Michael Caine’s Statement
Thursday, March 18, 2004
In his latest film The Statement, Michael Caine plays a pardoned member of Petain’s Vichy regime responsible for killing seven Jews in 1944, who has since remained in hiding around the south of France with the aid of certain right-wing members of the Catholic Church. Based on Brian Moore’s novel, director Norman Jewison made this independent film about Paul Touvier with Michael Caine putting a human face on the Touvier character (named Pierre Broussard in the film) as he dodges assassination attempts and a criminal investigation. The film operates as a thriller and goes further than intended in extracting sympathy for its reprehensible protagonist.
At the age of 70, Sir Michael Caine has made over 90 films since the world discovered his inestimable acting talents in 1964 with Zulu. In person, Michael Caine is dauntingly tall and full of vigor that confirms his physically expressive work on-screen.
Q: When you’re acting now, do you factor in audience preconceptions of your previous roles?
Michael Caine: What I try to do, especially at this stage of my career, is to keep it interesting for me because I don’t have to go to work, but I love to work and I want to find interesting things to do. What interested me with this character is that he’s a very controversial character, but that’s ok. This guy was as far away from me as you can possibly get. I mean, a French Nazi is about as far as you can get without going to Mars. I knew I’d played villains before and always made them sort of sympathetic. I wanted not to make him sympathetic. He had no redeeming features whatsoever. It was the character that I most disliked that I’ve ever played.
Q: You still managed to keep humanity in your portrayal of Pierre Brossard, this embodiment of the banality of evil.
MC: I made him sad. I didn’t want him sympathetic, but I think people like him are pathetic. It’s only when you get a regiment of them with jackboots and a lot of guns that they’re scary. As a lonely little old man with a bad heart, who gives a damn? What also is dangerous, and I think is one of the reasons to make the movie, is he was run by powers that you never saw, and are they still there? It’s the evil you don’t know that’s the worry.