Michael Caine as Nigel Powers

A few days, I wrote about the Austin Powers films for the Time Travel Blogathon. I unapologetically adore this series, which has developed a somewhat undeserved reputation. It's a hilarious string of movies that lovingly and carefully pays tribute to '60s spy films, as well as movies like Blowup and people like Peter Sellers and Esther Williams. As I mentioned in my post, one of the things that I most appreciate about Austin Powers is the casting. Robert Wagner, Elizabeth Hurley, Heather Graham, Michael York, Rob Lowe -- basically everybody is great. At the center of the series's madness is, of course, Mike Myers, who does a brilliant job. Seriously -- look past the catchphrases and the costumes and you'll see a really underrated performance.

That being said, the man who gives Myers a run for his money is Sir Michael Caine. In the third (but maybe not final?) film, Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), Caine plays Austin's absent father, legendary spy Nigel Powers. The actor had famously played a secret agent before in The Ipcress File and its four sequels; his character's thick black glasses actually become a part of Austin's own look. As Austin, Myers spoofs suave men like James Bond, Derek Flint, and Matt Helm, the irony being that he isn't classically handsome or gracefully smooth like his predecessors.

Austin's father, however, is exactly like those men, and Caine clearly has a ball leaning into the stereotype. Take his first scene, for example. Dr. Evil (Myers) has kidnapped Nigel, but you'd hardly know it. As Nigel strolls in to meet Dr. Evil and his cohorts, he smacks a woman's behind, brags about his amazing abilities, and quickly dispatches of the surrounding guards without even breaking a sweat. (One guard actually becomes so intimidated that he just lays on the floor when an unarmed Nigel tells him to.)

Later, when Austin arrives to save his father, his heroic rescue is met with indifference as Nigel is having a grand time canoodling with four beautiful young women. "Why don't you rescue me in about seven or eight minutes?" he suggests, glasses crooked and tie loosened. The men then begin speaking to each other in "English English," a seemingly nonsensical version of English that must be subtitled in order to be understood. You can watch the scene here.

In his book The Elephant to Hollywood, Caine wrote about how much he enjoyed making the film: "The role of Nigel Powers, the rakish super spy, gave me every chance I could ever have wanted to send up the whole business of the 1960s man-about-town, and I adored it. It was an honor to be invited to play a bit part that was really a tongue-in-cheek send-up of my own onscreen image. I loved Goldmember from start to finish. Mike Myers is crazy -- but crazy like a fox, because he is a comic genius." Caine then reveals that Myers made filming fun by playing loud rock music between takes. He also, like Caine, hated to get up early in the morning, so they would gradually keep pushing the schedule back until they were working from noon to midnight. "No one was going to get an Oscar for this movie," Caine admitted, "but it was a huge box-office success and a great laugh."

Although Caine's filmography is vast and filled with many classics, Goldmember remains one of my favorite of his films. It's just so silly and so ridiculous, and I can't get enough of his performance in it. I've always loved his sense of humor -- some of my earliest memories of Caine is as a guest on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson -- and this film takes full advantage of his iconic persona. If you can't muster even the slightest chuckle watching Caine in this movie, well, let's just say I don't think we can be friends.
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This is my slight entry to the Marvelous Michael Caine Blogathon. Celebrate the wonderful man's 85th birthday by clicking here!

Comments

  1. Great post, loved this tribute to his role in this movie and now on the to watch list again thanks to your great post about it !!! Thanks for joining me and Michael Caine for his birthday blogathon!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Gill! It's a fun movie and I was all too glad to talk about it to celebrate Caine's birthday.

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  2. I thought I had seen all the Austin Powers movies, but as I was reading your tribute here, I realized I had not seen this film. Not sure how this one eluded me, but I'll be looking for it. Thanks for putting it on my radar. :)

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    Replies
    1. I hope you enjoy it! It isn't my favorite of the three Powers films, but it is still a lot of fun. And Michael Caine just makes everything better. :)

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