Keaton, Michael

Michael John Douglas (born September 5, 1951), better known as Michael Keaton, is an American actor, well known for his early comedic roles in films such as Night Shift, Mr. Mom, Beetlejuice, and for his portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman in Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns, as well as lead roles in other films including The Paper, Jackie Brown, and White Noise.

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An unsuccessful attempt at stand-up comedy led Keaton to working as a TV cameraman at public television station WQED (TV) in Pittsburgh. Keaton first appeared on TV in the Pittsburgh-based public television program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1975), as one of the “Flying Zucchini Brothers.”  He also served as a full-time production assistant on the show. (In 2003, following Rogers’ death, Keaton hosted the PBS memorial tribute program, Fred Rogers: Everybody’s Favorite Neighbor.)

Before his big break (while still credited as Michael Douglas), Keaton did a billboard ad for the Architect Jeans Company. In an interview in 2003 for Live from Baghdad, Keaton recalled how he and the director of the Architect commercial, Spike Jonze, became fast friends.

Keaton left Pittsburgh and moved to Los Angeles to begin auditioning for various TV parts. He cropped up in various popular TV shows including Maude and The Mary Tyler Moore Hour. Around this time Keaton decided to use an alternative surname to remove confusion with well known actor Michael Douglas, as well as satisfying SAG rules, and after reading an article on actress Diane Keaton, he decided on “Michael Keaton.”

His next key break was working alongside James Belushi in the short-lived comedy series Working Stiffs, which showcased his comedic talent and led to a co-starring role in the comedy Night Shift directed by Ron Howard. His role as the hilariously fast-talking schemer Bill “Blaze” Blazejowski alongside nerdish morgue attendant Henry Winkler earned Keaton some critical acclaim, and he scored leads in the subsequent comedy hits Mr. Mom, Johnny Dangerously, and Gung Ho.

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Keaton’s role as the title character in the 1988 Tim Burton horror-comedy Beetlejuice, which co-starred Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Catherine O’Hara, and Winona Ryder, earned Keaton widespread acclaim and boosted him to movieland’s A-list. He was originally turned down for the title role in Beetlejuice but was reconsidered by director Burton. Keaton now considers Beetlejuice his favorite of his own films.  That same year, Keaton also gave an acclaimed dramatic performance as a drug-addicted businessman in Clean and SoberNewsweek featured him in a story during this time.

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Michael Keaton’s career was given another major boost when he was again cast by Tim Burton, this time as the title superhero of the 1989 blockbuster Batman. Burton cast him because he thought that Keaton was the only actor who could believably portray someone who has the kind of darkly obsessive personality that the character demands.  Warner Bros. received thousands of letters of complaint by fans commenting that the comedic Keaton was the wrong choice for Gotham City’s creature of the night, given his prior work in comedies and the fact that he lacked the suave, handsome features and tall, muscular physicality often attributed to the character in the comic books. However, Keaton’s dramatic performance earned universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike, and Batman became the highest-grossing film of the year.

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According to Keaton, he was astounded when he was first considered as Batman since he was only familiar with the 1960s Batman television series starring Adam West, but it was not until Burton introduced Keaton to Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns that Keaton really understood the dark and brooding side of Batman that he portrayed to much fan approval. Keaton wore the cape and cowl again in Batman Returns (1992), which was another financial success, though controversial for being darker than the original.

Keaton was prepared to return for Batman Forever (1995), even going so far as to show up for costume fitting. However, when Burton was dropped by Warner Bros., Keaton left the franchise. He was reportedly dissatisfied with the screenplay approved by the new director, Joel Schumacher, which Keaton considered to be lighter in tone than the past two Batman movies. According to the A&E Biography episode on Keaton, after he had refused the first time (after meetings with Schumacher), Warner Brothers offered him $35,000,000 (one of the highest salaries offered to an actor at the time), but Keaton steadfastly refused. He was subsequently succeeded as Batman by Val Kilmer and later on by George Clooney in Batman & Robin (1997), which became the least successful Batman film both critically and commercially. It was not until the success of Batman Begins (2005), a reboot starring Christian Bale as the Dark Knight, that the film series was continued.

Keaton remained in demand during the 1990s, appearing in a wide range of films including Pacific Heights, One Good Cop, My Life, and the star-studded Shakespearian story Much Ado About Nothing. He also starred in another Ron Howard film, The Paper, as well as with Andie MacDowell in Multiplicity and twice in the same role, Elmore Leonard character Agent Ray Nicolette, in Jackie Brown and Out of Sight. The actor also made Jack Frost and the thriller Desperate Measures.

Keaton starred in Speechless with Geena Davis (his co-star in Beetlejuice) and Christopher Reeve, as a political candidate’s speechwriter. As with Keaton and Batman, Christopher Reeve had gained notoriety for playing an iconic comic superhero, in his case Superman. Out of Sight starred George Clooney, who succeeded Keaton in the role of Batman in Batman & Robin.

Micheal Keaton and Tim Burton

Micheal Keaton and Tim Burton

Since 2000, Keaton has appeared in several films with mixed success including Live From Baghdad for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe award, First Daughter, White Noise, and Herbie: Fully Loaded. While he continues to receive good notices from the critics (particularly for Jackie Brown), with the exception of Cars, in which he played the part of Chick Hicks, he has not been able to approach the box-office success of Batman. On New Years Day of 2004, he hosted the PBS TV special Mr. Rogers: America’s Favorite Neighbor. It was released by Triumph Marketing LLC on DVD September 28 that year.

In 2006, Keaton starred in an independent film called Game 6, a semi-thriller based around the infamous 1986 World Series bid by the Boston Red Sox. He had a cameo in the Tenacious D short film, Time Fixers, an iTunes exclusive. The 9-minute film was released to coincide with Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny. Keaton was announced to be the lead in Media 8 Entertainment’s film Reaper, a supernatural thriller. He reportedly agreed to star as John Target in the Matt Evans scripted No Rule To Make Target, and he has directed a drama, The Merry Gentleman.

Keaton reportedly was cast as Dr. Jack Shephard in the series Lost, understanding that the role of Jack would be a brief one. Once the role was retooled to be a long-running series regular, Keaton withdrew. The part was given to actor Matthew Fox.

Keaton starred in the 2007 TV mini-series The Company, set during the Cold War, in which he portrayed the real-life CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton. The role garnered Keaton a 2008 SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries. The Company also starred Chris O’Donnell, who portrayed Batman’s crime fighting sidekick Robin (the Boy Wonder was absent from the two Batman films that Keaton starred in) in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.

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Keaton is slated to join the Toy Story animated film’s cast for the upcoming Toy Story 3, providing the voice of Ken, Barbie’s friend.

Trivia:

When he realized he needed to change his name, he remembered an article he had read with a nice picture of Diane Keaton. He chose her last name with the intention of changing it later. However, the name stuck. Years later, he phoned her and thanked her. The two have never actually met.

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Was in a relationship with Courteney Cox (1989-1995).

His hobbies are fly-fishing and riding horses at his California ranch.

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Tim Burton cast him in the title role of Batman (1989) because he thought that Keaton was the only actor who could believably portray someone who has the kind of darkly obsessive personality that the character has. There was a great deal of fan anger over his selection, forcing the studio to release an advance trailer both to show that Keaton could do the role well and that the movie would not be a campy parody like the TV show “Batman” (1966).

Attended Montour High School.

Is the fourth actor to play Batman.

Has a son, Sean Maxwell Douglas (born May 27, 1983), with ex-wife Caroline McWilliams.

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Decided to change his name when he began acting because there was already a Michael Douglas in movies and a Mike Douglas in broadcasting. While he uses a stage name, he has never legally changed his name to Michael Keaton.

One of only two actors to reprise the role of Batman in major, live-action films (Batman (1989)/Batman Returns (1992). Adam West did only one movie (Batman (1966)) as Batman (along with the live-action TV series “Batman” (1966) and voice-work) and Kevin Conroy has only done voice-work as Batman. Christian Bale is the second and most recent actor to play the role more than once with (Batman Begins (2005) followed by (The Dark Knight (2008).

Played Agent Ray Nicolette in Jackie Brown (1997) and again in Out of Sight (1998).

Started his career as a stagehand in “MisteRogers’ Neighborhood” (1968) (he operated “Picture, Picture”), and in 2004 he produced a documentary on Rogers, Fred Rogers: America’s Favorite Neighbor (2004) (TV).

Turned down the role of the ill-fated mad scientist Dr. Seth Brundle in David Cronenberg’s remake The Fly (1986). The part eventually went to Jeff Goldblum.

Is a Second City alumni – a member of the Los Angeles branch.

According to Mike Myers on “Revealed with Jules Asner” (2001), Keaton saw the comic actor perform at Second City Toronto. After the show ended, Keaton went to personally congratulate Myers and said, “Keep up the great work.” Myers would soon work with Keaton on an episode of “Saturday Night Live” (1995) when Keaton was guest host.

His son Sean plays keyboard for a band called The Hatch.

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Was originally slated to play Jeff Daniels character in Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) and actually did film some scenes, but Allen decided it wasn’t working and replaced him with Daniels.

Appeared with the late Christopher Reeve in Speechless (1994). Keaton and Reeve played DC Comics two most iconic characters, Batman and Superman, respectively.

He was originally to play the role of Dr. Jack Shephard in the TV show “Lost” (2004), with the understanding that the character would be killed off early on in the show. Keaton later had to walk away from the part when the creators decided not to kill off the doctor. Matthew Fox ended up playing the character.

Was parodied by Matthew Perry on “Saturday Night Live”.

Was considered for the role of Dr. Curtis McCabe in Vanilla Sky (2001).

Was considered for the role of Jack Crawford in The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

Was considered for the role of Capt. Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003).

Was considered for the role of Lt. Col. Kazinski in Jarhead (2005).

An avid Pittsburgh Steelers football fan, he grew up about five miles from former Steelers coach Bill Cowher’s hometown of Crafton, Pennsylvania.

Lived in his ’63 VW Bug for 2 nights in California while trying to become an actor.

Has only reprised two roles in his career. First, he played Batman in Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992). Second, he played Ray Nicolette in Jackie Brown (1997) and Out of Sight (1998). Also appearing in the latter film was George Clooney, who has also played Batman.

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Was offered to play either Peter Venkman or Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters (1984) but turned down both parts, which went to Bill Murray and Harold Ramis.

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