(Michael Caine photo via @themichaelcaine / Illustration by Sam Taylor)
There is a particular kind of strangling feeling of dread you get when you are locked or trapped in something. It starts at your chest and rises quickly to your neck – you know this; every time you have been trapped even briefly you will know this – and then the heart rate increases, and the blood starts to pump, and the breathing follows too, and before you know it you are– trying– to– stay– calm– but– it– isn't– very– easy–. Every time the floodlights on an astroturf pitch flick off and you hear the distant clank of a chainlink door closing up for the night. Every time you try to find your way to the changing rooms after a late night swim and the lights seem to be off in the reception. Did– did they forget about you? Are– are you trapped here forever? The bathroom door won't open and you feel the soft sound of the lock collapsing within itself. And there's that panic again: up, around your chest and your shoulders, threatening to envelope you before you can breathe.
We can assume, then, that it feels quite bad when you are locked in an attic. Michael Caine would not know this, though. Because he has never been locked in an attic. That we know about.
Michael Caine has written 274 tweets in his lifetime, so you have to derive from such succinctness and such paucity of voice that everything he says is important and has weight to it; that is is stuff We All Need To Sit Down And Pay Attention To. Michael Caine doesn't take to Twitter to avoid work, like you and I. He doesn't live-tweet football games. Michael Caine takes to Twitter for big, earth-shifting announcements. He is moved to tweet only when the time is absolutely the most ripe for it. He did not get locked in an attic that time. He did not.
We have to ask the question: why did Michael Caine refute that he was ever locked in an attic? It's a bit Streisand Effect: before Michael Caine said he wasn't locked in an attic, I never for a second thought he was locked in an attic. But then, when he said he wasn't locked in an attic? All I can think about now is Michael Caine being locked in an attic.
– but I want you to imagine, for a second, Michael Caine locked in an attic. In this imagined scenario, you are outside the attic, beneath the attic door. A sturdy wooden ladder leads up to the attic opening, which is sealed tight with a large piece of MDF. The ladder has spots of paint on it, an immovable layer of dust. You know exactly how this ladder smells and feels on your feet in socks. There is that thumping sound you only get from someone hitting a door three times with their fist, realising it hurts, then charging into it somehow with their shoulder. And you can hear the voice, muffled behind the door, distant but recognisable still. It is Michael Caine. "BLOODY–" he says. He is frustrated and hot and panicked and all he can do is Cockney swearing. "BLOODY. THE– THE DOOR! THE BLOODY DOOR!" You stand and listen for a few minutes at the silence. And then you hear it: like a dog, panting and quickly wheezing, but you realise it's not. It's Michael Caine, slumped against the attic wall, uncontrollably weeping. Heah–heah–heah–heah–heah.
Michael Caine has never felt more powerless in his life.
Michael Caine is convinced he will die here.
– so anyway, yeah, the reason Michael Caine was so moved to deny he ever got locked in an attic is a tabloid story from 2012 that alleged he got locked in an attic. This is par for the course, really, and has been since whenever Twitter became a thing: a celebrity source story would break, and we'd all have a big laugh about it, and then the celebrity themselves would deny the story, which – and I can tell you this from working at a celebrity magazine for two-and-a-half years – would really fuck us over if we'd written up the now-false story for the website. Not naming any names, but… no, I'm not naming any names. Kelly Brook.
Here's the story anyway:
Sir Michael Caine may have wished for some explosives when he was locked in his dressing room overnight after falling asleep on the set of his new thriller film.
The Italian Job star, 79, had gone for a quick nap in his dressing room in the attic of a disused theatre in New Orleans.
But he slept through the director calling a wrap to the day's filming and staff locked up the building believing the actor had already left for the day.
Question: why is Michael Caine's dressing room in an attic? Question: why would someone lock the door specifically to an attic? Question: how could Michael Caine ever get locked in an attic?
When the actor woke up he found himself trapped in the building in the dark – and was only freed the following morning when a carpenter heard his cries.
Sir Michael, whose most famous line 'You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!' in the 1969 film The Italian Job immortalised him in movie history, may have wished he'd had some explosives on hand when he discovered he was stuck in a pitch black building.
Question: does anyone think giving a 79-year-old man trying to explode himself out of an attic is perhaps not a great idea? Does anyone think that? Anyone at all?
I think what makes this tweet so iconic, though, is two things: the dismissive tone of "Just read another story about me being locked in an attick", which suggests this is not just one recorded fake instance of Michael Caine being locked in an attic, that Michael Caine's entire career has been dogged with such accusations, from his early days in theatre through to his breakout role in Zulu through his parody years in the 90s and the "Christopher Nolan's ancient muse" role he has now: all of those highs, constantly, perforated by tabloid stories about him getting locked inside things, namely attics.
Secondly, we have to briefly visit the spelling of the word "attic". Technically, attic with a "k" on the end is incorrect, not aligned with the dictionary-prescribed spelling of it, but now imagine the word in Michael Caine's cockney mouth: there is a hard k sound on the end, when he says it, isn't there? And that is why he spells it as such. Quickly align the wheels in your head to read the following sentence in a perfect Michael Caine voice, and tell me that spelling is off: I'm bloody stuck in a bloody attick, you brass tart! Get me out of here! I'm going to bloody DIE!
The situation we now find ourselves in is Michael Caine cannot realistically ever go in an attic again. Because what if the trapdoor creaks and closes behind him? What if he finds himself, in the pitchest of pitch black, alone and in silence at the top of his home? Soft thuds on the floor and door: nobody there to hear him, nobody climbs to his aid. And in the dust and the fibreglass wool, he makes a sort of nest for the night, and leans into it and cries. "The prophecies came true," Michael Caine sobs, in that voice of his. "They all came true."
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