Hang on a minute, I've got the answer to a 40-year cliffhanger... Michael Caine reveals all about THAT scene in The Italian Job

For decades film buffs have pondered over what happens to the gang in The Italian Job as their getaway coach full of gold teeters over a precipice.

Until now, all they've had to go on were the immortal last words of Sir Michael Caine's character Charlie Croker: 'Hang on a minute, lads. I've got a great idea.'

Now the 75-year-old actor has revealed the mystery of the 40-year-old cliffhanger at the end of the 1969 cult film.

The Italian Job

Michael Caine's character Charlie Croker, in the cult film The Italian Job, reaches for the gold bullion as the gang's getaway coach teeters over a precipice, below

Cliffhanger: Michael Caine has revealed the mystery of The Italian Job

Speaking at last night's 2008 Visit London Awards, he told how the film's producers had already devised the ending but chose not to use it.

He said: 'In the coach I crawl up, switch on the engine, stay there for four hours until all the petrol runs out.

'The van bounces back up so we can all get out, but then the gold goes over.

'There are a load of Corsican Mafia at the bottom watching the whole thing with binoculars.

'They grab the gold, and then the sequel is us chasing it.'

The actor was speaking after the Royal Society of Chemistry launched a competition to solve the film's conundrum.

Last month the society invited entrants to deduce how Croker's gang might have unloaded the gold without losing their lives as part of the film's 40th anniversary next year.

Sir Michael Caine

Sir Michael Caine reveals the mystery of the 40-year-old cliffhanger

Sir Michael was at the Royal Albert Hall ceremony after being voted London's favourite Londoner. He beat Joanna Lumley, Sir Alan Sugar, Paul Merton, Jamie Oliver and singer Leona Lewis to win the award.

Sir Michael, whose latest film Flawless, co-starring Demi Moore, is released today, said he was overjoyed to have been chosen.

'It is extraordinary, and completely unique as I did not have to do anything to get it.'

Now in their fifth year, the Visit London Awards recognise and reward excellence in London tourism and also honour leaders in entertainment, creativity and innovation.

The RSC's competition is open until January 1, with the prize of a three-night stay for two in Turin next spring.

Sir Michael Caine

Sir Michael Caine at the Royal Albert Hall with radio breakfast show presenters Lisa Snowdon and Johnny Vaughan

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