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Wednesday, 12 April, 2000, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Caine shrugs off speech critics
Michael Caine with Bob Hoskins and Roger Moore
Caine was saluted by Bob Hoskins and Roger Moore
Film legend Michael Caine has defended his much-criticised speech at the Bafta awards ceremony on Sunday.

The Oscar-winning actor complained the British film industry had treated him as an outsider in the past when he won the fellowship prize at the British Academy Film Awards.

But at a special tribute lunch for the actor, he told the 450 guests he was not bothered by the criticism.

If there are any newspaper people in this room, I don't give a toss

Michael Caine
"You can't convince people that you do not give a toss. If there are any newspaper people in this room, I don't give a toss," he said.

"Newspaper reporters have an extraordinary arrogance to think that what they say about us matters."

On Sunday, he told the Bafta audience he "never really felt that I belonged in my own country, in my own profession".

Michael Caine and Roger Moore
Caine and Moore present the bus to seven-year-old James Bolt

But at the lunch - organised by the Variety Club children's charity - the 67-year-old delighted guests by lavishing praise on his friends.

He joked: "Practically all of my closest friends are with me today, and they've all got one thing in common - they're all out of work."

Of actor Bob Hoskins, who sat with Caine's family at the top table, he said: "The smallest giant in the industry. There's an extraordinary man inside there. Have you ever seen such a powerhouse?

"You're an extraordinary man Bob - I'm glad I dragged you in on my coat-tails."

Turning to former James Bond star Roger Moore, he said: "Roger Moore was a snob until I met him. He had to admit to the world someone who talked like me came from the same place as him."

He was a snob until I met him. He had to admit to the world someone who talked like me came from the same place as him

Caine on Roger Moore
Caine paid tribute to the man who discovered him, his agent Dennis Selinger, who died in 1998.

He said Selinger was "the best agent in England".

"I wrote a letter to him to say would you be my agent. He said he wasn't taking any more clients, and on the same day he saw me in the play I was in on TV and he rang me and said he wanted me to be his client."

He joined Moore to present a Variety Club Sunshine Coach in Selinger's memory to the Log Cabin, a play centre for children with special needs based in Ealing, west London.

The lunch comes at a high point in Caine's career, which has included 1960s classics Alfie and The Italian Job and more recent films such as Little Voice.

His Bafta fellowship - the UK film industry's lifetime achievement award - on Sunday followed his best supporting actor Oscar for The Cider House Rules last month.

He told the guests at the Savoy he had also won a best dressed male prize at the Academy Awards.

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