Sir Michael Caine has spoken about being taught how to conduct an orchestra as part of his role in forthcoming film Youth, which won two awards at the European Film Awards earlier in December.

82 year old Caine, who was recently voted by the British public as the country’s greatest living film actor, stars as composer Fred Ballinger alongside his best friend, played by Harvey Keitel. He was asked about his reaction to being asked to play the part of a classical music conductor, and his training for it.

Michael CaineSir Michael Caine at the 28th European Film Awards in December 2015

“That appealed to me tremendously but it scared the daylights out of me, because I had to conduct a 120-piece symphony orchestra. I worked for two weeks on that with two professional conductors, and I had a lot of help technically, believe me!”

“But it was amazing,” the screen legend continued, “and it was a wonderful scene when I finished [the first scene] because the lead violinist came up to me and said ‘You were better than the bloke we had yesterday!’ I thought it must have been terrible, but when I saw the picture it looked like I knew [what I was doing].”

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It’s an unusual role for any actor to be placed in, as conducting is a highly specialised activity. Asked about whether he felt daunted at the prospect, Caine said that it was part and parcel of his chosen livelihood.

“Well, it’s acting. You’ve got to look like ‘you’re in love with the girl’ but you’re not in love with girl. Unless you’re having it off on the side! You’re not ‘going to kill someone’ but you’ve got to look like it, and if you’re going to conduct an orchestra you’ve got to look like it! But I had my two guides, one of whom was standing in front of me and one in my ear, so I knew what I was doing.”

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Youth, directed by Paolo Sorrentino, is released in British cinemas on January 29th. Having enjoyed a premiere way back at the Cannes Festival in May, the picture saw Caine win the prize for best actor as well as an honorary trophy for lifetime achievement at the 28th European Film Awards on December 12th.

Accepting his awards at a star-studded ceremony in Berlin, Caine offered some advice to emerging actors – don’t listen to your supposed betters! “I always say to any actor: don’t listen to advice from actors, especially if they’re older than you,” he said. “Because when I was very young, I asked lots of older actors for advice and every single one of them said to me ‘Give it up, you can’t act and you’ve got a rotten accent’.”

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