Michael Caine on life as a never-ending audition

While doing some background research for the academic article on movie trailers that I’m writing with a psychology professor in my department, I stumbled across a book by Michael Caine titled Acting in Film: An Actor’s Take on Movie Making (published in 2000, Amazon page here).

In its “Introduction,” Caine says that actors should always be auditioning. Every moment of their lives is basically a screen test, because you never know who in the film industry the people around you may be connected to. “If you wind up on the screen,” he says, “it’s because you’ve done something right since the cradle—and long before you ever made it to a producer’s office.” If you have a drink at a bar where no one has ever met you before, if you pass the “screen test,” the bartender may remember that some random guy who comes in on Tuesdays is married to a woman whose sister is a makeup artist on a sitcom. That kind of thing. Caine’s philosophy is that you need to be “on” all the time—even after you’ve “made it”— basically doing the right thing, being a nice person, and always finding a way to make some lemonade when life hands you lemons.

Then he recounts a story from his own life to illustrate the what-goes-around-comes-around karma of these random life encounters. I liked it and thought I’d share.

I remember doing a film with Shirley MacLaine: Gambit. A tour bus pulls up pretty smartly as the actors are crossing the studio lot. Fans come piling out of the bus. The driver is trying to corral the actors into signing autographs on our way in. Most of the actors escaped the crowd through a side door. I, on the other hand, knew the bus driver had a job to do, and I was going to make him look good. I signed every autograph on that bus. No big deal, right? Until I tell you that the young driver of that bus turned out to be Michael Ovitz. See what I mean?

Oh, yeah. Not only can I imagine Michael Ovitz never forgot that small act of kindness, but I also have no doubt that earning the lasting gratitude of a major Hollywood mover-and-shaker might give one’s acting career a boost.

I’ve always liked Caine as an actor. His book looks intriguing, and even though I have no plans to pursue an acting career, my “to read” list just got a little longer 🙂

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
This entry was posted in Books and reading, Life, Movies and film, Popular culture and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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