If any actor has a story worth telling, it’s got to be Michael Caine. In 60 years he’s starred in over 100 films, and has just seen his autobiography — Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons in Life — published. And perhaps one of the most moving chapters in it is when he talks about his relationship with his wife, Shakira Baksh, who he genuinely does credit with saving his life because she really turned it around when he was about 40.
“I was never bombed on set,” he relates in the book, “but I thought that a small vodka for breakfast was nothing to worry about, and in the early 1970s I was drinking two bottles of the stuff a day… By an immense stroke of good fortune, Shakira arrived in my life just in time. The empty feeling vanished and she got on my case. Then, to top it all, she got pregnant and I was given a second go at fatherhood, and soon I got myself straightened out.” For a year he was sober, and since then the 85-year-old actor only drinks wine with dinner.
Several years ago, author William Hall published Sir Michael Caine: The Biography, in which he, too, talked about this difficult time for the actor and the impact that Shakira had on him. Michael had been miserable filming a movie called Pulp and was trying to figure out what he was doing with his life.
“Enter, at this most appropriate moment,” Hall writes, “Shakira Baksh. She had been Miss Guyana in the Miss World contest of 1967, and came in third… and had earned a few walk-on glamor parts in minor British films… Michael first spotted her when he was slouched idly in front of the TV set, knocking back too much vodka for his health and wondering which of the many scripts at his disposal he should take… His weight was up and despite his wealth and fame, life had somehow drifted into a curious cul-de-sac.”
In that biography, Michael is quoted as saying regarding their connection, “She has a quiet temperament, whereas I tend to be voluble. She is patient, and she has a backbone. Once she digs her heels in on anything, you cannot move her. That’s the kind of woman I’ve needed. And she didn’t take me for granted — or for anything! Sometimes I look back on my emotional life and see it as a three-act play. The first act was my [first] unhappy marriage. Then came the period when I was always being called a bachelor, though all the time I always felt I was an unmarried man. There’s a difference, you know. Now I think this last act is the one that will linger.”
Truer words have never been spoken.