Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Michael Caine, "Acting in Film" and "Harry Brown"

I've been having a bit of a Michael Caine time lately. The guy's amazing. He's made over 150 movies, and is still going strong.

First I read his book, Acting in Film: An Actor's Take on Movie Making. This is a riveting, compelling read. He talks about acting, but much of what he says can be applied to screenwriting. 
There was no place allowed for the likes of me in the firmament of actors. Almost anybody has it made today compared to my chances thirty-five years ago.
Flawless (2007)

Let me run through my curriculum vitae before I landed my first role.  See what you think of my chances. I had worked in a laundry. I'd done a stint in a tea warehouse. I'd worked pneumatic drills on the road. I was the night porter in a hotel. I washed dishes in all the best restaurants. I remember making jewel boxes at one time. And I was a soldier.
Get Carter (1971)

It's very difficult for people to comprehend that when I say I was broke at the age of twenty-nine, that I literally didn't have the price of a bowl of spaghetti down at the local diner. They think being broke is being down to your last couple of grand in the bank. My bank was in my pocket, and my account was full of lint.
The Quiet American (2002)
Chances are, you've had some formal higher education. Well, to me and my parents, going to grammar school was higher education. I had no classes to go to, or instructional videos to watch. But I was a tremendous reader of books. And from the pages of those books I discovered what other people's lives were like. They weren't like mine. And I became determined to change my life. I wasn't exploring the possibility, I was determined.
The Actors (2003)

If you really want to become an actor, but only providing that acting doesn't interfere with your golf game, your political ambitions, and your sex life, you don't really want to become an actor. Not only is acting more than a part-time job, it's more than a full-time job. It's a full-time obsession. Anything less and you'll fall short of the mark.
It's a great book, full of the wisdom of the years. You won't be disappointed. 

Harry Brown (2009)
Next I watched him in Harry Brown (2009). It's a simple story, told in an uncomplicated linear fashion, but with immense power. Great script, great acting, great direction. And one of the few films which distinguished itself in my experience by the way it employs both sound and silence. There's much a screenwriter could take from the film. Recommended viewing. 

Harry Brown reminded me of one of Michael Caine's early films, Get Carter (1971). In the first he's the lone avenger of a murdered best friend, in the second he's the lone avenger of a murdered brother.

Get Carter (1971)
One of the interesting scenes in Get Carter takes place in a pub early in the movie. Caine arrives and orders a beer "in a thin glass." Further along the bar we're shown a man taking a drink, and, if you're paying attention, you'll see a hand with six fingers (okay, five fingers, and a thumb). Go on, count them. This isn't CGI or film trickery, it's real. A little joke Michael Caine enjoyed, particularly as almost no one watching the movie ever notices.

The Princess Bride (1987)

The "six-fingered man" made a notable reappearance in The Princess Bride (1987), some sixteen years later.

Michael Caine has made at least six movies since Harry Brown, so I still have some catching up to do. 
First posted:  20 October 2011

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