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'Blowing Bloody Doors Off'

Michael Caine has been looking back, and on the whole he likes the view. Regrets? He's had few.

The 85-year-old star of "Alfie," ''Get Carter" and "The Dark Knight" — among many, many others — reminisces fondly in "Blowing the Bloody Doors Off," whose title adapts a line from his 1969 heist caper "The Italian Job." Being published Tuesday in the United States by Hachette, it's part memoir, part advice manual for aspiring actors and anyone else nursing an elusive dream of success.

Most of the advice is resolutely old-fashioned. Learn your lines. Work hard. Be nice to people. And be lucky. Caine knows he has been extremely fortunate.

"The luck I've had, you couldn't make it up," Caine said during an interview in his riverside London apartment, with a panoramic view up and down the Thames. "I mean, even once I was a success, I made a lot of flop movies. But I only made three at a time before I had a hit."

In print and in person, Caine describes his success as sequence of lucky breaks. His first big movie break, as a British Army officer in "Zulu" in 1964, was followed by a role as a world-weary spy in "The Ipcress File." On the back of that came his breakthrough as a callous man-about-town in "Alfie." That film made blond, bespectacled Caine a symbol of Swinging London, brought him American fame and earned him the first of six Academy Award nominations.

He went on to win two Oscars — for "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "The Cider House Rules." Later came a stint as butler and mentor Alfred in three Batman movies directed by Christopher Nolan. Along the way, he became an icon, and his signature glasses and Cockney accent spawned a thousand imitators.

Caine says his optimistic outlook is rooted in his hardscrabble early years. Born Maurice Micklewhite into a working-class London family, he was a child during the London Blitz and later, as a teenage conscript, was sent to fight in the Korean War.

"I have found it pretty easy to be happy since then," he notes in the book. "Once you've been on manoeuvrs in Korea, everything else seems like quite a lot of fun."

When he returned to London and a dead-end job in a butter factory, Caine resolved to be an actor, although he had little idea how to go about it.

"I was nobody from nowhere who knew nothing about anything," he said. His drive to succeed came from "desperation — the determination to become something other than a factory worker.

"My father was an example of what I was and how lucky I was to have been born all those years later," he said. "My father was an extremely clever, intelligent man but completely uneducated and a complete waste of a brain — and that's what was happening to me, and I could see that."

Answering a classified ad led to small parts in a provincial repertory company. Then came work on the London stage, television parts, movie roles and global stardom. If he has a secret, he says, it's that he kept going when others gave up.

"If someone rejected me, I never worried about it," he said. "I tried again, because my only alternative was working back in the butter factory.



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