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Now well into his 80s, Michael Caine remains a constant presence on the big screen, lending gravitas to any project he's in. But the Englishman's acting career almost ended back in the 90s, when he realized that because of his age he would no longer be getting leading roles. So in an effort to reinvent himself, he temporarily retired from acting and opened a restaurant in Miami. Michael Caine was content with his post-acting life, until Jack Nicholson pulled him out of retirement, as he explained:
But I was even happier when Jack Nicholson, a wonderful actor, who was also in Miami at the time, persuaded me that the reinvention did not have to be so extreme. Why not simply reinvent myself as a movie actor, as opposed to a movie star? A character actor, rather than a leading actor? (What's the difference? Well, essentially it's this. When movie stars get a script they want to do, they change it to suit them. When leading movie actors get a script they want to do, they change themselves to suit the script.)
Michael Caine became a British film icon through starring roles in movies in the 60s and 70s and that was what he knew. So when age forced him out of those kinds of roles he saw it as a sign that his career as an actor was over. But, as he recalled in an excerpt from his memoir reported by Entertainment Weekly, Jack Nicholson proposed a different path.
It wasn't an either/or situation, and Michael Caine didn't need to retire from acting just because he was no longer a leading man. Jack Nicholson opened his eyes to the fact that there were still other roles for Michael Caine available, and that he could reinvent himself as a character actor. This would require some flexibility on his part to transform his performance to suit the script, but it was a way to continue as an actor.
Jack Nicholson wasn't just a fan of Michael Caine's work who wanted to see the actor continue his career either, he actually wanted him to join him in a film, as Michael Caine continued:
Jack brought me a script for a movie called Blood and Wine and talked me into coming out of my socalled retirement and going back to work. I did, and the truth was revealed to me---or I allowed myself to see it: however happy I kidded myself I was, I was never going to be happier than when I was acting. Especially with such a great, fun-loving co-star as Jack. Jack is a tremendous actor who, even more than I do, relishes the relaxation. His attitude to work was summed up for me one day when we were hurrying to get a shot before the sun went down. I broke into a light jog to get back to the set.
Back on set with Jack Nicholson, it seems as though Michael Caine realized that acting was his true passion and nothing else could replace it. It didn't make a difference if it was a leading role or not, just being an actor made him happy. This was especially true alongside Jack Nicholson, who was fun and easygoing and told Michael Caine not to run back to set, with the two ultimately strolling back instead.
Blood and Wine is the only film where these two legendary actors starred together and now it takes on special significance as the film that brought Michael Caine out of his self-imposed retirement. Check out the trailer for the film below.
While he did have some flops after coming back out of retirement, it is impossible to argue that Michael Caine's latter career hasn't been a wild success. The actor won his second Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for 1999's The Cider House Rules and has been a mainstay in the acclaimed films of Christopher Nolan. Michael Caine has also still found leading man roles in films like Harry Brown.
So every time Michael Caine shows up on screen giving a captivating performance, we can all say a little thanks to Jack Nicholson for dragging him out of retirement.
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