The Unusual Way Christopher Nolan Pitched Batman Begins' Alfred To Michael Caine

At this point, it's kind of difficult to imagine a Christopher Nolan film without Michael Caine. After all, the actor has been featured in eight of the auteur's eleven films: all three entries in "The Dark Knight" trilogy, as well as "The Prestige," "Inception," Interstellar," "Tenet," and even a brief voice cameo in "Dunkirk." With that in mind, it's kind of surprising that Caine hasn't been announced as a part of Nolan's latest directorial effort, "Oppenheimer," which is set to hit theaters next July. That doesn't mean the actor won't be involved, but if he is, that information has yet to be revealed.

So, why does Nolan work with Caine so much? Obviously, the actor is a legend, but it's more than that. According to Caine, Nolan views him as something of a lucky charm, which makes sense, considering the director has become a massive success in the wake of their work together. For his part, Caine feels incredibly grateful that Nolan came to him when he did, saying the director was responsible for "restarting my acting life." Their partnership was forged in the making of a different origin story, "Batman Begins," and Caine hasn't missed a Nolan project since the 2005 film. So, how did this beautiful friendship begin?

'I'm probably the butler'

It turns out Christopher Nolan convinced Caine to take the role of Alfred Pennyworth by showing up at his house. During a conversation with Aubrey Plaza for Interview Magazine, the actor discussed the talk that led to their prosperous partnership. The actor stated he was at his house one Sunday morning when the doorbell rang. After Caine answered the door, here's what happened:

"There was a man standing there with a script in his hand. I thought, 'This must be a director.' I said, 'What's your name?' He said, 'It's Christopher Nolan.' I knew his name immediately because he'd made three brilliant movies, but they were small. And I thought, 'Oh, this is great. He's going to ask me to be in one of these small movies and it'll be fantastic.' And then I said, 'Come in,' and I gave him a cup of tea. I said, 'Now, what's the movie?' And he said, 'It's called Batman Begins.' I thought to myself, 'I'm too old to play Batman, so I'm probably the butler.”

Caine was right. As he added: 

"So I said to him, 'Am I the butler?' And he said, 'Yeah, you're the butler.' So I said, 'What do I say? Dinner is served? Would you like another glass of wine?' And he said, 'Michael, the butler was his foster father. His father died and the butler brought him up, so he's very important and it's a very good part. Read the bloody script.'"

Not just the butler

Of course, Nolan was correct. Alfred is far more than Bruce Wayne's butler, playing a major role in Batman comics that has only expanded over the years. Like many comic characters, his history has been retconned quite a few times, but Alfred has long been a surrogate father not only to Bruce, but to everyone who's taken up the mantle of Robin as well. He's an invaluable member of the Bat-Family and honestly, they would all be lost without him. In fact, DC Comics saw Alfred murdered by Bane a couple of years back and they certainly have been. One of the most poignant moments of the incredible "Nightwing" run from Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo is Dick Grayson reading his letter from Alfred after the butler had passed. If you're not keeping up with that book, go out right now and remedy that! As for Alfred, only time will tell, but we all know no one really stays dead in comics.

Caine must've realized the butler's importance to the Dark Knight's journey after reading the script for "Batman Begins" and enjoyed the role enough to return for not one, but two sequels. While several great performers have put their stamp on Alfred Pennyworth across film and television — he's even got his own prequel show — Caine is certainly the first actor to come to mind for many of us when thinking about the character, thanks to his wonderful, nuanced performance.