Tribute's Bonnie Laufer talks to Michael Caine about his latest role in The Statement.

B.L. Mr. Caine, you never cease to amaze me! You give a brilliant portrayal of this man, Pierre Broussard.
M.C. (laughs) I amaze myself in this because I completely forgot what I did in this movie. I disliked this character so much, I got complete amnesia about it. I actually saw this picture with an audience for the first time because I couldn't remember what I did, and some of the scenes I couldn't remember doing. I went into a whole mental stage on this movie. I've never done it before. I don't know if it was actually the movie or whether it is that I am getting old and going nuts! I don't know, but it was quite weird, quite weird!

B.L. How do you get into the head of a man like this?
M.C. I don't know how I got into it. What my problem was, how did I get out, because he's so scary! He's a really scary guy. It was difficult to play, but that's why I wanted to do it, because at my stage of life, I've done quite a lot in movies, and so, to interest myself, I have to go for more and more degrees of difficulty or do something that is absolute fun. I am going to play Alfred the Butler in the upcoming The Guardian of Batman, so that will be fun, and at least I'll be playing someone who I like.

B.L. With this role, as I was watching the film, I had to try and remind myself that I can't and shouldn't feel sorry for this guy because he's a killer. But I did have a little bit of sympathy and that's a credit to your performance.
M.C. Well, thank you, but do you know why that is? It's deliberate on my part that I played him as very sad, rather than being wicked, because I think people who are racist are very sad. They should be pitied more than anything in a funny way. The other thing is, and I didn't see this until I talked to a lot of people like yourself who'd seen it and said they felt sympathy, and we'd worked it out earlier, it's because he's a fugitive. He's a sick man, an old man, he's a small man and he's an unpleasant man, but he is still a fugitive and everybody's out to get him. It's human nature to feel sorry for the little guy and I think that's where it came from.

B.L. You're right.
M.C. I mean, this guy in the movie executes 14 Jews, which is why he's being chased by the Massad or the Israelis. A woman I spoke to earlier said to me, 'I am Jewish and I felt some kind of sympathy and I don't understand it.' I said, 'It's the fugitive thing, we all do'. I think the picture makes a point of reminding us that it happened and also telling us that it happens only with guys wearing boots marching up and down the streets saying 'Zeig Heil.' It's not even about Nazis. It's about the dangers you don't know in places you don't think of.

B.L. I think it's really important to make films like this because bottom line, it's so crucial to get out that message, - don't ever forget!
M.C. don't forget, because if you do, it's at your peril. No matter who you are, whether you are a Jew or what religion or race, someone will be out to do you harm, and if you don't spot it, you're going to be toast.

B.L. You have worked with so many amazing directors in your career, but this is the first time you have teamed up with Norman Jewison. How did you enjoy working with him?
M.C. Oh, it was wonderful. In any case, we had a head start because Norman and I have been friends for about 35 years and we always wanted to work together. Sometimes the people you know really well, change when you get to work with them, but he just got better. He's such an actor's director you see. But he's not only an actor's director, he doesn't bother you with it, and he understands all the rest. He never gets on your case about anything, and he makes powerful movies.

B.L. I thoroughly agree.
M.C. It's a strange movie because it's a bit like a Hitchcock movie in a way. Someone said, 'You have the slowest car chase in the world but it's very exciting,' which it is, because people can't do wheelies, especially an old guy in a Renault! (laughs). He's not going to do The Italian Job or something. He can't do that. So you get this very slow, old people's chase, which builds and builds. It's very Hitchcockian because Hitchcock always had it that the hero couldn't carry the bloody body 'cause it was too heavy. (laughs)

B.L. That was a great scene, at the beginning of the film.
M.C. He was too heavy, he was a big guy. I had to pull him up and put him in the car for Pete's sake! It was a nightmare. I said to him, 'Look, you are out of camera range. With one arm, could you press on the floor?' (laughs) So the corpse is going, 'Is that all right?'

B.L. Also, you didn't have much of a wardrobe in this film!
M.C. I said it wasn't in the contract to keep the wardrobe at the end! I said, you can have it! Give it to charity.

B.L. You never changed, but really it must have helped with the character.
M.C. Yes, this man is a very religious man and we looked at all of this documentary stuff on religious festivals. We looked at middle-aged older men who were there and they all dressed in the cap and this sort of blouson thing and it's exactly like what I wore, it's amazing. They all had glasses and funny baggy trousers and it was good because everything was baggy. I'm a big man but I wanted him to be small, so I hunched over and I was in these big clothes that made him look smaller. I wanted him to be a vulnerable, nasty little man. He's a bit like a scorpion that you can't quite pick up the courage to step on. That's how I see him.

B.L. You are really good at this nasty stuff. Are you going to do some more?
M.C. Well I don't know. I do what comes along really. I am going to do Miss Congeniality 2 with Sandy Bullock, who is a lovely girl. Then I am going to do Alfred the Butler for Batman and then I am going to do a remake of Sleuth with Jude Law rewritten by Harold Pinter.

B.L. How ironic, because Jude Law is recreating your role in Alfie.
M.C. That will be interesting!

B.L. Very. It's funny, because all these people are doing remakes of your films.
M.C. Yes, well so many are doing it I thought, 'I'll do one.' So I'm doing Sleuth with Jude. I am going to play Lawrence Olivier's part and he's going to play my part.

B.L. How exciting is that?
M.C. Oh, it's very exciting because Harold Pinter has re-written it and it even surprised me. Anyway, that's what I'm doing.

B.L. No cameo in Alfie?
M.C. No, no, no. I did that in Get Carter and I really didn't enjoy it. I wouldn't do it again.

B.L. Jude is so great.
M.C. Jude will be wonderful. Remember, this is about an English male chauvinist pig in the '60s, rewritten by a middle-aged American woman who wrote the one with Candy Bergen where she's the reporter. So you can imagine Alfie being rewritten by that woman who is probably an American feminist, I would imagine. (laughs).

B.L. I would so love to see you nominated for an Oscar for your role in The Statement.
M.C. Well, I think it will be difficult. He's very unsympathetic.

B.L. But looking past that, it's such a great performance. Isn't that what it's all about?
M.C. You think so? It's one of those ones where I couldn't tell because I went and saw it and I just saw this terrible man. As I told you, I just had this amnesia about him and he was kind of yucky. That's the only word that comes to mind. My daughter uses that word, yucky! I didn't know whether the performance was that good or not. I suppose it was alright, because I didn't recognize any of me in there.

B.L. Well then, there you go.
M.C. He's very unsympathetic and you never know with the Academy. In any case, we better get some screeners out or no one will see it. We're only going to be in two theaters in L.A. and New York.

B.L. We'll get the word out, don't you worry.
M.C Yes, get the word out for us.

B.L. So, when do you have time to relax? You seem to never stop working!
M.C. Oh, I just had the whole summer and autumn off. I haven't worked since making The Statement, which we finished in May. I am going to do a week on a very funny comedy called Round the Bend.

B.L. With Josh Lucas.
M.C. Yes, Josh Lucas and Christopher Walken. I play their father and grandfather, with a lot of makeup of course! It's kind of nuts, and it was so funny I thought I had to do it. Then I am going to go to Caba St. Lucas for Christmas, which is in Old Mexico.

B.L. Is there anyone that you would still really love to work with?
M.C. Scorsese, Spielberg any of the big guys. But it's alright, I'm working — this is not a plea for a job or anything!

B.L. Back to The Statement for a second. I can't stop thinking about your performance. It really blew me away.
M.C. Really? I came into all these interviews today knowing that everyone I was going to talk to would have seen the picture and I hadn't the foggiest idea what the reaction was going to be. Whether people would hate it or like it, or be affected by it or repelled by it, but it's been a very good reaction from everybody I must say. I am sure no one is being sycophantic enough to say they liked it when they didn't. I could tell if they were lying.

B.L. What was it like to have the script written by Ron Harwood, who of course, won an Oscar for writing the screenplay for The Pianist?
M.C. I didn't know, but Ronny, who also wrote The Dresser, which was about a very famous old actor called Donald Wolffit in England and Ronny was his dresser, but he wasn't gay. Ronny added the gay because he is not gay himself.

B.L. I have to tell you that I am very excited to see you in The Batman movie.
M.C. Yes, it will be very good. Christian Bale is going to be Batman.

B.L. Chris Nolan who did Memento is going to direct.
M.C. Yes, Christopher Nolan will be directing and it's going to be very real and very un-comic bookie, - I've just invented that word. Un-comic book because I am not very comic book, I'm pretty real.

B.L. I'd say! Well you can be my butler any time!
M.C. Oh thank you so much!