Acting in Film

Free Acting in Film by Michael Caine

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Authors: Michael Caine
us both over that potential problem.

    But despite all manner of professionalism, it can still be somewhat embarrassing to shoot love scenes on a crowded location. It requires fierce concentration to screen out hecklers. In Alfie, I had to run out into Notting Hill Gate-an area that is not populated with sensitive drama lovers-and shout, "Darling! Come back! I love you!" The guys on the street started heckling me. The director told me not to worry about the sound because he would post-synch it later. So I struggled with "Come back, come back, I love you," while all this razzing was going on around us. You just have to block it out. The moment you feel foolish, you look foolish. Concentrate, block it out, and relax. Of course, that's not always easy. When I did Deathtrap, there was a scene in which I had to kiss Christopher Reeve. He's bigger than I am and, quite honestly, I'd never kissed a man in my life, other than my Dad. Cranking myself up for the task was murderously hard. To an extent, joking still helped: I said to Chris, "If you open your mouth, I'll kill you." I'm afraid Chris and I overcame this problem not with technique or any emotion, but with a bottle of brandy between us.

    THE ROMANTIC ENGLISHWOMAN
    Directed by Joseph Losey. Independent, 1975.
    Pictured with Nathalie Delon.

ROLE MODELS, RESEARCH AND YOU
    When you flesh out a character to make him real, your tools are the aspects of yourself that apply, and your role models. People always think the character Alfie was close to my own personality, but while I understood Alfie, I wasn't like him. I based him on a guy named Jim Slater, my best friend when I was young. I could never get any girls, and Jim got them all. I Ie would have been perfect in the part, except that he was always too tired.
    I also used Jim as the person to whom I was talking when I had to speak directly to the camera. Normally when you look directly into the lens, the effect will be very phoney because the filmmaker is breaking the illusion of eavesdropping on reality. But in Alfie, my character spoke to the audience through the camera, a bit like the technique of "asides" in the theatre when a character detaches himself from the action and addresses the audience directly. In fact, when I first spoke directly to the camera, I treated it like a large audience. The director, Gilbert Lewis, said, "Cut! Come closer to the camera. Do it as if you were talking to just one person, so that every member of the audience feels as if you're singling him out personally." Then I played the moment as though I were talking to Jim. We liked each other, and Jim was really interested in what I had to say. Ile would have especially appreciated remarks like, "She's in beautiful condition," when Alfie was running his hands over a woman's bum, because Jim used to say things like that. That confidence in Jim's appreciation is what won me the collusion of the cinema audience, even when they didn't really approve of Alfie's goings-on.

    Courtesy of Paramours Pictures. 01965 Sheldrake Films Ltd. All rights reserved.
    ALFIE
    Directed by Lewis Gilbert. Paramount, 1966.
    On location.

    Sometimes you have to play a character with whom you have absolutely nothing in common. In The Romantic Englishwoman, I was cast completely against type, as the sort of man I would despise if I met him in real life. Ile was totally unable to take effective action. Now I'm not completely an action man, but at worst I'm a catalyst; this character I was playing just let his life go wrong all around him without doing anything about it. He was a rich novelist who lived in the plush stockbroker belt, mixed with pseudo-intellectuals, and did absolutely nothing to stop his wife from going off on a romantic adventure. The character was completely non-chemical; everything about the part was against my nature.

    But once you have reached that kind of conclusion about a character, you have to put it out of your mind. In real life, each person is

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