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June 2005
Batman Begins: An Interview with Michael Caine

Batman Begins: An Interview with Michael Caine

By Wilson Morales

Oscar Winner Michael Caine has played many roles in his years and has made some of them memorable. In the previous 4 Batman films that were on-screen, the role of Alfred the Butler, who take of Bruce Wayne/ Batman, was never really a factor in the films. He merely made appearances as if he were a prop. Well, in Batman Begins, Caine changes and personifies the role. He gives life and substance to the character. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Caine discusses his role and working with Christian Bale.


Were you fans of the Batman franchise before becoming involved with the film?

Michael Caine: Well, they were all sort of different. They all sort of came out at different times, so there was nothing to be a fan of. But I saw them all and liked most of them, I must say, yeah. But when I got this script, it was called Batman Begins, and I wondered about that. And then when I read the script I realized it's true: Batman begins. It's a whole new thing and a whole new way, the way Chris has done it. It's what made me do it. It wouldn't be much point to just playing an ordinary butler in another Batman ­ coming in and saying, "Dinner is served." But the way it was written and the way it was treated ­ my respect for Christopher Nolan as a director, having seen the other two pictures he made. I was also intrigued that the man who directed Insomnia and Memento would be directing a big budget movie like this, and they trusted him with it. You know, $180 million. But I figured he could do it, and it was so different that I loved it. I've seen the picture now and I really love it..


Thinking about Alfred in the comics how did each of you approach the character?

Michael Caine: I did a back story on mine. I wanted to be the toughest butler you've ever seen, not the normal English, suave butler. And so I made him an SAS sergeant, which is a very, very tough British army unit. He's wounded; he didn't want to leave the army. He became the sergeant in charge of the sergeant's cantina or sergeant's mess as it's called in the British army. And he got found by Bruce Wayne's father, who wanted the toughest butler he could find, and that's what he got. And I used the voice of my original sergeant when I joined the British army. It's his voice. That's the back story, and I'm waiting for Christopher Nolan to do "Alfred: The Beginning.".


Are you signed for a second installment?

Michael Caine: Only mentally. Iıd do it in a minute. But Iım signed.


How was the experience filming the movie?

Michael Caine: It was great fun. It was a good movie to work on. And it was quiet. There's none of the shouting and bawling. He's a very quiet man, Christopher. When he directs ­ you know, I'm a bit deaf ­ I kept saying, "What did he say?" He's so quiet. You think, "I'm going deaf." But I'm not. He's just quiet. What you get from Christopher is he's very quiet, but you better do exactly what you're supposed to do, otherwise his voice might get louder. So, you do it and hope he doesn't notice anything. And that's it. He's a wonderful director.


Christian Bale saw himself as an animal the first time he saw himself in costume. What was your impression?

Michael Caine: He looked like an animal, didn't he? He looked like a bat... And we made him. No, Alfred and Batman make the uniform. Obviously, we didn't make the uniform. The first time I saw it, I opened a cupboard on the set, and it was in there and made me jump. It was just sitting there. I think it's the most sinister Batman outfit I've ever seen. It's very sinister. Very hard, and it's not shiny. Batman was always shiny. And the Batmobile was [always] shiny. The Batmobile looks like you'd be safer on the outside than driving it. You could die driving the bloody thing. Better to run away from it.


What does your character fear and what do you fear?

Michael Caine: My main fear in the movie is that Batman will lose his moral convictions and get carried away with the power he has. In real life, I'm afraid of heights ­ and people who get moral convictions. ... Adolf Hitler in London..


Michael, you literally wrote the book on acting. Is there anything left for you to learn on a movie set?

Michael Caine: I learn the whole time. I think it would be dull if I thought I was going to work and wouldn't find something new. We always learn. What did I learn on this movie? Stay out of the way of the bats... keep your head down.


Your Alfie was a bigger hit than the remake...

Michael Caine: I'm kind of sad really, because Jude Law is a friend of mine and I would hoped it would be a hit for him. I want everyone to be a success, and I especially want him to be a success, because I want to do a remake of Sleuth with him and if that had been a big hit, we would have gotten the money easier. We've got a rewrite by Harold Pinter and it's a very interesting ­ anyway, it doesn't matter. But Jude is a wonderful actor anyway. My view is that you should always remake failures because then you've got nowhere to go but up. They can't say, "It's not as good as that." You make a piece of crap, they say "Well, it's a piece of crap like that was." (Laughs).


Any thoughts on how you'd like to see your characters developed for sequels?

Michael Caine: Longer. Bigger... I'd like to be a bigger character.


What was it like working with Christian Bale?

Michael Caine: Oh, he's great to work with. Completely dedicated. Physically, if you saw what he did with himself, he's so big. I'd seen him in American Psycho and when they said, Christian, I said, "He's kind of thin for Batman." Otherwise, I would have freaked out if I had seen that...The Machinist. But then when I walked on the set there's Arnold Schwarzenegger standing there. I went, "Oops!"


What was your most surreal moment on the set?

Michael Caine: For me, it was when I walked into the Batcave for the first time, which was a set at Shepperton studios on this big sound stage. Which, coincidentally, was the first place I ever played a scene anywhere in any movie. It was the same place. It was so weird. I made a tiny little film called "A Hill in Korea," a British Army picture, when I was very young and I had eight lines in the picture and I screwed up six of them. It was on this stage that I said the very first line in a movie and then there was this great big bat place. And then, I said "Those are great false bats in the ceiling." He said," They're not false Michael, they're real. They're asleep. Don't wake them up, whatever you do." And then the waterfalls started, and everything. It was this massive set, really massive. And also Gotham City, Oh, that was incredible. It was an airship hanger. Remember those old airships? That was big, that would take two airships and that massive Gotham set was about an eighth of that building, wasn't it? There was masses of it left over. It's an incredible place.


And how about filming in Chicago?

Michael Caine: It was very funny. I'd just done a picture in Chicago called "The Weatherman² with Nicolas Cage, which is not out yet. And then I went straight back to Chicago to shoot, and I was in exactly the same place, but it was Gotham City. And it was quite weird. Very strange.

 

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