Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman: So much fun togetherBy Ruben V. Nepales
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LOS ANGELES—When Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman—also known as Alfred and Lucius Fox, respectively, in “The Dark Knight” trilogy—were paired together in a recent interview, it turned out to be a treat.
Michael, 79, and Morgan, 75, regaled us with so many amusing anecdotes in their answers that they invariably asked, “What was the question?”
Eating chocolate candies at the beginning of our talk, the two esteemed actors, both Academy and Golden Globe winners, were fun together. Michael, especially with his droll British humor and deadpan delivery, set the tone for the laughter-punctuated conversation.
Have there been times when you wanted to pull back?
Michael Caine (MC): I sort of retired once. I’ll tell you why: I got a script, and I sent it back to the producer, saying, “I don’t want to do it—the part’s too small.” He sent it back with a letter saying, “I don’t want you to read the lover part. I want you to read the father role.” I realized that I had unexpectedly grown old.
Morgan Freeman (MF): Unexpectedly. I love that.
MC: Yeah, I went to the bathroom and had a look in the mirror—and I thought the producer was right. I’m not the lover. I’m the father. But, I didn’t do the picture, anyway, because I already had a bad history with the producer pointing this out.
How about retiring for good—have you considered that?
MC: I regard myself as retired. Not retarded—retired. Some people regard me as retarded, as well. I regard myself as retired until someone makes me an offer I can’t refuse. And that’s not necessarily the money. I have to see the script. Like in these Batman movies, if I’d been saying “Dinner is served” and all that, I wouldn’t have done it! I just lie there, watch television, do gardening, or play with my grandchildren. Then, suddenly a script comes and I go, “Oh shoot, I got to work now—I love this script! That’s what happens to me. But, I regard myself as retired. I’m 79. In England, they just raised the age of retirement from 65 to 66.
MF: Holy cow.
MC: And everybody’s going nuts. I’m going, what are they talking about?
MF: I don’t talk about retirement. It isn’t part of my lexicon. I don’t know anything about it. I read scripts constantly. I’m the same as I was when I was 25. I’m desperately looking for something to do next. Why retire? As long as someone can think of something for you to do, go do it.
What do you consider are the high points in your life?
MC: Well, I got two Academy Awards—those were high points. I got a knighthood—that was another high point. You can’t really do a lot better than that. I did, of course, do better than that because I got my three grandchildren in the end—which is better than anything.
MF: May I ask a question? What are the criteria for knighthood? Could I possibly qualify?
MC: A foreigner can be an honorary knight. I’m a real knight—a really dark knight. When the Queen knighted me, she said to me, “I have a feeling you’ve been doing what you’ve been doing for a very long time.” I was about to say the same thing to her.
But, it’s very funny, because you have your own adjutant who guides you through the palace. I had this guy who’s about 6’ 6” tall. He guided me to the hall where the ceremony was going to be. He kept giving me instructions. “You will do this, you will do that.” He said, “Then, the Queen will shake your hand, you will step back, turn right, and never speak again.” He said, “Your time is over—the minute she shakes your hand.”
MF: You know the vision I get? Nigel Green in “Zulu.”
MC: Oh yeah—when the Queen shakes your hand, she does a funny little thing, because she shakes your hand—then pushes it away to let you know you’re gone. You’d think, “Oh, I better go!”
MF: I met the Queen once in Washington, DC. That handshake thing—she takes your hand and just pulls you past her.
MC: Yeah, that’s if you’re going past. With me, she pushed back because I had to go backwards. Another funny story connected with that is that I was talking to Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones on Piccadilly. My phone rang. I said, “Excuse me just a minute,” and I talked and talked on the phone. Afterward, Charlie asked, “Who was that?” I said it was Roger Moore. Roger said he will be knighted, and he wanted to know how difficult it was to get up once you’ve knelt down—because he’s got a bad knee. I reassured him with, “It’s all right because you kneel down on a stool and on the side, it has a handle so you can push yourself up.”
Also, it was very funny, because with the film stars walking along the passage at the Buckingham Palace, as you go, all the little doors open, and the maids are going out and looking at you. The adjutant was like, “Get in, get in” with the stick. But, anyway, what was the question?
How has Christian Bale grown as an actor since you worked with him the first time?
MF: I’ve looked back at a lot of work that Christian did before I knew him as Bruce Wayne. I see him as accomplished from way back, and he’s proving it over and over that he’s tremendously gifted.
MC: He’s got an Oscar now. I thought he was great in that picture (“The Fighter”). In this last movie, we had our most dramatic scene together. He was absolutely wonderful!
MF: I’ve watched Michael Caine from his early days. He hasn’t grown as an actor.
MC: All I’ve grown is heavier.
What makes a good director? You both worked with the best of them.
MF: All good directors have an eye for fine-tuning. That’s how you get a good picture—through fine-tuning.
MC: Yeah, I said to (director John) Huston once, “You never give me any direction! You never tell me anything.” He said, “You get paid a great deal of money to do this. Michael, you don’t need me to tell you what to do.” Chris (Nolan) doesn’t say anything, too. He lets you go until it’s not what he wants. Then, he’ll come up and whisper to you something that’s very telling. You go, why didn’t I think of that? Chris isn’t one of those guys going, “Oh, Michael, what are you doing?” You know, the kind who makes you look like the fool in front of everybody!
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