Michael Caine On Cars 2, Being Batman's Butler For Christopher Nolan, The Trip's Steve Coogan And Rob Brydon, And Potatoes
"I just talk. To me, I sound like everybody else," says Michael Caine of his tool in trade, arguably the most distinctive, easily recognisable timbre throughout the international film industry.
"I don't see the interest. I try to figure it - I think it's the rhythm, the way I speak. They're always impersonating it, I saw a fabulous impersonation of me by Tom Hanks on TV the other day. And there's that other one, those two blokes."
Caine is referring to what's already entered the comedy canon, a valiant face-off between Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon during their series The Trip, where the pair vied to see who could do the most convincing Caine. The star himself remains diplomatic as to the outcome:
"They both won, because one did me young and one did me old, so there was no loser."
His distinctive tones have helped keep Caine in demand for a career now spanning seven decades, most recently voicing Finn MacMissile for John Lasseter's vibrant animation Cars 2.
When Lasseter asked Caine to appear, the actor went straight off to watch the first Cars outing. He says himself that, following The Ipcress File and The Italian Job, the vehicular theme was a good omen, but he still had one question - what sort of car would he play?
"And John said 'A 1966 pale-blue Aston Martin'," remembers Caine with satisfaction, pausing only to pick up the toy version sitting beside him, winding it up so we can both sit and listen to the famous voice bursting out. It's all a bit surreal.
So is it a surprise to the screen veteran that success on this international scale has followed him into his dotage?
"It's unbelievable," he admits. "One Sunday morning my wife was cooking lunch while I watched football on the telly, and the bell goes, and it was Christopher Nolan standing there with the script for Batman Begins. He just said, 'Do you want to play the butler?' And that was it, I'd never been in any of those big pictures, but that started it."
If that was what got Caine revved up for this resurgence of his career, the 78-year-old is showing no sign yet of pressing the brake, with a big Parisian drama set to shoot later this year.
"I am my own worst critic, and I'm forever saying, if you think you're a good actor, try this. In November, I'll play an elderly teacher having a platonic relationship with a young French girl. It's a massive test, and it's directed by a woman, which I've never been before (apart from Miss Piggy).
"I don't want to play a cockney yobbo, because I could do that standing on my head."
Caine has long held national treasure status, with a comparatively recent bizarre addition to his CV, that of cooking the finest roast potatoes.*
"It's all Michael Winner's fault. In the winter, I cook a roast beef with potatoes, and he said they're unlike any potatoes he's ever had. Marco Pierre White's team couldn't do them either.... now I'm more famous for my potatoes than I am for the bloody movies."
I've got elderly ladies coming up to me on the street asking me for the right oven temperature. It's embarrassing.... It's 350 degrees by the way."
*The secret, apparently, is cooking them in cold olive oil, not the traditional hot fat of what Caine calls "any self-respecting chef". So now we know.
Cars 2 will be in cinemas nationwide from this Friday 22nd July.