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BATMAN BEGINS

The year 2000 may well have been the highlight of MICHAEL CAINE's (Alfred) life. Not only did he receive his second Oscar for the film The Cider House Rules but he was honoured by Queen Elizabeth II with a knighthood.

Caine's versatility as a major international star has shown itself in over 90 motion pictures earning him the New York Critics' Best Actor Award for Alfie; a Golden Globe Best Actor Award for Educating Rita and a British Academy Award for Educating Rita; a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy for Little Voice; and six Academy Award nominations for Alfie, Sleuth, Educating Rita and The Quiet American, culminating in Oscars for Best Supporting Actor in Hannah and her Sisters and The Cider House Rules.

The release of three wildly different films splendidly demonstrates his range: the harassed theatre director in the comedy Noises Off; and an ex-MI6 hit-man in the romantic thriller Blue Ice; and a singing Scrooge with Miss Piggy, Kermit and company in the musical The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Although Caine has made his mark as an outstanding actor, it should be noted that he is also an author with the publication of his autobiography What's It all About? together with a definitive Acting on Film book based on the highly successful series of lectures he gave on BBC television.

Caine was born in South London on March 14. His father was a Billingsgate Fish Market porter, and his mother a charwoman. They were very poor, living in a gas-lit, two room flat until the Blitz forced his evacuation and his younger brother, Stanley, to the safety of a farm in Norfolk. After the war, when he was 12, the family moved into a ‘prefab' in London's East End. A childhood fascination for cinema, an insatiable hunger for novels, frequent visits to the gallery of the Old Vic Theatre, performances in school plays and a taste of directing drama in a youth club all stimulated his imagination and belief that he would one day be an actor.

He refused to accept his family expectation that he become a fish porter. Leaving school at 16, he worked in numerous menial jobs until National Service with the Royal Fusiliers took him to Korea. On his discharge, he spent his days in manual work but used his evenings to study acting. His first job in the theatre was as assistant stage manager in Horsham, Sussex and soon able to move to the Lowestoft Repertory Theatre in Suffolk as juvenile lead. Here, he married the leading lady, Patricia Haines, but parted after two years. Now deceased, Patricia Haines bore him a daughter, Dominique (known as Nikki), with whom he enjoys a close relationship. Self-confidence and a name change to Michael Caine (his nickname plus one word from The Caine Mutiny which caught his eye on a cinema marquee) encouraged him to move to London where he acted with Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop. He played a minor role in the film A Hill in Korea and obtained bit parts in other movies and walk-on roles in a couple of West End plays, but it was not enough to live on.

Taking a gamble, he moved to Paris, where for several months he eked out a bare existence. Returning to London, and with cash borrowed from his mother, he pursued acting full time. Touring Britain with one repertory company after another, he developed a relaxed stage presence and perfected a vast range of accents. In the next five years, he played more than 100 television dramas and became a familiar face to millions. They were threadbare years shared with flatmates Terrence Stamp and composer John Barry.

He went on to understudy Peter O'Toole in the role of Private Bamforth in the London stage hit The Long, The Short and The Tall, and when O'Toole dropped out, Caine took over the part and toured the provinces for six months. Following this, his television and film parts grew more substanti

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