On the Oahu set of New Line Cinema's Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Oscar-winner Sir Michael Caine seemed to be having a wonderful time working on his very first 3-D film. After 60 years in feature films, Caine said Journey 2 will not only be the first movie he's worked on which uses 3-D cameras, it'll also be the first ever 3-D movie he'll watch. So after six decades of starring in films, what was the appeal of this action-adventure film?
"I now have three brand new grandchildren and so I want to do a family film so this one was a good one to do," said Caine, adding, "I’ve done adventure films but not for small children. This is really fantasy. I mean, this afternoon we were riding around on bumblebees. My grandson is going to say to his friends, 'Can your granddad do that? No, he can't!"
Michael Caine Journey 2: The Mysterious Island Interview
Is that something you think about now, enjoying the films with your grandkids?
Michael Caine: "I’ve done that for ages. I don’t work very much, so I only do something I'm really enjoy for such a specific reason. I work once about every two years. The last movie I did was Harry Brown. But this is a very, very funny, very cute and quite clever - a lot of it. I was amazed at how clever the script was."
Harry Brown wasn't probably your typical grandfather.
Michael Caine: "Oh, yes, I couldn’t even let my daughter see that and she was pregnant at the time. I said, 'I don’t want you to see it, let alone kids!' No, no."
How challenging was the physical stuff in this film?
Michael Caine: "I’m 77, but I live on the side of a hill anyway like this, well not like this in England. I walk four or five miles a day and I don’t smoke or do any of those silly things. So it's not particularly challenging for me physically. They take care of me very well. Every time I look around there is a chair right behind me, in case I fall down."
Dwayne Johnson was talking about how excited he was working with you. He’s a very physical actor, but he’s also a very charismatic actor. How has he been as a co-star in this film?
Michael Caine: "He’s wonderful, and he’s also the nicest man. The most amazing thing I thought about Dwayne was that he has a bodyguard. I think, 'Why does Dwayne need a bodyguard? I need a bodyguard, but he doesn’t need a bodyguard.' He’s got a bodyguard and he’s bigger than his bodyguard...I couldn't understand that. But no, he's lovely and he’s very good to work with. He’s very professional. Lovely."
You seem to make everything actually look so easy. What’s your secret?
Michael Caine: "I suppose that’s the idea. If you get it right, it looks easy. People should be saying - or what they say a lot is, 'Oh, I think he’s playing himself,' but you’re never playing yourself. But if you’re playing it right, they get it that idea. My idea of a wonderful film actor is if you're sitting watching me in a movie and you say to your companion, 'Isn't Michael Caine a wonderful actor?,' then I’ve failed. You shouldn’t be noticing the actor; you should be going, 'I wonder what's going to happen to Harry Brown",' and not worry about Michael Caine. The art is to make yourself and the acting disappear for me. That’s what I do."
Are you a fan of 3-D?
Michael Caine: "I’ve never seen a 3-D movie."
Michael Caine: "No, this is a couple of firsts for me. I’m a real grandfather, and I’ve only been a real grandfather for two years, and I’m playing a grandfather for the first time. And, I’m doing a 3-D which is very modern - considering being a grandfather which is very old - and the other one's 3-D which is very new. I’ve seen myself in 3-D on the monitors. It's good, you look even uglier. [Laughing] You see all the lines in HD and everything."
So the 3-D doesn’t affect the process when you’re in front of the camera?
Michael Caine: "It doesn’t make any difference. None at all."
When you work with younger actors like Josh Hutcherson, do they have to get over any intimidation factor early on?
Michael Caine: "There’s not a lot of that that goes on. I’m very aware of anything like that. I like to work out relaxation so if I sense any nerves on the set, I’ll immediately tell jokes and such. I’ll do anything to relax a set. Sometimes actors like to work out of tension, but I’m a Stanislavski trained. The basis of Stanislavski, one line that struck me was, 'The rehearsal is the work and the performance is the relaxation.' So all the tears and everything has gone into rehearsals, which as a movie actor you do on your own."
Is there some expectation from some of the younger actors of you as a mentor or do you actively pursue them?
Michael Caine: "I never tell them. When I was a young actor, I always used to ask older actors, successful actors for advice and every single one of them said, 'Give it up.' So I say to young actors, 'Don’t even ask me for advice and if any other old actor ever gives you advice, don’t listen.' The worst thing about advice is it's free; if you had to pay for it, it might be worth something."
What still gets you excited every day when you show up on set to go to work?
Michael Caine: "It' like a sort of drug in a way. It's getting it absolutely right and knowing you've done it and you couldn’t get it any better. Sometimes I say to a director, 'If you want it any better, you're going to have to get someone else because I can’t do it better than this.' If you get to that stage, it's great. If you get to where it’s very amusing, which is what we were doing all day yesterday down here... Dwayne and I had a lot of fun with the scene down there yesterday, which was completely different from the way it was written. It's the same words, but just done from a different point of view."
You talk about how you take less roles these days and it has to be something interesting. It seems that there is one filmmaker, Christopher Nolan, that seems to get you. As a collaborator, what keeps bringing you back?
Michael Caine: "He’s a wonderful, wonderful guy. I love working with him. He’s pretty secretive, too. He lived near me when he was going to do Batman. He came around one Sunday morning with a script and he said, ‘I want you to play Alfred the butler in Batman,’ and I knew who that character was. He said, ‘Would you want to do it?’ and I said, ‘That would be great. I’ve never done anything like this.'"
"So I read it and I went in the other room and I said, 'I’ll read it and I'll call you tomorrow and let you know.' He said, ‘Oh no, I’m staying and I’ll have a cup of tea with your wife.' He put the script away and wouldn’t let me keep the script."
"He’s wonderful. I think he’s the new David Lean, that’s what I think. I know David very well because I did all the back heads for the screen tests for Dr. Zhivago. Julie Christie, who's a friend of mine, went up to play the part and she said, 'You come and play the other part with me,’ so I went. And then Lean said, 'Would you stay on and do all the rest of them?’ So I stayed on and did all the rest. I've always studied Lean’s work, and I saw it in The Dark Knight. If you think in terms of an action director in that opening sequence with the mask and the bank robbery, and then you look at directing actors and you see Heath's opening soliloquy and ending soliloquy, they were fabulous. He can direct actors, he can do action and he writes this stuff. He wrote Inception with Jonathan. He’s an extraordinary intellect, man, director and he’s really quiet. He doesn’t shout and scream. You wouldn’t notice him on the set. You would try and figure out which one is the director, you know?"
It's lovely to be a part of the ensemble he keeps bringing back.
Michael Caine: I had three days on Inception. I had two days sending Leonardo [DiCaprio] off and one day in Los Angeles months later seeing him back at the LA Airport. The rest of the movie, I didn’t know what was going on. I just turned up. He came off the airplane and I met him and he was followed by the complete cast of Batman. It was all the guys saying ‘Hi, how’s it going?'"