Born to a fish-porter father and a charwoman mother in South London, Maurice Micklewhite emerged from dismal poverty to hit it big, in 1966, as a low-class Cockney lothario named Alfie and as bespectacled agent Harry Palmer in a trilogy of spy flicks. Along the way, he ditched his name in favor of the more urbane appellation of Caine as a tribute to his favorite movie, The Caine Mutiny, and plopped Michael beside it.
Back in the early days of his career, Caine was known to be a heavy drinker and a reveler in excess. However, with age came maturity as well as marital stability and dramatic versatility. With his newfound steadiness, he managed to develop his craft and transform himself into an even more impressive actor. He won critical praise and Oscar nominations for his work in Alfie, Sleuth and Educating Rita, and won for Hannah and her Sisters. He also won several Golden Globes and Emmys for his work in cinema and television.
Though he owns five restaurants in London and one in Miami, the actor's prolific output has never tapered off. He played a sickly ex-con opposite Jack Nicholson in the 1997 drama Blood and Wine, and that same year starred in a handful of TV projects--Len Deighton's Bullet to Beijing (reprising his role as superspy Harry Palmer), Mandela & DeKlerk, and the ABC mini-series 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (as Captain Nemo, no less). The year 1998 brought a gem of a role as a sleazy talent agent in Little Voice. The film was loved by critics and audiences, and Caine won another Golden Globe for his portrayal of Ray Say. As he said in his acceptance speech, he'd "made a lot of crap" and "a lot of money," so that now he had the luxury to be able to sit back and choose the good roles.
And good roles is what he got. In 1999 he played a doctor/teacher of an orphanage in The Cider House Rules. For his efforts he was rewarded an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting role. He was again nominated for an Oscar for his work in The Quiet American (2002) and played Haley Joel Osment's eccentric uncle in Secondhand Lions (2003). He continues to work steadily with roles in The Statement (2003), Batman Begins and Bewitched (2005).
Caine, who has two daughters (one with first wife Patricia, and one with second wife Shakira), was awarded a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in 2000 for his contribution to the performing arts. He was formally knighted at Buckingham Palace under his real name of Maurice Micklewhite but is known professionally as Sir Michael Caine.