Life Advice from Michael Caine

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What's the best advice you ever received?
When my father went off to World War II, I was six and my brother was three, and my mother, instead of crying, said, "Your father's gone. Now you have to look after me." And at that moment, she made two little men of us. That changed me into the sort of person who went out and did stuff. It also made me incredibly family-oriented.

What adventure changed your life?
I was a soldier in Korea when I was 19. When you're young, you wonder will you be brave, or will you be a coward? You don't know what you will be like in any situation. I wasn't a hero or anything stupid like that, but I proved to myself that I didn't run away. I was hit by a bit of shrapnel, but I was lucky that was the nearest I came to being hit.

What advice would you give to the younger you?
Don't listen to other people. When I asked for help, every single older actor said, "Give it up, Mike. It's too tough for you." So my advice is: Don't listen to any advice. Listen to people who know what they're doing, telling you how to do it – that's instruction. But on how to run your life, that you have to figure out yourself.

How should a man handle criticism?
I test myself all the time, by trying to be as good an actor as I can be, which is why criticism of any kind never upsets or pleases or worries me. I'm my own worst critic.

How do you stay relevant?
Don't rest on your laurels. I didn't rest on my laurels because I didn't have any to rest on. I was a little Cockney tough guy whom most people might look at and say, "One of those scumbags." But the great thing about me was that I had nowhere to go but up. It's one of the most marvelous things because you improve your life every day – because it's such shit that it has to get better.

What should every man know about women?
They love to laugh. You can laugh more women into bed than you can seduce into it – just so long as they stop laughing when you're in bed.

What is the key to a good marriage?
First, two bathrooms. And then, you must be equal partners. Also, if you're in a business where you work with the most beautiful women in the world, take your wife on location with you.

How should a man handle getting old?
With gratitude, considering the alternative. Embrace it – you're there with all the knowledge and the skills you have. Force yourself to do greater and greater things.

What article of clothing should a man never be seen wearing?
A bandanna on his head, unless he's a pirate and he has a sword.

What role does vanity play in a man's life?
It shouldn't play any, really. I hate vain men. Vain ladies I don't mind – they're entitled to be vain. I don't know whether that's a chauvinist statement, but I quite like some vain ladies. Vain men I do not like at all.

How do you handle being friends with the ultra-famous?
I was friends with Sinatra for a while, but you were friends on his terms, not your terms. I remember I was with some of his people, and we were going somewhere, and Frank was late. Someone came down to say, "It's great. Frank's in a great mood today." And everyone went, "Great, great." And I said, "Why didn't anybody ask what mood I'm in?" And they said, "Who gives a shit?"

How does a man find his true calling?
He listens. And it will call. You'll hear it. I was taken to the Tripoli pictures when I was a little kid by some bigger boys, and the curtain went up, and 'The Lone Ranger' came on, and I knew what I wanted to be. Not a cowboy – I wanted to be an actor. I didn't even like horses.

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