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The Good, the Bad & the Badass: Michael Keaton

06.16.2014

Last week, we took a look at the career of Nicolas Cage, one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood, who's starred in at least one movie a year for the last twenty years. This week's actor is kind of his opposite, in that after achieving massive success, he consciously stepped away from the limelight, only to reemerge this year for what might prove to be a highly intriguing comeback.

Michael Keaton

This week, we were all excited to see the trailer for BIRDMAN. The timing couldn't have been better. This week marks the 25th anniversary of Tim Burton's BATMAN, and many of us have been wondering what star Michael Keaton has been up to. Now, he hasn't really been MIA. He's shown up here and there, most notably in a funny part in THE OTHER GUYS, the recent ROBOCOP reboot, and a voice part in TOY STORY 3 (as Ken of “Ken & Barbie”). But considering how big he was throughout the eighties and most of the nineties, he's been pretty low key.

If you've read interviews with Keaton, you'll know this is mostly by choice. You can't blame the guy. He made a fortune as Batman, didn't like the parts he was being offered, so he just took off and did his own thing, coming back here and there (one of his best post-nineties roles was the HBO telefilm LIVE FROM BAGHDAD). With BIRDMAN, Keaton's back in a tailor-made lead, with him playing a former movie star trying to re-ignite his career after years of typecasting after having played a famous superhero. Sound familiar?

Even before he was Batman, Keaton was a star, albeit mostly known for his wise-ass persona in comedies. Ron Howard's NIGHT SHIFT made his career, and he played variations on that smart-ass part throughout the decade in movies like GUNG HO, MR. MOM, THE DREAM TEAM (a childhood favourite of mine) and BEETLEJUICE before radically shifting gears by signing on to play the caped crusader.

His Best Performance

When Keaton signed on to play Batman, fans were up-in-arms, thinking this meant the film would be another Adam West-style camp comedy. Warner Bros had to release a teaser trailer early just to prove they were taking the material seriously, and from the time they showed Keaton growling, “I'm Batman”, people shut-up. Keaton is bloody brilliant in the part. Compared to today's superheroes, Keaton is extremely down-to-earth. He plays Bruce Wayne with a borderline personality disorder. He's totally ill-at-ease with his (ultra-sexy) love interest, Kim Basinger (as Vicki Vale), and far from the studly superman played by Christian Bale in the Christopher Nolan trilogy. I'm not saying one performance is better than the other, but they're radically different, and Keaton is super-underrated. That said, I feel he's much better as Batman in the first film as opposed to BATMAN RETURNS. To me it feels like no one but Michelle Pfeiffer (and possibly Danny DeVito) was really bringing their A-game to RETURNS, from Burton down through Keaton. Still, the first BATMAN – terrific.

His Most Overrated Performance

What's weird is how Keaton was never really able to go back to comedy after BATMAN. He tried a few times, most notably with the late Harold Ramis' MULTIPLICITY, but the moment had passed. Playing multiple roles (clones) it's a bit of a dated performance, with him playing one clone as borderline retarded, another as cartoonishly fey, and so on. It didn't really work in 1996, and it doesn't really work now.

His Most Underrated Film

Before playing BATMAN, Keaton tried to shift gears by starring as a hardcore cocaine-addict in CLEAN & SOBER. Now a fairly obscure film, this is really a brilliant performance. Keaton perfectly captures that whole coke-fueled “eighties-yuppie-entitlement” thing and isn't afraid to play his character as a selfish, often unlikable jerk. That probably doomed this to die a quick death at the box office, but one can't help but feel his acting in this has been criminally under-looked. To me, his performance as an addict here is about on part with last week's subject, Nicolas Cage, in LEAVING LAS VEGAS. If you can find this, you should give it a look. The dramas MY LIFE & ONE GOOD COP are also well-worth a look. 

His Most Memorable Scene

Whenever I mention Michael Keaton as Batman to friends, they always shoot back the “you wanna get nuts??? C'mon – let's get NUTS!” line at me. What a friggin' amazing scene, where Keaton finds himself face-to-face with Jack Nicholson's Joker – totally unarmed and unable to control his rage upon seeing the man that (as we learn later) murdered his parents. Watching this scene makes me wish someone would do Frank Miller's “The Dark Knight Returns” with Keaton in the title part.

His Top-Five Films

5. MR.MOM
4. JACKIE BROWN
3. CLEAN & SOBER
2. BEETLEJUICE
1. BATMAN

Up Next

Alejandro Iñárritu's BIRDMAN is due to open this fall after (one presumes) a run through the fall festival circuit. I'm starting to think Keaton may find himself up for an Oscar.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Source: JoBlo.com

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12:35AM on 06/16/2014
i loved multiplicity the im glad he is doing more movies the more michael keaton the better
i loved multiplicity the im glad he is doing more movies the more michael keaton the better
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12:37AM on 06/16/2014
One of my favorite actors of all time and will always be my favorite Batman (no matter who they get to play the role). The guy has made so many great films with Batman, Batman Returns, Multiplicity, Clean and Sober, Beetlejuice, Jackie Brown, Mr. Mom, Johnny Dangerously, My Life, Night Shift, Desperate Measures, and the very underrated The Dream Team, and Game 6.

The guy should of had a bigger career and I'm glad to see he may be in a film that may finally get him a chance to win an Oscar.
One of my favorite actors of all time and will always be my favorite Batman (no matter who they get to play the role). The guy has made so many great films with Batman, Batman Returns, Multiplicity, Clean and Sober, Beetlejuice, Jackie Brown, Mr. Mom, Johnny Dangerously, My Life, Night Shift, Desperate Measures, and the very underrated The Dream Team, and Game 6.

The guy should of had a bigger career and I'm glad to see he may be in a film that may finally get him a chance to win an Oscar. The guy is long overdue and I would love to see the guy have a career resurrection and be in some more high profile films. The guy can still bring it along with the best of them.
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8:41PM on 06/16/2014
Yep. Would love to see the man get an Oscar nomination for the film. It looks great.
Yep. Would love to see the man get an Oscar nomination for the film. It looks great.
8:41PM on 06/16/2014
Yep. Would love to see the man get an Oscar nomination for the film. It looks great.
Yep. Would love to see the man get an Oscar nomination for the film. It looks great.
8:41PM on 06/16/2014
Yep. Would love to see the man get an Oscar nomination for the film. It looks great.
Yep. Would love to see the man get an Oscar nomination for the film. It looks great.
1:31AM on 06/16/2014
Keaton really looks bat-sh*t crazy in the new The Birdman movie.
Keaton really looks bat-sh*t crazy in the new The Birdman movie.
12:48AM on 06/16/2014

One underrated role

The Paper (1994) he was great in that, and its a good movie too
The Paper (1994) he was great in that, and its a good movie too
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8:33AM on 06/16/2014
Great movie. His rant against Spalding Gray is pure Keaton goodness.
Great movie. His rant against Spalding Gray is pure Keaton goodness.
+2
12:49AM on 06/16/2014
I do hate to nitpick but Keaton's "you wanna get nuts" line comes LITERALLY right before Jack's "dance with the devil in the pale moonlight" which is what triggers the him murdering his parents realization. So, he couldn't have said that line out of rage for his parents' murder. It kinda came out of nowhere.
I do hate to nitpick but Keaton's "you wanna get nuts" line comes LITERALLY right before Jack's "dance with the devil in the pale moonlight" which is what triggers the him murdering his parents realization. So, he couldn't have said that line out of rage for his parents' murder. It kinda came out of nowhere.
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1:35PM on 06/16/2014
Geez, I must've watched Batman quite a few times to remember all this...
Geez, I must've watched Batman quite a few times to remember all this...
3:00AM on 06/16/2014
I see your point. I always thought that he was all business about Jack and the Joker right until he heard the "dance with the devil" line. That's why he's so surprised to hear that from the Joker that he stops acting "nuts" and says "what?!" genuinely shocked. Plus, he doesn't really let Jack fall into the toxic waste. He does make a real attempt to hold onto him and even grabs for him in a last effort to save him (which he wouldn't do if he thought he was his parents killer. In fact, if he
I see your point. I always thought that he was all business about Jack and the Joker right until he heard the "dance with the devil" line. That's why he's so surprised to hear that from the Joker that he stops acting "nuts" and says "what?!" genuinely shocked. Plus, he doesn't really let Jack fall into the toxic waste. He does make a real attempt to hold onto him and even grabs for him in a last effort to save him (which he wouldn't do if he thought he was his parents killer. In fact, if he knew all along then I would think he'd stalk him and be obsessed with bringing him down long ago in the story. I always thought that he referred to him by his first name instead of his whole name in "the story about this guy he knows, Jack" to test the waters of how crazy he is and how far away from his old self he is. AND after the Joker kills the gangster with the pen before his mimes shoot up the place, Bruce tells Alfred that "Jack Napier is still alive" in a very businesslike way devoid of anger or vengeance.
1:09AM on 06/16/2014
My reading of that scene is different. I feel like he knew from the beginning that Jack murdered his folks. That's why he always refers to him by his first name, right? And why he lets him fall into the toxic waste? I could be wrong though. Wow, never really thought of it that way.
My reading of that scene is different. I feel like he knew from the beginning that Jack murdered his folks. That's why he always refers to him by his first name, right? And why he lets him fall into the toxic waste? I could be wrong though. Wow, never really thought of it that way.
1:24AM on 06/16/2014
From crazy comedy Beetlejuice to best Batman to date in Batman & Batman Returns and villainous roles like Pacific Height and Desperate Measures, Michael Keaton sure is a badass. His underrated movies: The Paper and My Life (which made me cried like hell). His turn as police chief in The Other Guys is very funny. Badass indeed.
From crazy comedy Beetlejuice to best Batman to date in Batman & Batman Returns and villainous roles like Pacific Height and Desperate Measures, Michael Keaton sure is a badass. His underrated movies: The Paper and My Life (which made me cried like hell). His turn as police chief in The Other Guys is very funny. Badass indeed.
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4:20AM on 06/16/2014
It was just heartbreaking, man. *Sniffs*
It was just heartbreaking, man. *Sniffs*
3:32AM on 06/16/2014
Ups for the My Life shout out; I was bawling like a little girl at the end of that
Ups for the My Life shout out; I was bawling like a little girl at the end of that
2:15AM on 06/16/2014
I think that while he is at his best in comedic roles, he's displayed quite the range. Honestly not too big on his portrayal of Bruce Wayne (but that's also attributable to the writing), but absolutely cannot fault his Batman. He was wickedly entertaining in the RoboCop remake and I'm looking forward to Birdman!
I think that while he is at his best in comedic roles, he's displayed quite the range. Honestly not too big on his portrayal of Bruce Wayne (but that's also attributable to the writing), but absolutely cannot fault his Batman. He was wickedly entertaining in the RoboCop remake and I'm looking forward to Birdman!
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6:03AM on 06/16/2014
Hugely underrated actor. I actually prefer his performance as Batman. He was more mysterious as Batman and I think I preferred that approach.
Hugely underrated actor. I actually prefer his performance as Batman. He was more mysterious as Batman and I think I preferred that approach.
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6:08AM on 06/16/2014
I'd like to see him signed up for a leading role in 'True Detective' season 2.
I'd like to see him signed up for a leading role in 'True Detective' season 2.
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1:38PM on 06/16/2014
That is a friggin' awesome idea :)
That is a friggin' awesome idea :)
6:49AM on 06/16/2014
I grew up with Michael Keaton being one of my favorite actors due to Batman and Beetlejuice. He is by far the best Batman to date and I feel like his portrayal of the Bruce Wayne side of things is the best as well. All the other modern Batman portrayals seem to make Wayne this brooding, psychologically unbalanced (which the character is in a way) ego who can't wait to get into the bat suit. Like being Wayne is a chore. Keaton made Wayne human and likeable. He only ever got into the bat suit
I grew up with Michael Keaton being one of my favorite actors due to Batman and Beetlejuice. He is by far the best Batman to date and I feel like his portrayal of the Bruce Wayne side of things is the best as well. All the other modern Batman portrayals seem to make Wayne this brooding, psychologically unbalanced (which the character is in a way) ego who can't wait to get into the bat suit. Like being Wayne is a chore. Keaton made Wayne human and likeable. He only ever got into the bat suit when he had to. Like he knew, while Batman was a strong part of who he was, it was not all he was.
I also want to share the love for Multiplicity-it is a very funny movie and Keaton plays the part with ease.
1. Batman
2. Beetlejuice
3. The Paper
4. Live From Baghdad
5. Johnny Dangerously
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9:16AM on 06/16/2014
I love how he played Bruce Wayne, because you can still even see how damaged he was because of his parents. He's isolated and lonely.
I love how he played Bruce Wayne, because you can still even see how damaged he was because of his parents. He's isolated and lonely.
7:10AM on 06/16/2014
Kudos for major shout out to Live From Baghdad - a very underrated movie.
Kudos for major shout out to Live From Baghdad - a very underrated movie.
7:01AM on 06/16/2014
Also, if you haven't seen his hilarious guest role on Frasier you can catch it on Netflix. The episode is called "Wheels of Fortune".
Also, if you haven't seen his hilarious guest role on Frasier you can catch it on Netflix. The episode is called "Wheels of Fortune".
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9:13AM on 06/16/2014
I was a toddler seeing the first Batman and that's how it all started with me being in love with the character. Keaton is one of my all time favorite actors, because he has variety, and I agree with what you've listed above. Glad you put him on the 'badass' list. Didn't matter the movie, I always love watching Keaton on screen. And even with small roles, he steals the show, for example, the adaptation of The Company and The Other Guys.
I was a toddler seeing the first Batman and that's how it all started with me being in love with the character. Keaton is one of my all time favorite actors, because he has variety, and I agree with what you've listed above. Glad you put him on the 'badass' list. Didn't matter the movie, I always love watching Keaton on screen. And even with small roles, he steals the show, for example, the adaptation of The Company and The Other Guys.
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10:09AM on 06/16/2014
My dad always reminds me of when I was very little and crazy about Batman. He said that I couldn't pronounce Batman right and I would say "mu-mat-man" instead.
My dad always reminds me of when I was very little and crazy about Batman. He said that I couldn't pronounce Batman right and I would say "mu-mat-man" instead.
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+1
11:47AM on 06/16/2014
I really love "My Life".. great movie... and I hope Birdman to kick ass!
I really love "My Life".. great movie... and I hope Birdman to kick ass!
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+1
12:17PM on 06/16/2014
I need to start figuring out how to incorporate "Never rub another man's rhubarb." into everyday conversation more often.
I need to start figuring out how to incorporate "Never rub another man's rhubarb." into everyday conversation more often.
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1:37PM on 06/16/2014
Hell yeah!!! I've still gotta figure out what Joker's saying while looking at Vicki Vale's picture right before he says phone book to Bob!
Hell yeah!!! I've still gotta figure out what Joker's saying while looking at Vicki Vale's picture right before he says phone book to Bob!
1:38PM on 06/16/2014
So happy to see Michael Keaton getting the love he deserves. He's one of my favorite actors and I'm always psyched to see him in anything. I'm also glad My Life and The Dream Team got shout outs. I don't know why but My Life popped in my head the other day and it was such a great movie.

He's by far my favorite Batman, if the first one is on I'm watching it, plain and simple. I'll never forget going with my dad to see it in theaters, such an iconic movie. My dream movie would be The Dark
So happy to see Michael Keaton getting the love he deserves. He's one of my favorite actors and I'm always psyched to see him in anything. I'm also glad My Life and The Dream Team got shout outs. I don't know why but My Life popped in my head the other day and it was such a great movie.

He's by far my favorite Batman, if the first one is on I'm watching it, plain and simple. I'll never forget going with my dad to see it in theaters, such an iconic movie. My dream movie would be The Dark Knight Returns with Keaton and Burton returning.

I think my favorite Keaton moment is in Batman when beyond hot Vicki is basically telling him how much she loves him and if they can make it work and he just says "I'd like to...but he's out there right now...and I've gotta go to work." Fucking epic.
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2:19PM on 06/16/2014
Pacific Heights. Keaton can make a good villain. Also, I loved him in My Life. Movie made me cry.
Pacific Heights. Keaton can make a good villain. Also, I loved him in My Life. Movie made me cry.
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2:31PM on 06/16/2014

I thought Multiplicity was his most underated performance.

Multiplicity was and still is hilarious. Its one of those feel good movies that I find myself going back to. It was funny without the need to be profane and gross like many of today's comedies. This film has heart, and Keaton is brilliant in all 4 versions of the character. Eugene Levy also brings on the funny. If you haven't seen Multiplicity, give it a shot.
Multiplicity was and still is hilarious. Its one of those feel good movies that I find myself going back to. It was funny without the need to be profane and gross like many of today's comedies. This film has heart, and Keaton is brilliant in all 4 versions of the character. Eugene Levy also brings on the funny. If you haven't seen Multiplicity, give it a shot.
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