In the 1980s glory era of the great SCTV, the brilliant comic Dave Thomas did an affectionate parody of Sir Michael Caine, presenting him as the consummate British working man’s actor – a star who wouldn’t say no to any paying role because a gig was a gig.
As Thomas said with a spot-on impression of Caine, “Tell you what. You write a movie and I’ll be in it!” That’s a bit of an overstatement for comedic effect, but Caine took some critical heat occasionally for roles in clunkers like The Hand, The Swarm or Jaws 3. But, an actor needs to pay the bills, too.
Fortunately, the legendary actor has no backlash to fear from giving voice to the soon to be legendary, Finn McMissile – a British agent in the shape of a 1964 Aston Martin DB5. He’ll park alongside other Disney legends – forever adored by children.
Via a special video feed from the UK and the set of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, Caine discussed playing a car, becoming part of that Disney lore and just how awkward the great thespian is around real world automobiles.
CraveOnline: Cars have often buzzed around your acting career. You’re famous for driving the Minis in the classic The Italian Job. Now, you’re a a four-wheeled super spy in Cars 2. What’s your car history?
Sir Michael Caine: I have never really been a car person. Yes, I drove some of the Mini's in Italian Job. But, I’ve never really been able to drive well. I confess that cars to me are transport. I grew up in the war in London. So, I didn't know anyone who had a car until I was 15 or 16. We had the Underground and the buses.
I became a sort of movie star when I was still a very young man, but I had never driven. I went to literally penniless to quite well off very quickly – and I suddenly felt as though I should own a car. So, the first car I bought I was a Rolls Royce – and I realized I couldn’t drive it.
CraveOnline: So, you don’t drive at all?
Sir Michael Caine: For that Rolls Royce, the insurance was twice the price of a chauffeur. So I got driver, and I’ve had chauffeurs since. I didn't really start driving a car until I moved to Los Angeles – where you have to drive. I’ve had a lot of cars since then, and I don't drive them. I’m not a patient man, and I can't imagine looking around for a place to park.
When I went in to take the driver’s test in Los Angeles, the instructor – the bloke who sits with you as you take your test – looked over at me and said, “You're going to have to be rubbish to not pass this test.” And, honestly, I was, but he passed me anyway.
CraveOnline: And now you’re an Aston Martin?
Sir Michael Caine: Yes – and to be called Finn McMissile? I couldn’t resist. To be that 1964 Aston Martin was perfect for me. I have three grandchildren now, so I wanted to do Cars 2 to forge that relationship with them. They have model cars of Finn now with my voice – and they know it’s me.
CraveOnline: Early in your career, you played a great, understated spy with Harry Palmer. Now, you’re a classic, 1960s spy again as Finn McMissile. What makes that British spy image so eternal?
Sir Michael Caine: It’s good fun, and that 60's era is still appealing. The iconic spy was James Bond who couldn't be a spy because he drew so much attention to himself. Harry Palmer was that ordinary guy you’d see in a grocery store doing his own shipping – buying mushrooms.
Vladimir Putin used to be in the KGB, and he once said to someone I know from British Intelligence, “Tell Mr Caine we used to watch those movies and laugh because he was such a brilliant spy and we were never that good.”