Michael Caine recalls how Christopher Nolan asked him to play Alfred Pennyworth in 2005’s Batman Begins and its sequels, The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Following campy outings like Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin (1997), Nolan’s Batman Begins brought the caped crusader into the 21st century with a grounded story and a slew of committed performances. The Dark Knight trilogy is hailed as one of cinema’s best and is credited with revolutionizing the superhero genre due in no small part to Caine’s performance as Bruce Wayne’s iconic butler, Alfred.
Caine’s Alfred is arguably the heart of The Dark Knight trilogy, serving as a father figure/mentor to Christian Bale’s Bruce and having far more depth than any of the butler’s previous big-screen depictions. In addition to the aforementioned trilogy, Caine has starred in every Nolan film since Batman Begins, including The Prestige (2006), Inception (2010), Interstellar (2014), and Tenet (2020). Now, the Oscar-winning actor has explained how Nolan first asked Caine to work with him.
Speaking with Variety, Caine recalled the first time he met Nolan, and how the acclaimed writer/director asked him to play Alfred. Nolan visited Caine to convince him that playing a butler meant more than saying “dinner is served.” Read the whole story below:
“I have a country house and I was there on a Sunday and the doorbell rang and I was near it so I answered it. And there was a man standing there with a script in his hand and he said he was a director of movies. He said, ‘Can I come in?’ And he said to me, ‘I want you to play the butler in ‘Batman.’ So I said, ‘The butler? What do I say, ‘Dinner is served?’ He said no, he was the godfather of Batman and it’s a much bigger part. That was the first thing I remembered about Christopher Nolan. And playing the movie was absolutely fantastic. The thing about Nolan is you don’t always know what’s going on in the scene, as an actor. And you ask him and he says, ‘I’ll tell you after you’ve done it.’”
Having appeared in over 130 films, Caine wasn’t exactly a struggling actor when being cast in Batman Begins. Still, Alfred has proven a definitive role. Compared to portrayals alongside Adam West, Michael Keaton, and Ben Affleck’s Batmen, Caine’s Alfred to Bale’s Batman is easily the most beloved duo. Following the end of Nolan’s trilogy and Warner Bros.’s launch of the DC Extended Universe, one could argue Jeremy Irons’s take on the character had potential. However, WB/DC Films’ abandonment of the Snyder-Verse has largely left “Batfleck” and, in turn, Irons’s Alfred unexplored. Among casual moviegoers, it’s not a stretch to say that Caine has become synonymous with the character of Alfred Pennyworth.
At 88 years old, Caine is still going strong. He’s currently promoting Lina Roessler’s Best Sellers and is set to star in upcoming films such as Medieval, The Great Escaper, and Now You See Me 3. He’s poised to remain one of the most recognizable and revered faces in cinema, and someone we’ll always remember as Batman Begins’s righteous mentor who reminds us why we fall. It’s hard to imagine Nolan showing up at someone else’s door.