In my humble opinion, Michael Caine is the ultimate Londoner.

He was the only Londoner I ‘knew’ growing up — and that was through the films he made.

Now he is planning a move from his massive estate in nearby Surrey back to the capital, possibly Wimbledon.

On October 18, The Guardian published Xan Brooks’s interview with him, done by video link.

He told Brooks that only his wife and he live there:

These days it’s mostly just him and Shakira, rattling around. “So I’m going to get a smaller one,” he says. “Because the grandchildren have all gone now. They’re all growing up. So I’m going to move back to be nearer to them, where it’s easier for them to visit. I’m going to move to Wimbledon. My daughter, Natasha, lives in Wimbledon.”

Caine, 88, told his London story (emphases mine):

He was named Maurice Micklewhite, after his father, who worked as a fish market porter. I’ve read that he only officially changed it a few years ago, because he got sick of having to explain himself every time he lined up at UK passport control. But he says that’s not true: he changed it ages ago, 10 years back at least. It felt like cutting the last link with his past.

When he first became Michael Caine, of course, people still called him Maurice. “But I haven’t got any family members now, so no one’s called me Maurice for years. Everyone’s dead. My brother, my mother, my father. If I have any other relations, they’d be living in Bermondsey.” He shrugs. “And I don’t go to Bermondsey.”

What about him? Is he still Maurice deep down? “No. The day I became Michael Caine, that was it – I was Michael Caine. I wasn’t Maurice any more, I was a completely different person. And it was amazing. It was fabulous.”

What was wrong with Maurice? “Well, nobody knew him. He was broke. He was out of work. And the moment I became Michael Caine, I got a job and was on my way.”

He swings with practised ease into an anecdote he has probably told 100 times before – at dinner parties, in discotheques and on prime-time chatshows to rolling audience applause. It’s the tale of how he got his big break in the 1964 film Zulu. How he met the American director Cy Endfield in the theatre bar only to be told that the part he wanted had already gone to another actor. How he had thought that was that. Back to penury and obscurity. Back to being Maurice Micklewhite.

He says: “My entire movie career is based on the length of the bar at the Prince of Wales theatre, because I was on my way out and it was a very long walk to the door. And I had just got there, when he called out: ‘Come back!’ because he had decided that I could play the part of the officer instead. He said: ‘You look like an officer,’ because I was 6ft 2in, blond hair, very slim. The door was half-open; I was very nearly through it. I turned around and walked back in.”

His story makes me think of Dick Whittington, turning again on the road into London. “Exactly,” says Caine. “That’s exactly who I am: the Dick Whittington of acting.”

Moral of the story: never give up on your dreams!

The journalist makes an excellent observation, which ties in with my impressions of Caine as the ultimate Londoner:

He was the ordinary bloke with the alleycat swagger, the working-class hero with the undiluted Thames accent, a bespectacled poster-boy for 60s social mobility. He has now reached the point where he’s started to view himself in those terms

He got interested in acting because the two places he went to most often were the library and the cinema. Now that his acting career is over, because of the lack of physical agility, he is writing a thriller:

What’s the title and what’s it about? “Well,” he says. “The title is If You Don’t Want to Die. I only read thrillers. I’m an adventure man, I’m not a literature person, so I’m not trying to replace Shakespeare here. But it’s based on something I once read about two dustmen, two rubbish collectors in the East End.” Dramatic pause. “And they find uranium in the rubbish.”

As a boy in south London, his twin passions were always movies and books, the cinema and the library. He’s done cinema to death, so it’s only fitting that he should now be circling back to the library, albeit metaphorically – the actual building has long gone. The last time he visited Elephant and Castle he saw it had been replaced by a block of flats. But that’s progress, that’s history. It involves good changes and bad. When he was starting out as an actor, for instance, British film and theatre were the preserve of the posh. “It was: ‘Bunty’s having a party and everyone’s in their tennis whites.’” Another short laugh. “Then we came along and we changed all that.”

Although he still receives the occasional screenplay, the most recent having arrived a few weeks ago, he’s ready to hang up his boots.

The actor:

has a gammy leg and a dodgy spine and reckons the only time he leaves the house these days is when his wife has the time to take him out for a drive. The other week he was sent a screenplay that had his character running away from a bunch of crooks, and this made him laugh – the very idea he could play it. “I can’t walk, let alone run,” he says. “And I’m more or less done with movies now.”

It is likely that Best Sellers, which finished filming just before the pandemic hit, will be his last film:

He doubts he will ever make another, which is fine by him, no great loss. He’s got his knighthood and his Oscars; what does he have left to prove? He says: “I’ve done 150 movies. I think I’ve done enough.”

Best Sellers is about a crochety old author who suddenly goes viral.

Brooks makes another London-centric observation about the star’s exit from film:

Caine has been such a reliable fixture for so long – part of the furniture, a familiar face on the screen – that it’s unnerving to imagine the landscape without him, like walking into the Tower of London and finding the ravens all gone. It’s more unnerving still to realise that it may already have happened; that he might have retired without anyone making a fuss. Caine spent the first part of his career storming the barricades and the second enjoying the spoils of his success. One would have expected some big final act, a showstopping swan song. Instead, we have this: a clean getaway.

A ‘clean getaway’ sounds just the way Michael Caine would like to end his career: quietly slipping out the back door, unnoticed.