months – when we’d meet again and ditto…

Fun times. Fun stories. Coming home to find Richard Widmark having a cuppa with your Mum in the kitchen! (He was filming in your street). You were shooting in Kennington Park when you heard a shrill “Maurice!! Whatcha doin’ ‘ere then?” – from a stray aunty out shopping. Meeting Cary Grant and Prince Phillip in Danny Kaye’s kitchen – notta lotta people can say that. (HRH called you: Old Ipcress). And, of course, being warned off suede shoes by John Wayne because when fans see you in the next urinal, they tend to turn towards you and make a sodden mess of your finest suedes.

Now you say it’s all over. Not quite. You’ve still got Now You See Me 3 to finish. And another book. Or two. “I have a spine problem which affects my legs so I can’t walk very well,” you told BBC Radio 5’s Simon Mayo. “There’s not exactly scripts pouring out with a leading man that’s 88.” (Unless you’re Clint, another great and successive interviewee). Thanks again for it all, Mike, Happy retirement.      Hang on… Is that your phone? Bet it’s Christopher Nolan calling. With a great cameo. And a comfy chair.                                 

TC (December 2021).


 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  50