Michael Caine: I was in Korea, in the war in Korea, and there’s an incubation period for malaria, and I came home, and then I collapsed with malaria. And so there I was, I’m very, very thin — I lost a lot of weight — a slightly yellow complexion and the thick cockney accent, and I knew I would never be rich or famous. You absolutely knew that.
So I went into repertory for nine years and learned how to be an actor in order to become the best possible actor I could become. Not the best possible actor, because there’ll always be, whatever you do, people who are better or worse at what you do. I just started to be the best possible actor I could be, and that was the end of that.
I think it just came from knowing that I was never going to be like Laurence Olivier or people like that, or John Gielgud — great theater actors — or big movie stars like Cary Grant and Robert Taylor, and John Mills in England, and people like that. But I just decided to make myself the best that I could possibly make myself without any reference to anyone else.