He was born in the East End of London at a time before Cockney accents became fashionable. Ironically, he first came into the public eye in the role of an upper-class English army officer in the 1963 film, Zulu. This was closely followed by his two best-known roles: the spy "Harry Palmer", in The Ipcress File (1965), and the woman-chasing Alfie (1966). He went on to play Palmer in a further two films. His trademark horn-rimmed glasses did not prevent his becoming a pin-up.
When Michael Caine first became an actor he changed his name to Michael Scott. He happened to be speaking to his agent in a telephone box in London's Leicester Square when he was informed that he had to change his name again because another actor was already using the name Michael Scott. His agent insisted that he come up with a new name immediately. Looking around for inspiration, he noted that The Caine Mutiny was being shown at the Odeon cinema, and so he decided to change his name to Michael Caine.
In recent years, Caine has grown in status to become a respected actor and establishment figure. He has played a huge variety of roles, including a university professor in Educating Rita (1983), a theatre director in Noises Off, and Ebenezer Scrooge in The Muppet Christmas Carol. He has been Oscar-nominated five times, winning his first Academy Award for the 1986 film, Hannah and Her Sisters.
He was knighted in 2000 for services to drama, and is known as Sir Maurice Micklewhite. (Unlike some actors who adopt their stage name for everyday use, Caine still uses his real name when he's not working.)