Michael Caine's X-rated feud with Alfred Hitchcock 'He never spoke to me again'

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Caine spoke of the feud years later, but it was obvious to anyone who saw them in public. For years, they ate at the same famous restaurant in Hollywood every Friday night but the famous director refused to acknowledge the actor’s presence. It all started over one of Hitchcock’s films, which was his only one to get an ‘X’ rating in the UK – and which Caine slammed on moral grounds. In fact, Helen Mirren and Vanessa Redgrave also turned down a role in it and Eileen Atkins blasted the script as “disgusting.” The director’s own daughter refused to let her children watch it for years – but it was Caine who Hitch refused to forgive.  

In 1972, Caine was riding high on 1971s Get Carter and was a worldwide star thanks to Alfie, The Ipcress File and The Italian Job. Hitchcock wanted him for his latest film, Frenzy. It was to be his first film shot entirely in his native England since 1950’s Stage Fright and the director was determined to have Caine as the central character, Robert Rusk.

The film would go on to be a major box office hit but the actor was horrified by the role. The film was the most explicitly violent and sexual of Hitchcock’s career. He had never included nude scenes before – this had four – and it openly presented themes which the likes of Psycho only alluded to.

The Alfie star turned the Hollywood legend down flat. He was never forgiven. Although Mirren later admitted she regretted turning down the role of Babs Milligan, Caine explained why he would never have signed on.

 

The movie was based on the  book Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square, which was inspired by the real-life unsolved crimes of the serial killer Jack the Ripper, who terrorised London in the 1880s.

The role of a serial rapist and murderer that was offered to Caine eventually went to Barry Foster. Despite a troubled shoot disrupted by Hitchcock hurting his back and his wife suffering a stroke, it is now highly regarded by critics and was a major hit with the public.

Despite the dark themes, Hitchcock had promised “It will be done comedically” and the audacious mix of sly humour and gritty themes propelled the film to love $12million at the box office on a $2million budget.

Caine has said he had always wanted to work with Hitchcock, but, their feud notwithstanding, the director would only make one more film, 1976’s Family Plot.

In fact, a few years later, Caine went on to make films like Dressed To Kill, which deal with equally graphic themes of serial killers and twisted sexuality, and the 1981 Oliver Stone horror The Hand.



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