Sir Michael Caine - A Legend

When you look at his face, Sir Michael Caine seems like the kind of guy who has an awesome backstory. There's a reason why he's ridiculously famous, and it's not just to do with his acting ability.

He's charismatic, intriguing and there's something about his eyes that suggest he's seen a lot. Well, it turns out that he has.

Firstly, he was born in Rotherhithe, London, in 1933 and given the name Maurice Joseph Micklewhite. He will celebrate his 85th birthday next Wednesday.

He was abused when he was six years old.

During the Second World War, he was evacuated to Norfolk. He has spoken openly about how badly he was treated at the time. He said: "I was just six years old and had been evacuated to Berkshire.

"I was there with another boy and the woman treated us very badly. She used to go away for the weekend and lock us up. She would only let us out in time to go to school on Monday morning. It was frightening because at the time we didn't know if we were ever coming out, and when you are stuck in a small space like that there's no sense of time.

"When my mother found out what had happened, she beat the woman so badly she nearly went to prison. She hadn't come to see us for a while because the railways were getting bombed but when she finally arrived she was absolutely furious. She took me back to London and promised I'd never have to go back."

He joined the biggest gang in London just so he could survive.

After the war (and when his father had been demobilised) they were rehoused into 'temporary' housing which was crap. They stayed there for 18 years. During this time, he joined the most powerful gang in London. He believed that you had to be part of one as a teenager in London to survive: "As a teenager in south London, you couldn't walk down the street on your own or you'd be attacked by men in razor gangs. You had to be in a gang to survive.

"The older lads all wore trilbies with razors sewn inside. They would take off their hats and get you - you'd be thinking, 'They've just hit me with a hat,' but you'd actually been slashed with a razor. Nothing really bad happened to me, because I joined the most powerful gang. No-one dared to attack us."

He didn't feel remorse when he killed people during the Korean War.

He soon followed in his father's footsteps when he was called up to do national service aged 20. Speaking to Elaine Lipworth, he described what it was like killing men that you'd never met: "Whenever I killed someone there was no guilt, no remorse. It didn't feel real.

"It was during the Korean War and I was just trying to stay alive. It was self-defence. It was always done at night and we never had any idea who we had killed. I didn't even think about it. We had machine guns and we just did it. I never did anything close up or hand-to-hand. It didn't give me nightmares, because the army brutalises you. It was like the World War One trenches - half a mile apart - and we were just firing backwards and forwards, so we never knew who any of our victims were as individuals. You never saw the whites of a man's eyes when you killed him."

He charged to (what he thought) was his death in Korea.

You would imagine taking part in a war will affect you deeply for the rest of your life. There's a reason why PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is so closely associated with soldiers.

One incident in particular really resonated with Sir Michael: "In Korea there were four of us on patrol in a valley, in the middle of some rice paddies. We were surrounded by Chinese and we knew we were going to die so we agreed to take as many with us as possible. As they closed in, the officer said, 'Let's run towards their line - they won't expect it'. So we did and ended up going right round them.

"They couldn't find us because they were looking in the wrong place. If we'd gone the other way we would all have died. That night we went back to our bunkers and celebrated with a beer. I faced a moment when I knew I was going to die and I didn't run, I wasn't a coward and it affected me deeply. I was at peace with myself for my whole life."

He lived through the swinging '60s

"He said in an interview with The Guardian: "In the '60s, we were drinkers. What ruined the '60s, towards the end of the decade, were drugs. If people were taking cocaine, they'd start talking bollocks and not stop for hours. If they were on other drugs, they'd just sit around, going 'Wow, man'. So it was either people talking too fast to understand, or people not saying anything at all. It brought to an end the '60s as we knew it - which was a load of drunks getting up to all sorts and dancing like mad."

He only smoked marijuana once.

Sir Michael also told The Guardian about dabbling with weed: "I nearly got a hernia. I must have been very tense beforehand! When I left the party at 1am in Grosvenor Square, I was standing alone on a corner, roaring with laughter, and no cab would stop for me. I had to walk to my flat in Notting Hill, and when I got back, I vowed I'd never take bloody drugs again. And I never did. I'm not anti-drugs: I'm sympathetic to people who take them, because they've got themselves in a situation that I really do not envy. Most drugs are terrible... at least marijuana's good for medicinal purposes."

He had a secret brother.

After his mother passed away, Michael and his younger brother, Stanley, found out that they had a secret half-brother named David. The only reason that they didn't know about him was because their mother had kept him hidden away as he was born out of wedlock. She hadn't even mentioned David to her husband.

Sadly, David spent his whole life in Cane Hill Mental Hospital due to his severe epilepsy. She visited him every Monday (except for during wars), claiming that she was going shopping. After Michael found out he existed, he carried on this tradition and visited him regularly. Sadly, David couldn't speak as he had suffered from brain damage caused by banging his head on the stone floors of the asylum when he had suffered epileptic fits. Sir Michael paid for a more expensive room for his brother so that he could live more comfortably. He passed away in 1992.

He used to smoke 80 cigarettes a day.

There must be hundreds of pictures of Sir Michael Caine with a cigarette or a cigar hanging out of his mouth. This was down to his 80-a-day habit. He quit back in the 1970s after American film actor Tony Curtis lectured him about it. After Curtis' death, Caine told Sky News: "I just learned myself (about Curtis' death) and it was a terrible shock and instantly I remembered the first time I'd met him. I was at a party, it was in winter and there was a fire and I was chain-smoking at the time, smoking a lot of cigarettes.

"I took one cigarette and lit it with another and threw the dog end (butt) in the fire. I was stood there talking to someone and suddenly I felt a hand in my inside pocket and they took out my cigarettes and chucked them in the fire. I looked up and it was Tony Curtis.

"I'd never met him and he was very famous. I said, 'What did you do that for?' and he said, 'You're going to die, Michael, if you keep doing that'. I didn't give them up then but I did give them up eventually."

He asked a doctor to end his father's life - that night his dad died.

In an interview, Sir Michael spoke about the instances surrounding his father's death that he kept secret from his mother. According to him, his father was dying of liver cancer and he was in agony: "I said to this doctor, 'Isn't there anything else you could... just give him an overdose and end this'. Because I wanted him to go.

"And he said, 'Oh, no, no, no, we couldn't do that'. And then as I was leaving, he said, 'Come back at midnight'. I came back at midnight and my father died at five past 12. So he'd done it."

He added: "My father was semi-conscious. He couldn't tell you that he would want to go. They told me he only had three or four days to go anyway."

Credit: PA Images

He will never retire.

When asked if he will ever quit acting in films, Sir Michael told The Guardian: "No. The movie business retires you. I've just turned down a film, actually; but if I get a script I really want to do, I will. I'm busy enough. I've got the TV series and a book I'm writing. I did a guide to acting, which went very well, so now I'm writing one on stardom. It's full of funny stories and I name-drop like fury, obviously. You might have noticed."

Well, I don't know about you but I feel like I've been on a roller coaster just reading about Sir Michael's life. And that doesn't even include anything about his two marriages or his kids.

All in all, Sir Michael has had by far the most interesting life I've ever heard of. He came through the other side and is now one of the all-time biggest movie stars in history.

No excuses for not chasing your dreams now, is there? Long live Sir Michael.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Mel Ramsay

Mel Ramsay is the Senior Journalist at PRETTY52 but has worked at LADbible Group as part of the LADbible editorial team since 2015. She started her career writing obituaries and funeral guides online. Since then, her work has been published in a wide variety of national and local news sites. She is part of the BBC's Generation project and has spoken about young people, politics and mental health on television, radio and online.

Next Up

arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up camera clock close comment cursor email facebook-messenger facebook Instagram link new-window phone play share snapchat submit twitter vine whatsapp logoInline safari-pinned-tab Created by potrace 1.11, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2013