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INT: Michael Keaton

Jun. 21, 2005by:

If you had told me when I was younger that I would someday get to be in the same room as Michael Keaton, I think my head would have exploded. From watching him in 80s classics like NIGHT SHIFT or MR. MOM, to his career defining turn as the Dark Knight in Tim Burtons BATMAN, Keaton has always been one of my favorite actors. After some time away, hes been steadily making a return to acting. This month, hes back on the scene in the new film HERBIE: FULLY LOADED, stepping in to play Lindsay Lohans father.

During the press day for the film, Keaton took some time to talk with about the film, as well as working with Lindsay Lohan, and the history of NASCAR. Thankfully, I have matured (just a little), so my head didnt explode during the course of the interview.


All the cast members talked about how youre their favorite actor. Did you know that at the time?

I did not, no.

Did you find out later that Breckin (Meyer) was a little obsessed?

He had a kind of glaze over his eyes that worried me. (LAUGHS) No, I did, actually. But they were great, I love these guys. It was really fun. It was a nice set, it was a really fun set and cast. I didnt know that until down the road a little bit.

What was the appeal of this?

They sent me the script, and I thought it was really well written. Its nice to be in a family movie from time to time. And especially something where its this classically Disney. That kinda becomes part of cinema culture, and really American culture. Yknow its like one of those things. Theyre still talking about the old one. And this one will probably have more impact than those. That would be my guess. I think its a really well made movie by the way, really well made.

Lindsay said you gave her advice on her career. What did you say?

Really? Thats curious, because I actually stay out of peoples way and people have been asking me, and I say, you know what? If she asked me, and I probably wouldnt talk about it to people if she does ask me because I consider that private, I remember one conversation in a car talking about things, and I found that I kinda held back frankly, becausewell, if people really wanna talk to me or really wanna ask me something, I gotta assume they really wanna know. If they really wanna know, games on. Otherwise, I kinda dont do it. So, I did the best I could, but you know I didnt think it was right to get into too much detail with a lot of people around and microphones.

Im really private and discreet; you have to scrutinize certain situations, so I could only talk about so much. But Id be honored to tell her what I think. If she wanted to listen, thatd be really good. And if I had a different relationship with her, like if I hung with her more, if I knew her better I love to do it, because shes great. Shes a great kid, and shes enormously talented.

So you dont develop those dad relationships with you younger co-stars?

Yes I do actually. I dont develop them like hey lets all hang out. I get like that, I get veryits like even when the guys would tease her all the time, they were like little kids running around. They were all teasing each other and saying things. And sometimes Id say to the guys, they thought I was kidding, but I was kinda serious. Id tell them not to talk to her like that. Shes a girl. You know theyd laugh at me!

What do you think about your FIRST DAUGHTER co-star Katie Holmes?

Well, heres what I think, Ill tell you exactly what I think. I love that kid. She is the greatest, I just really like her. And all Ill say is, my hope and my wish and the vibe that I send her way is that she remembers where she comes from and who she is and who her mom and dad are, and thats all shes gotta do. Because shes a very well rounded girl, and I like her a lot, and has talent that people havent even seen yet I think. Thats a lot of stuff to have going on in your life. It probably feels like a whirlwind. So whatever the good stuff in there is, I hope she gets. And whatever the bad stuff in there, I hope she rejects.

Her new movie is not too bad.

No, I would think it would be good. Im not at all surprised. Thats a really good cast and hes a really good directorIve never seen them since I did mine.


Not interested. I have no interest. Its not complicated. People seem not to believe me. Im just honestly not interested. I only live my life with things that Im interested in.

Is there a character that you would like to revisit?

Kind of, only if Beetlejuice was done right. At one point, I had the conversation with Tim, saying I love this movie so much; I think theres one more in there somewhere. And we both talked about it, and I think there was a script written once years ago that wasnt quite it. I would consider that, yeah, a lot. I would seriously consider that.

What was it like working with the car?

I didnt actually work with the car very much.

There was that scene with the two cars at the end.

Which was an add on, they added the scene to that. It works. It was a great little button to the movie I think. I like the junkyard scene, I thought the junkyard scene was very cute. But thats before I know hes Herbie. I just think this is a really well made movie, honestly, really, really well made family movie. I liked it a lot. I love that they didnt over hi-tech the car. It felt kind of old school. I think people subconsciously dont quite know whyBEETLEJUICE was like that actually.

One of the mistakes, if we ever did it (BEETLEJUICE) again, would be to use too much digital animation or use too many computer tricks. Theres something about that thats not primitivelike, homemade, like in some genius kids basement or something. Some of it was done physically, when I do the arms, I come up with my arms rolled out like that. It was made with literally a plywood thing, it would spin, and you had to be helped up. We did like, 12 takes because the arms would go out and fall over. It was all about how can I get this thing to do one line? Its like, making it up kind of. And that comes off somehow.

What are some of your favorite movies that youve been in?

BEETLEJUICE. BATMAN I liked a lot. Theres moments, I tend to remember things from movies as opposed to the movies. So theres moments in a lot of movies. But I like CLEAN AND SOBER. I love MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. Theres a lot about THE PAPER I really liked. I liked LIVE FROM BAGHDAD.


Yeah, I like GUNG HO.


Oh I love MR. MOM. I do, I really love that. I like what it became. I like that it worked so hard, and it was just a nice little movie. Honestly, its a little American classic. Its a little gem classic, really nice.

Why havent we seen you in as many movies the last few years?

Everybody keeps asking me that. I wish I had some really cool answer. But I dont. I dont think theres one reason. I wasnt particularly interested. I alsoif I do something I really wanna like what Im doing. There were a lot of things in life I wanted to do. I have a lot of interests. I think I looked at some of the things I was doing and I went that wasnt really great. I dont like to not respect myself.

Why do you think you interest in acting was refueled?

Well, I think works important first of all. I think works good for people. Just work, generally. When I like acting, I really, really like it. HERBIE wasnt a particular challenge. But it was a nice place to go and work, and be a part of something like a big classic Disney movie. It was a polar opposite from something that was really engaging, which was a little movie I did called GAME 6.

I liked that a lot, and I turned around and went off to do a big studio movie. But basically it was that, take care of some other things in my life, see the world a little bit, making sure my son was raisedoff in college.

So acting is not the end all be all for you?

No, its certainly not. But there are things about it, I respect it and admire it and I think its an art form, or a craft, one or the other or both. And I like it

I may do it again. I may just kinda say, I dont know, I have no plan. I have kind of a general plan about how I wanna be as a person. In terms of my work, which is part of my life, theres that, but I lot of that I cant control. I may want to go do something, but Im not going to get it. Its gonna go to whoever made 100 million dollars on their last movie.

Are your standards higher on projects now?

Well, they are and they arent. Its weird. I could say yeah, but then you would say

But why are you playing the dad in HERBIE? (LAUGHS) Except that it was really not complicated: heres a movie. Do you want to be in a movie? Yes. Heres a movie called HERBIE, read it. Oh, this is pretty good. This is nice. I like that cast. Let me go meet the director. She seems really smart. I liked what she wanted to do. Im in the mood to work. Its really easy. I dont work too long on the movie. Im kinda in and out. Why not?

Whats next for you?

Im doing this movie with a pretty new writer whos reallyat least this script is really good. Comedy, because Id really like to be doing some more comedies. Its a dark-ish kind of con movie. He has not directed before, which I kinda thought I wouldnt do again for a while. But, hes pretty good, so I guess Ill take my chances. His meetings are good. And well probably get a good cast.

Whats it called?

You know, its not done yet, and Ive learned just not to talk about it until youre actually shooting film.

Can you tell us about GAME 6? Will it get a release?

GAME 6 will probably get released in a very limited way. I would be shocked if its not in a few theatres here and there.

Tell us what its about.

Yeah, its a Don Delilo script, Don Delilo the novelist. Its about a playwright in New York who hasnt had a hit for a while, but is a good playwright. Hes got one coming out that looks like it could be good, its very personal. And its opening the same night as the Boston Red Sox/ New York Mets Game Six, the famous, famous game, the World Series. And hes a die hard Sox fan. Hard core New Yorker, but a Sox fan. Born and raised in Hells Kitchen. His life is falling apart, he hardly knows that, but it is.

Its kinda like AFTER HOURS in a way, a little bit like that. Its really good. Its got a stellar cast. Robert Downey Jr., Catherine OHara, Bebe Neuwirth. Great cast, great script. Michael Hoffman directed it, who did SOAPDISH and RESTORATION.

That was a case of saying well this is just good, you just gotta go work, just go act and go to the gym. I dug the character a lot. I related to him in a way. But hes totally unlike me, but actually kind of like me.

Can you tell us about being exposed to NASCAR?

I didnt know that much about NASCAR. Just what I get from ESPN. Im curious about stuff, so I kinda knew roughly what it was about. But going there was a whole other experience. Its an entire culture. The thing I mostly liked about it was that it was loud, it was really loud. You smell the oil and burning rubber and fans are everywhere. Theyre so involved. Inside the pit is one thing, but out with the merchandising, thats like a city in itself. It was fun. It was really fun to learn how that works. I put on these headsets. You click into the channels, just do the pit crew communications with the driver. Thats really interesting. I was ready for some mayhem.

What I expected to hear is not at all what I heard. You know, guys talking casuallyI was ready for people going LOOK OUT! GET OUTARRGGGH!!! (LAUGHS)

I like cars and I like going fast. Bu this is a whole other thing. And theyre barely cars. Theyre stock cars only in as much as theres x amount of things that have to say stock in the car. Besides that they dont resemble anything at all the way it was originally manufactured. Thats the idea. Get it down to where its the most efficient. I think where it comes from, NASCAR is classically American, the history of it. The fact that it came out of something illegal is like, really American in a way.

Immigrants came here, they settled, then there came moonshine. You had to have a car to get away from the cops. Then they started racing these cars. Then they started building tracks.

Angela Robinson, the director, said that before you started shooting you had a 2 hour meeting with her.

Well, I probably had 3 or 4 meetings with her. Im not in the movie that much. What I liked about it was that she had really good answers and she really thought about things. You could say yeah, but its just HERBIE. But in my opinion, if you dont do thatthis movie is a lot harder than it looks.

Like the really great chefs, especially some of those French guys, what ends up on your plate and the nuances of it, and you go thats it? And what went into making just that thingHerbie was like a big, very difficult thing to do. But the goal was accomplished in that you go wow. Like a nice glass of lemonade. This is a really, really, sweet, really simple, light poppy kind of movie. But a ton of work goes into it to get it to be like that. Talking to her, thats the only way I know how to work. I just ask a zillion questions.

Even though its just the dad in HERBIEyou have to do that kind of work, I think. You gotta lay it down. And then you kinda forget, and just show up for the work.

Have you always approached you roles that way?

Yeah, except for when I just started out and I just had to get the gig. I just had to go audition and get it. Yeah, I always did a fair amount of work. Theres some that require less than others.




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