''The Dark Knight'' and ''Children of Men'' actor discusses his new memoir

By Keith Staskiewicz
Updated October 15, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

You wrote your first book, What’s It All About?, in 1992 at what you thought was the end of your career.
I was thinking, ”My life is over. I’ll write a little book about it, and maybe some people will buy it.” So I did, but then my career opened up again. I won another Academy Award. I won a Golden Globe. I was in one of the highest-grossing films of all time. One of the reasons I wrote this new book is just that somehow I’m still here.

It’s packed with amazing anecdotes.
I was this starstruck young man when I went to Hollywood, so that’s how I wrote it. One time I was in an airplane with Frank Sinatra, and I suddenly realized I was sitting there with Frank Sinatra and I got all dumbstruck. He says, ”What’s the matter?” and I fess up, ”Well, you’re my big idol.” He turned to me and said, ”I know exactly how you feel, Michael. When I first came to Hollywood, I met Ronald Colman and I didn’t know what to say.”

Now you have people coming up to you.
Indeed I do. It’s all come full circle.

You give a very frank appraisal of the films you’ve been in — good and bad.
If you’re very broke for a big part of your life, which I was, you don’t mind doing terrible movies for money. Every time there was a tax bill and they said, ”Here’s a bad movie,” I said, ”It’s not great, but it’ll pay the bills.”

Like, say, Jaws: The Revenge?
That was a great time, but the thing is, I’d gone off to do it [during] the Oscars, so I missed it when I won Best Supporting Actor [for Hannah and Her Sisters]. But I was there the next time I won it. So it all worked out.

You weren’t filming Jaws 5?
[Laughs] No, I’d turned it down. The money wasn’t good enough.

You’ve been in the industry for a long time. Is it interesting to see the changing of the guard?
Absolutely, but there was a funny thing. I think it was the Academy Awards I was watching. There were these actors giving awards, all handsome, very small, very pale, and I had no clue who they were. My wife told me they’re all the stars of the vampire movies. I thought, ”Bloody hell, it’s a good thing I’m not starting out nowadays.” Not me. Tall, fair, and ugly.

You wouldn’t have been cast?
In the vampire role? No, no. I would have been the first victim.

So is this going to be your last book?
I love writing so much that once I’m finished with Batman, I’m going to write fiction. When I was writing my first book, I talked with Kirk Douglas, who had written one of his own. I told him that the lawyers were always saying, ”You can’t say that or you’ll get sued.” He said to me, ”Write fiction, Michael. You can tell the truth.” Isn’t that a great line? So I think I will.

Citizen Caine
The actor has been in innumerable films from Alfie to Zulu, but these are four of his most memorable.

Dressed to Kill (1980)

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

The Cider House Rules (1999)

The Dark Knight (2008)