It’s only occasionally that I read autobiographies or memoirs but I was attracted to Michael Caine’s new book. It’s not just a memoir. It’s more of a philosophy on how to be a great actor. And it’s also a master class in life.
And I have to tell you this one was a delight to read. In addition to being a great actor, he is a pretty darned good writer too.
Some years ago I saw his lecture on “Acting in film.” It’s on DVD and I would highly recommend it. After seeing that film and reading this book, I have come to see just how hard acting on film is. It’s darned hard.
Despite all that seems glamorous about the profession, it isn’t all that glamorous. It’s only glamorous because we don’t see all the hard work that goes into the work.
Even though his lessons apply to acting, they can apply to any passion. “Find something you want to do and learn how to do it really well.”
For an English working class kid named Maurice Micklewhite, it didn’t look so good early on. But he had one thing going for him. He decided what he wanted to be when he grew up. An actor. And he stuck to that passion no matter what. There wasn’t an obstacle that was going to stop him. It’s as he writes, “No matter where you start in life, you can get up and out.” But “learn what you can from what you get.”
You want to be an actor and you can’t go to acting school? You want to be a writer and can’t afford writing lessons? Do what he did. As he points out, his main education came from two sources. “You couldn’t find two more richly educational surrogates than the cinema and the public library.”
And he lays it on the line that he didn’t expect it to be easy. Even when he was doing all right. In fact, doing all right didn’t mean an easy road ahead. Because he learned and he has kept learning the secrets they don’t tell you in acting school.
Secrets such as you’re always auditioning and nice guys do finish first. He once overheard a journalist ask his wife, “What first attracted you to Michael?” Her reply, “It was the way he treated his mother.”
And be easy to work with. As you can see, Michael Caine is a roll model for that lesson. He was so easy to work with directors and writers keep inviting him to the party.
Persevere and don’t take no for an answer. Use every thing along the way as an opportunity toward your passion. See your failures as opportunities and lessons to learn. “Discipline and a sense of purpose are more important than they have ever been.”
When you are invited to the party, be prepared. “Preparation, focus, hard work and resilence” are the elements which will get you through even the worst of situations. As he puts it, “luck favors the prepared.” At one point, he is asked, “What is your secret to success?” His answer, “Survival.”
Of course, there’s tales of his relationships with many of his colleagues in the industry, colleagues like Sean Connery and Roger Moore. His insights working with directors like Christopher Nolan.
But this is more than a recipe to career success. This is a recipe for a long lasting marriage. He’s been married to Shakira for forty-six years. And it’s a recipe for a good life.
I will leave you with two final pieces of advice from philosopher Michael Caine: “The only way to be sure you never fail is never to do anything at all. And the only way to really, truly fail is not to learn from your failures. Any time you learn from a failure, it’s a success.”
“In the end…find what you love, and do it as well as you can. Pursue your dream and, even if you never catch it, you’ll enjoy the chase. The rest comes down to luck, timing and God: even if you don’t believe in him, he believes in you. And when all of that runs out, use the difficulty.”
I give a two thumbs up to that.