"I was never Alfie," says Sir Michael Caine, although he made a name for himself when he played the Swinging Sixties lover on the big screen. "I was always after girls, but I was a romantic. I was always in love with someone. So I wasn't like that, I wasn't after a sh **. It worked very well. "
Caine looks over his penthouse at Chelsea Harbor to see his wife Shakira. We're here to talk about his book, "Blowing The Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons in Life," which will soon be available in paperback. In it, he admits his "regret and shame" of not noticing what some of his abusive male colleagues did during his heyday in Hollywood.
"I knew Harvey Weinstein very well," says Caine. "I took three pictures with him. He didn't do any of this before me. I never saw him do anything wrong with women, but when I read what these girls said, it was terrible that he did it. “A US court was recently told that Weinstein had reached $ 44 million in misconduct with women accusing him of sex; He is still being tried for sexual assault.
"I knew Harvey Weinstein very well," says Sir Michael Caine. "I took three pictures with him. He didn't do any of this before me. I never saw him do anything wrong with women, but when I read what these girls said it was terrible that he did that. "
The # MeToo movement has swept through Hollywood to Weinstein, and allegations of misconduct have been made against dozens of other famous men. Some have denied everything, like Dustin Hoffman and Michael Douglas; Some, like Ben and Casey Affleck, have apologized for their behavior. and others have seen their careers effectively end – Kevin Spacey for example.
In his book, Caine advises young actors to look for the good in every difficulty – and he's doing it now. "Use the difficulty, look inside and see what came out of it, what was good. Any actress going to auditions today, no producer would dare to outsmart them. Because he knows he'll be in the newspaper tomorrow. At least something good has come of it. Women, actresses can now relax when auditioning. I mean, they'll be nervous about foreplay – whether they get the part – but they don't have to worry about being raped. "
Well, that's a step forward, I say, trying to be ironic because I'm stunned by what he just said. He takes it at face value.
"I think that's a step forward." Yes, I am everything for #MeToo. I am a great admirer of women, for their concerns and everything. "
Did he see men in the film business that he thought were shady? "Oh damn, yes."
And did he ever intervene? "No, I've never been so close to anything physical. I could see what people would do if I left, if I left. But nobody has ever done anything to me. Because I was very pro-feminist, you know? And they knew that, so they wouldn't do anything in front of me.
Where did his own attitude come from? "I've always been a man for the women's library." The thing with me and the women is that I loved my mother. Very much. For me, every woman is about five percent of my mother. So you are always treated very well. I have respect and I am all for equal pay, ”he says and goes on a tangent.
"Mind you, I didn't know that her pay was worse because I worked with Elizabeth Taylor. She got a million dollars, I got £ 150,000. I thought," Wait a minute. "I didn't complain! "
Caine is clearly a little old-fashioned sometimes, but the feelings in his book look real. "I always knew – or thought I knew – about the casting couch, but to my regret and shame I never thought too much about it," he writes. "While I had a lot of really horrible and shameful auditions, I was never put in the humiliating, frightening position of asking for sex or even being forced in return for some of it."
It's an open admission from someone who made 130 films – including Zulu, Alfie, The Italian Job, Educating Rita, and the Dark Knight trilogy.
But then he has also been married for 46 years – since he saw Shakira in a coffee advertisement and tracked her down. Although he's now walking with a stick after an accident, they're heading to Mayfair tonight to visit the Tramp nightclub where they first met.
Wherever he goes when he makes films, Shakira goes too – "just to be with each other and to care for loneliness because it can get lonely." It takes care of infidelity that you find in the films. The joke [in the industry] is: infidelity doesn't count on the spot. Everyone does it. Part of the job ”.
But not for Caine. "I recently went somewhere for two or three days and it was the first time in 46 years that I was traveling alone."
Do they never get sick from the sight of each other? "Have you seen my wife? She may be fed up with the sight of me, but you are not fed up with the sight of her! "
He still enjoys the glamor of his life as a movie star. “I made a film with Elizabeth Taylor [Zee And Co 1972] and went to Budapest for her birthday party. When the meal was over, all the men had left and I was sitting at this table with these women. There was Susannah York. There was my wife. There was Elizabeth. There was Raquel Welch. There was Grace Kelly. It was the most beautiful table I have ever seen in my life – and probably everyone has ever seen in his life. "
"While I had a lot of really horrible and shameful auditions, I was never put in the humiliating, frightening position of asking for sex or even being forced in return for some of it."
Caine played a prolific lover in Alfie and was romantically engaged with women on screen in many other films, but her scenes were never explicit. "I was in bed with a couple of women [on the screen] but we were never completely exposed." It was suggested, but the sex was implied because I didn't want to. I just didn't like those scenes. I feel embarrassed about nudity. I would definitely not appear naked anywhere. "
He is still asked to undress – if not for the same reasons. "I had one recently. In Switzerland, I swim naked in the lake in autumn and it's very cold. I get out of the lake and the script said, "Because of the cold, your penis is very small and the busload of tourists comes by and they all sit there and start laughing at you." "He shakes his head." I said, "I don't think I will." ’
Caine was a big, strong boy straight out of National Service and the Korean War when he appeared in Zulu and Get Carter, but he wasn't nearly as torn as today's leading men.
"Well, you can't be a big, fat guy and a leader. Because the girls have to attract you. "You have to have a six pack now, don't you?" I didn't have a six pack, "he says." I didn't even have a five pack. I was closer to three and a half! "
Did he ever go to the gym?
& # 39; Oh no. I did so much physical in the army that I was determined never to do anything physical in my life again. "
Caine was born in Rotherhithe in 1933 as the son of a fish carrier and a Charlady as Maurice Micklewhite. How much of Maurice is left after all this time? & # 39; Probably nothing. I became a whole new person. I got out of poverty because I was rich. I said goodbye to the working class because I was an actor. My mother died, my father died, my brother died. So I became me and that was it. A creation. And I'll stick to it. "
Even now, with an estimated fortune of £ 50 million, he is afraid of poverty. “My family was poor and I suddenly apologized for being rich because I looked after them. I never had a conscience of being rich because I took everyone with me. “Friends too? "No, just family. Blood. Blood only. "
Caine's father, also Maurice, died in 1957 at the age of 56. His mother Ellen was successful and died in 1989. It was only after her death that Caine found out that he had an older half-brother whom he never met, although David died three years later.
His younger brother Stanley was an actor in the 1960s and appeared on The Italian Job, but later became a writer. Stanley has reportedly received a monthly allowance from Caine, which also paid for the holidays. He died in 2013.
Caine was married to actress Patricia Haines for seven years until her divorce in 1962. You have a daughter, Dominique. He married Shakira in 1973 – they have a daughter, Natasha, and three grandchildren, a boy of ten and twins of nine.
Caine writes in his book about his father's death, moving: "When I left the infirmary, I swore I would do something about myself and my family would never be poor again."
What would his father have made of his success? He grimaces. "When I told my father that I was going to be an actor, I could tell from his face that I only said [as far as he knew something about the theater] that I was gay. We saw British films, it was always about Middle class everyone was talking like that and they looked a bit gay to all of us. I mean they weren't homosexuals but it was all a bit sissy.
"Remember, I was part of a mob at Elephant and Castle, where they used razors. I wasn't exactly one of the world's intellectuals or the most sensitive boy you'd meet. "
Caine was known to share a block with Terence Stamp in the 1960s, and the two were considered the most glamorous of the new wave of working-class actors. But when I mention Stamp, he frowns.
"Terry somehow blew me away because he joined a vegan thing and everything and he couldn't see me anymore. We shared a house for two years and then he suddenly left and I never heard from him again. Where is he? I mean, he's not in a movie, is he? he's retired? "
He recently appeared in two films by Tim Burton: Big Eyes and Miss Peregrines Home For Peculiar Children. He also wrote a treatise like Caine. "I'm not going to read that. I'm not going to get out very well."
I interviewed Stamp a few years ago and offered to fish out his number, but Caine refuses.
"I wouldn't call him." Even now, after all these years? & # 39; No. I was completely blown out. He was also the star and I was unknown [at the time]. I don't know why he never remained a star, I can't imagine. He was very handsome, a very good actor. "
We're talking about how sexual attitudes have changed over the years, and Caine mentions Deathtrap, the 1982 thriller in which he had to kiss Superman star Christopher Reeve, who played his lover. But Caine was still struggling when he wrote: "There was a scene where we had to kiss passionately and never kissed a man before – except my father on his cheek -. It was difficult for me to get involved. I tried to convince myself that kissing Superman was an honor. I was extremely nervous.
“In the end, we did it, not with breathing exercises, but with a bottle of brandy between us. We nailed the kiss, but both of us were so drunk that we couldn't remember our lines! "
Caine in Get Carter, 1971. In the 1960s, Caine was known to share a block with Terence Stamp, and the two were considered the most glamorous of the new wave of working-class actors
In the 1990s, Caine was ready to give up filmmaking. "I got a script and sent it back to the producer because the part is too small." He sent it back to me with the message: "You shouldn't read the lover. You should read the father!" I thought: "Oh, damn it!"
"Then I took some really stupid pictures. I was 63 years old. You don't get the girl anymore, but you're not quite the great character actor. So I thought, "I'm going to leave this."
“I opened a restaurant in Miami. I spent the winters there and the summers in England and did nothing for about two years. And I was very happy. "
Then Jack Nicholson lured him back with Blood & Wine. "It was a success and I went on. I won a second Oscar and took seven great pictures with Christopher Nolan. "
His first Oscar was in 1986 for Hannah and her sisters and his second for Cider House Rules in 1999. "So the lesson is: don't retire unless you are absolutely sure what you are doing!"
Since then, Caine has starred in dozens of films, including Harry Brown, the Hatton Garden film King Of Thieves, and Nolan's Batman films.
"I wrote in my contract that I didn't have to be on the set until 9:30 am because I just couldn't do it." That way I'm too old. But at least my memory is good. I don't need lines on the wall. Rehearsal is work, performance is relaxation. And that means that you keep your memory. "
However, some are fighting, like Michael Gambon, who is in King Of Thieves with him.
Caine with his wife Shakira and daughter Natasha. Wherever he goes when he makes films, Shakira goes too
Caine at home with his mother Ellen, 1964. "I've always been a man for the women's library. The thing with me and women is that I loved my mother. A lot. For me, every woman is about five percent of my mother .
"Oh damn. I took two pictures with him, he has boards everywhere. Oh yes, he can't remember a line, but he was sick, I think. But it's nice to work with him and I don't mind. Alan in [another OAP raid film] Going In Style … who is the American actor? "He can't remember what's ironic. Alan Arkin." He had boards everywhere. "
Did he see the new television version of the same story, Hatton Garden? "I haven't seen it, I don't want to see it because I know the butler did it!"
However, he looks at the news. As a vocal supporter of Brexit, what does he think of the situation now?
"Well, they made a real mess of it, right? I'm out of a deal for a Brexit. I don't regret talking about it. I thought it was a great idea and it never happened. I hope it happened. But I just gave it up. You can do whatever you want. I'm 86, my oldest grandson will sort it out, believe me.
"He is not happy because the girl he is in love with at school – who is ten years old like him – is partially Swedish and she returns to Sweden because of Brexit." So he's very upset. "
Is he a good grandpa? "I think I can boast that I'm probably the best grandpa in the world." Caine takes the summer off to relax with the teenagers. "I'm in no hurry to do anything." If someone said to me we don't want you anymore, you're too old, I would say, "That's okay. I'll write a book."
"I feel about 60. I know that I fell over in my garden last winter and broke my leg and I don't walk very well, but before that I ran two miles a day."
Is he afraid to die given his true age? "Yes." Caine looks at me with rheumatic eyes, soulful for a moment. & # 39; Not really. I would have written on my prank grave stone: "See you later. No hurry." And that's basically it. I believe in God. I must. How else could I have done all of this? “He raises his hands and refers to career, fame, money – everything. “The boxer Rocky Graziano wrote an autobiography entitled Someone up there likes me. If he hadn't used that title, I would have. "
Michael Caine on the set of The Magus, 1968. "I didn't have a six pack," he says. "I didn't even have a five pack. I was closer to three and a half!"
Is there a Caine movie that people should see when it's gone? He thinks for a moment. "Yes, it's a film called" Youth "that not many people in the UK have seen. I think it was one of the best films I have ever made. I won the European Academy Award for it, but I never even did nominated in America or Britain. I think they thought we would refuse to accept Michael Caine as someone as chic as a symphony orchestra conductor. So snobbery is still there. "
He gives the impression of being a relaxed man. “My grandson came to my office the other day and saw all of the awards on a shelf up in the room. He sat there for a minute and said, "Do you know how many awards you have?" I said no, "He told me 38. I have 38 statuettes."
Caine grins and looks happier and prouder than ever at a dazzling award ceremony. When I leave he says: "I think he thinks I did everything right!"
"Caowing The Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons In Life" by Michael Caine is now available in paperback, Hodder, £ 8.99