Actor: World star and cult figure: Michael Caine turns 90

Michael Caine has never forgotten that he is a child of the working class.

Actor: World star and cult figure: Michael Caine turns 90

Michael Caine has never forgotten that he is a child of the working class. On the contrary, the two-time Oscar winner is proud of it and often emphasizes it. Because his origins were always a motivation for the native Londoner to show it to everyone who didn't believe in him. Today, Michael Caine is considered one of the most successful actors of his generation. On March 14 he will be 90 years old.

Cult films such as "Charlie dusts off millions" (better known by the original title "The Italian Job") and "Jack Calculates" ("Get Carter") or the war epic "Zulu" made Michael Caine a world star in the 1960s and 1970s. In old age, the Briton, who is known for eye-catching glasses, shines in films by successful director Christopher Nolan, such as "Inception", the "Dark Knight" trilogy or a short but strong appearance in "Tenet".

Caine convinces as a cool seducer as well as a tough gangster. He masters the big emotions and moves the audience to tears. Whether it's blockbusters, comedies, psychological thrillers or auteur films on a budget - the London native can do it all.

Gangsters and crap everywhere

A career in the film business initially seemed out of the question for the man who was born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite in 1933 in the rough south-east of London, in the district of Rotherhithe. His violent London Cockney dialect was considered an obstacle. Actors only spoke "posh", Caine recalled in a 2009 talk by the "New York Times". "All the plays and movies were about middle class or upper class. And I came from a corner where gangsters beat you to death and there was crap everywhere."

But Caine was undeterred by such hurdles. After military service, where he was deployed during the Korean War, he first took on various jobs in the theater. In 1955 he married his colleague Patricia Haines. The start of a career was difficult and money was scarce. A year later, daughter Dominique was born. That same year, Caine landed his first film role in the war film On the Front Line. But it was a box office flop.

In order to support his young family, he struggled through with all sorts of jobs. He also worked in a steel mill. The marriage to Patricia only lasted seven years. On the other hand, his career soon went uphill. With the war drama "Zulu", the spy thriller "Ipcress - Top Secret" and finally "Alfie" (German cinema title "The Seducer Leaves Beautiful Greetings"), Caine finally established himself as a sought-after film star in the mid-1960s.

In the right place at the right time

"I know that my life has been blessed with more than enough luck and good timing," he wrote in his anecdotal book Blowing The Bloody Doors Off. In the 1960s he was in the right place at the right time. "Thousands of actors out there have been as good as me or better, but they didn't get their chance."

In 1971, he noticed Guyanese-British model Shakira Baksh in a TV commercial for coffee. Caine made every effort to find and get to know the young woman. Lucky for him, Shakira lived just a few miles from him in London. The two walked down the aisle in 1973 and are still married today. From the marriage came his second daughter Natasha.

Very much the worker, Michael Caine was never too good for less demanding parts when there was a lack of attractive roles. In some flops he participated. "Jaws 4 - The Reckoning" from 1987 was one of them. "One of the worst films I've made," Caine bluntly admitted in a TV interview, making no secret of why he was in it: "I got a million dollars for two weeks of work."

The scathing reviews for the failed sequel to the Spielberg hit left him cold. "I haven't seen the film," he said smugly. "But I saw the house I bought my mother with the money. And it's fabulous." Especially since it was his mother's first house. "An incredible moment," gushed Caine, who grew up in public housing.

He received his first of six Oscar nominations in his career in 1967 for "Alfie". It took a while before he got the coveted film award. He twice won the Oscar for best supporting actor, for "Hannah and Her Sisters" (1986) and "God's Work and the Devil's Contribution" (1999). During his acceptance speech for the latter, Caine visibly struggled with his emotions. "He's not a winner," he said modestly to the other nominees. "I'm actually just up here to represent you guys."

Absolute cult figure

In his home country, the Briton, who has been allowed to call himself Sir Michael since being knighted by the Queen, is an absolute cult figure. The band Madness dedicated their own song ("Michael Caine") to him. Caine's distinctive voice and diction are often imitated. "Everybody does it," he said years ago on the BBC talk show "Parkinson," jokingly presenting his own Caine impersonation. "I sound like a fucking idiot," said Caine, who amused himself that his voice was mimicked for tinkling greeting cards and even navigation systems. "Better watch where you're going!"

In eight decades, the distinguished character actor has appeared in more than a hundred films. And there are more to come. Most recently, he filmed "The Great Escaper". In it he plays a war veteran who disappears from his retirement home to make his way to the 70th D-Day celebrations in France. Michael Caine's next film project is already certain. For the third part of the magician's thriller "The Unfathomable", in which he plays the villain, he is back in front of the camera at the age of 90.