NO-ONE is quite sure how many films Sir Michael Caine has made.
His latest outing, Going In Style, a bank-heist caper starring fellow Hollywood legends Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin, takes him somewhere near the 140-movie mark.
He turned 84 last month, and about 15 years ago, there was talk of Caine retiring. So what happened?
“Well, I’m not very good at golf,” he laughs.
“Actually, I did retire in a manner of speaking. I just promised myself I’d only make movies that I felt compelled to make.”
With so many films under his belt — not all of them classics — Caine finds it’s not always the film that he’s meant to be promoting that he gets asked about.
“No. What annoys me is when, as happened today, you’re doing a day’s worth of interviews and the very first question you’re asked is: ‘Why did you make Jaws: The Revenge?’” he sighs.
“When things like that happen, the interview becomes very short indeed. I just said what I’ve always said — I made it because they paid me a lot of money!
“It’s like when people ask me why I made The Swarm — I made The Swarm because my mother needed a house to live in.
“Then I made Jaws 4 because she was lonely and I needed to buy her a bigger house which she could live in with all of her friends. It’s that simple.
“So when people ask if I’ve seen Jaws 4, I say: ‘No, but I’ve seen the house it bought and it’s lovely.’”
Speaking of his mother, Caine adds: “I met Charlie Chaplin once and told him that I’d asked my mother: ‘Where did you go on your honeymoon?’
“She said: ‘The South London Theatre and I saw Charlie Chaplin in Humming Birds.’
“And he said: ‘That’s right — and my understudy was Stan Laurel, and when we finished here, we both got on a boat together and went to America.’ Fantastic, eh?”
Going In Style isn’t the first time Caine’s played someone on the wrong side of the law.
He was memorable in the classic 70s thriller Get Carter, in which he played a London-based gangster who goes home to Newcastle.
“Well, people tend to forget that I knew a few gangsters, growing up in Rotherhithe,” says Caine.
“Knowing those men, I was well aware real gangsters weren’t like the people you saw in the movies.
“If you watch films made before Get Carter, gangsters were always depicted as funny or stupid, and that was wrong on both counts.
“I actually talked to a hitman about the role. He thought it would be interesting to see the man behind the killer.
“If you’re a criminal, you’re not a criminal every minute of every day.
“The kids have to go to school, the bills have to be paid, the crossword’s got to be done — he thought it was important that Carter wasn’t shown as some sort of machine.
“Carter laughs, he cries, he’s an ordinary person — and that’s what makes him frightening.
“I met a few of the ‘chaps’ after the film came out and they said I’d done a good job of showing Carter was a man first and con second.”
Going In Style is in cinemas now.