The occasional easily lampooned shoutiness aside, Michael Caine has long been one of the most relaxed actors in the movies. But when he was younger, he was a bit…intense. In a new interview with The Mirror (as caught by The AV Club), the two-time Oscar-winner revealed that as an aspiring thespian, he read that one of the secrets of screen acting was not blinking. And then he took things rather a bit far.
Caine said his younger self got his hands on a book called Teach Yourself Film Acting. Any actor will tell you acting in a movie is very different from acting on a stage; rather than go big for an audience that’s far away, you have to go small for a camera that may be right in your face. One idea he took from the tome was that, in his words, “Don’t blink. You must never blink.” But he took that a bit too literally, saying he spent the “next eight years” of his life “[walking] around trying not to blink.”
Eventually going about never closing his eyes earned him the nickname “Snake Eyes.”
“People around me, my mother and everybody, thought I had gone nuts,” Caine said. “They thought I was a psychopath. I used to frighten the life out of people.”
But he kept the approach up, at least when he’s doing movies. In 1987, he even recorded an hour-long how-to called Michael Caine: Acting in Film, in which he imparted his two-time Oscar-winning knowledge onto anyone with a VHS (or Beta) player. One person who watched it was Howard Stern, while he was prepping his acting debut in 1997’s Private Parts. Stern talked about it once on his show, and when asked about his prep, he said this:
The only thing I did was, I got ahold of Michael Caine’s acting tape. Have you ever seen that? It’s the funniest f*cking thing you ever saw. Michael Caine stands there, he’s teaching a class, and he says something like, ‘One of the things I like to do is, if it’s a closeup shot, I don’t blink, because if I blink it weakens me. So what you want to do is stare like this, stare at the other person’s eye. Now watch what I do, now, watch this… did you see what I just did?’ And I swear, there is absolutely nothing going on, the guy is doing exactly nothing. So that’s the extent of my acting training.”
To this day, Caine says he “never blinks shooting a scene.” So next time you’re watching him, pay extra attention to his eyes. Just don’t blink or you may miss him…not blinking.