After a half-century in the biz, Michael Caine is beyond counting his Oscar chickens.
Widely tipped for last season’s acting statuette for Vietnam drama “The Quiet American,” Caine this season is drawing raves for his portrayal of a Nazi collaborator in Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Statement.”
“I don’t think I’ll get nominated for this. It’s too unsympathetic,” Caine confides. “But I’ll go to the awards if I do.”
For the 70-year-old Caine — an Acad favorite who has been nominated a staggering six times and won supporting actor Oscars for 1999’s “The Cider House Rules” and 1987’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” — “The Statement” presented a first opportunity to work with helmer Norman Jewison, a friend of 40 years.
“A part has to be interesting to me and be different than what I’ve done,” he explains. “This was completely different from anything I’ve ever done.”
Caine portrays Pierre Brossard, who’s fleeing shadowy hitmen after being identified as a Nazi collaborator complicit in the death of 14 French Jews. Adapted from a novel by Brian Moore, the character has historical underpinnings in real-life Nazi collaborator Paul Touvier.
The challenge for Caine was making his clearly unsympathetic character engaging to the audience.
“I couldn’t make him absolutely hateful because no one is a villain to himself,” the actor explains. “Guilty people are always performing. I always remember something I read about dangerous psychopaths. They spend 95% of their lives trying to act like the rest of us.”
Drawing on his own personal acquaintances with racists and religious extremists, Caine found a way of inhabiting the character. The experience of preparing for the role proved so very uncomfortable, however, he afterward found himself mentally distancing himself from the work he had just completed.
“It was an extraordinary part because I had never played anybody that I disliked so much,” Caine says. “On the last day, I had an emotional amnesia. I couldn’t remember what I had done.”
He’s hoping voters have a better memory.
Coming attractions: “Around the Bend”, “Batman 5”