Michael Caine on Not Giving Up “Too Early” and the Lesson a Legendary Director Gave Him


“Don’t give up too early. Just keep going. I’m going to be 87 next month and I’m still waiting for the phone to ring and for someone to say, ‘Here’s a movie.'” – Michael Caine

One of the unique aspects of Interview magazine is that it features actors interviewing other actors — and not usually combinations that you would initially expect. For example, recently actress Aubrey Plaza interviewed the iconic Michael Caine, and the interview is just full of wit and wisdom from Caine’s — believe it or not — nine-decade career. Caine spoke to Plaza about what he learned during his brief “retirement” and also shares some lessons from legendary actor/director John Huston.

One of the many lessons Caine imparts to Plaza is his memory of how he transitioned into more mature roles after very briefly retiring — and although he still makes several films a year, he claims he is still retired. He also references his 2018 book, Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons in Life, and why he chose to write it. Caine reveals:

“At the age of 62, I got a script and sent it back to the producer saying, ‘The part is too small,’ and he sent it back to me with a letter saying, ‘I didn’t want you to read for the lover, I wanted you to read for the father.’ I suddenly realized that I was 62, I was old, and so I sort of retired. I went to Miami, bought an apartment, opened a restaurant, and I had a wonderful time. I wasn’t going to work again. And then I became great friends with Jack Nicholson, who was also living in Miami at the time. And he talked me into making a movie (Blood and Wine, 1996) and I did it, and it was a success. And then I went on to make all the Batman movies, and it struck me that I wanted to say to people who were my age, ‘Don’t give up, because there’s more out there.’

I’ve made some fabulous movies since I retired. And there was another moment, when I saw a program on television in England, where this older man was asking young students who were leaving school what they wanted to do with their lives. Three of them said they wanted to be famous, and he said, ‘How would you want to be famous?’ They said, ‘We don’t know, and we don’t care. We just want to be famous.’ That struck me as strange. So I wrote the book for two reasons. The message of the first half, to younger people, was that you should do what you want without ever thinking of becoming rich or famous. Just do it and be as good at it as you possibly can. And maybe one day you will be rich and famous, but you shouldn’t do it to be rich and famous. And the other part of it is, don’t give up too early. Just keep going. I’m going to be 87 next month and I’m still waiting for the phone to ring and for someone to say, ‘Here’s a movie.'”

Caine also brings up that he worked with legendary actor/director John Huston on the film The Man Who Would Be King. He recalls that Huston was “great,” remembering, “I’d been working for about a week, and he’d never said all that much to me, and I said to him, ‘John, you never give me any directions.’ And he said, ‘You get paid a great deal of money to do this, Michael. You don’t need me to tell you what to do.’ … He did give me one direction. I had a very long speech, and I thought I was doing great, and right in the middle of it, he said, ‘Cut.’ And I said, ‘What are you cutting for, John?’ And he said, ‘You could speak faster, Michael. He’s an honest man. Only villains speak slowly.’ I think that’s absolutely true. Honest men speak faster than dishonest ones. There’s a lesson in life for you.”

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