Caine candid in Cannes

Youth star talks age and virility with Jane Fonda, Paolo Sorrentino, Paul Dano, Harvey Keitel and Rachel Weisz.

by Richard Mowe

Michael Caine and Jane Fonda in Cannes for Youth
Michael Caine and Jane Fonda in Cannes for Youth Photo: Richard Mowe
Rachel Weisz: “Actors are like musicians in an orchestra…”
Rachel Weisz: “Actors are like musicians in an orchestra…” Photo: Richard Mowe
Sir Michael Caine, at 82, must have seemed the perfect choice to play the ruminating British composer and conductor at the centre of Youth, Paolo Sorrentino’s flamboyant and ironic treatise around age and regrets, presented in Competition at the Cannes Film Festival with a red carpet premiere tonight (Wednesday 20 May).

Caine makes the role totally his own, with Rachel Weisz playing his daughter, Harvey Keitel, a veteran director shooting his latest opus, Jane Fonda as a fading star with a mind of her own and Paul Dano as an upcoming star already saddled with the baggage of fame.

The last time Caine was in Cannes was almost 50 years ago, he reminded a media gathering. “It was with Alfie which won prize although I did not so I never same back,” he said. What persuaded him to return was being part of Paolo Sorrentino’s universe. And possibly with an eye on Sunday’s impending awards ceremony he posited that the whole cast were “brilliant” and that if any prizes were going in that department it should be a multiple acting award.

Caine, whose maestro in the film receives an invitation from Her Majesty, the Queen, no less, to conduct one of his pieces for a Royal Command Performance about which he is ambivalent, recalled his own investiture. She did not say very much, revealed Caine, but she did offer the words: “I think you have been doing what you have been doing for a very long time.” Caine almost replied that so had she, but managed to restrain himself “otherwise I would have got in to a lot of trouble”.

On another royal occasion Caine spotted the Queen chatting to a dull man on one side and joined them. Her Majesty, out of desperation, asked the actor if he knew any jokes. He was struck dumb - but the Queen proceeded to tell one “but I cannot for the life of me remember what it was”.

Youth director Paolo Sorrentino
Youth director Paolo Sorrentino Photo: Richard Mowe
Asked whether he had any regrets about being confined to playing persons of a certain seniority Caine said: “I suppose the alternative to playing elderly people is to play dead people and I’d rather not because I have three grandchildren and I live for them. I realised my career had changed when I stopped getting the girl…” As for any qualms about revealing his now less than perfect physique he responded: “It’s the only body I have got but I am not doing Mr Universe poses. People can see this ageing body and for those that are not old this is what is going to happen to you.”

Jane Fonda who knows a thing or two about the secrets of eternal youth, picked up the theme. “Age is a question of attitude and if you have passion in your life you come alive. I have passion in my life and so does the film.”

Weisz praised the alchemy woven by Sorrentino. “Yes you have great camaraderie on a film but a film to me is about the tone - and the actors are like musicians in an orchestra all playing one piece of music. It is Paolo’s point of view that creates the tone.”

In the film, Paul Dano’s young star laments only being remembered for his first film role as a robot rather any serious stuff that followed. Fonda recalled still being shackled to Barbarella, Weisz noted that she was still besieged by 12-year-olds because of The Mummy, Caine continues to be asked for autographs because of his role as Batman’s butler while Dano’s early teen role in The Girl Next Door achieved notoriety due his character’s large penis (“it was kinda nice,” he said).

As for the shadow of Alfie, who was habitual womaniser, Caine pointed out “It was all a long time ago. I have been married to the same woman for 48 years. An 82-year-old Alfie would not be so virile, that’s for sure!”

Paul Dano and Harvey Keitel
Paul Dano and Harvey Keitel Photo: Richard Mowe

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