What the Hell Happened to Michael Keaton?

Michael Keaton 2013

Michael Keaton started out as a manic comic and grew into an unlikely leading man and an even more unlikely super hero.  As the first big-screen Batman, Keaton was able to make deals that secured him A-list work.  But when he walked away from the Bat-franchise, Keaton’s opportunities dried up.  Eventually, he all but disappeared from the spotlight.

What the hell happened?

keaton - mr rogers

After failing to break into stand-up comedy, Michael Keaton worked as a cameraman at a public television station in Pittsburg.  He started appearing onscreen in TV shows like Where the Heart Is and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood where he played one of the Flying Zucchini Brothers.  Keaton was a production assistant on Mr. Rogers and hosted a tribute show on PBS following Fred Rogers’ death in 2004.

I kind of blew past that stand-up comedy career, didn’t I?  Wanna see a clip?  Of course you do.  Here’s an early Michael Keaton stand-up routine.

Keaton left public television to start a career as an actor.  He appeared on TV shows like Maude and The Mary Tyler Moore Hour.  Here’s a clip of Keaton doing a song and dance number with a pre-fame David Letterman and Mary Tyler Moore.

Man, I do not miss variety shows.  But that was pretty awesome.

As Keaton was entering this phase of his career, he was asked to change his professional name.  Keaton’s real name is Michael Douglas.  In fact, it is still his legal name.  But there was already a famous actor named Michael Douglas and Mike Douglas was a famous TV host.

Ironically, Michael Douglas’ father, Kirk Douglas, was born Issur Danielovitch.  If he hadn’t changed his name to Douglas when he came to Hollywood, the name Michael Douglas would have been available for Keaton to use.  If that had happened, Michael Douglas would have been Michael Danielovitch and Michael Keaton would have been Michael Douglas.

The internet insists that Keaton chose his stage name after reading an article about Diane Keaton on a plane.  However, this is not true.  It’s funny how the internet feeds off of itself some times.  Someone posted the original story without citation and soon it became cited all over the place including Wikipedia.  But Keaton has publicly denied the story.  Keaton picked the name without giving it much thought.  But he has said Buster Keaton was an influence.

rabbit test

In 1978, Keaton had a cameo role in his first movie, Rabbit Test.  Rabbit Test starred Billy Crystal as the world’s first pregnant man.  There was nowhere to go from here but up.

keaton working stiffs

In 1979, Keaton starred opposite Jim Belushi in the short-lived sitcom, Working Stiffs.  Keaton and Belushi played brothers who lived together and worked as janitors.  Nine episodes of the show were produced, but only four episodes were aired.

I’m not sure which is worse.  A pregnant-man film directed by Joan Rivers or a sit-com co-starring the lesser Belushi.  Fortunately for Keaton, one of the writer’s on Working Stiffs was also working on a screenplay for Ron Howard and introduced them.

That screenplay was Night Shift.

Night Shift was released in 1982 and starred Henry Winkler as an accountant-turned-pimp  and a pre-Cheers Shelley Long as a hooker with a heart of gold (a novel concept if ever there was one).  Ron Howard directed his former Happy Days co-star in what was intended to be a career change for both of them.  Howard was a novice director and Winkler was trying to get away from his Fonzie persona.

Keaton absolutely stole the show.  His motormouth idea man, Billy “Blaze” Blazejowski never stopped rattling off one crazy idea after another to the point where even the Fonz lost his cool and told him to shut up.

But Keaton’s over-the-top performance made the studio nervous.  According to Keaton,

“They saw the dailies and they were telling Ronnie I had to stop chewing gum, I had to get my hair cut. Eventually they were, like, ‘We have to fire him! What the fuck is he doing?’ They didn’t get it. To Ronnie’s credit, he told ‘em to wait and see until it was all cut together.”

Night Shift got mostly favorable reviews and performed reasonably well at the box office.  It set off a string of prostitution-themed comedies in the 80’s that included Risky Business and Doctor Detroit.

Keaton - mr mom

Following Night Shift, Keaton was offered the John Candy role in Ron Howard’s Splash.  But he turned it down fearing that the role was too similar to the side-kick he played in Night Shift.

Instead, Keaton opted for a starring role in Mr. Mom in 1983.  John Hughes’ script for the high concept domestic comedy appealed to Keaton as did the fact it allowed him to grow as a leading man.

Reviews at the time were mixed to positive.  Many noted that the film felt a little like a TV sitcom.  But Keaton elevated the material.  Mr. Mom was a hit at the box office.


In 1984, Keaton starred in the mob-movie satire, Johnny Dangerously.

The film was directed by Amy Heckerling and co-starred Marilu Henner and Joe Piscopo.  It had no less than four screen-writers which is rarely a good sign.  The attempt was to make the Airplane! of crime movies.  But most of the jokes fell flat.  Johnny Dangerously lacked the inspired lunacy of the Zucker Brothers’ films.

Reviews were mostly negative and the film performed weakly at the box office.

Next: Gung Ho and Ghostbusters?

Posted on March 16, 2011, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 359 Comments.

  1. i agree keaton needs more roles for good films.


  2. you forgot “the merry gentlemen” thats a good one!!


    • I tend not to spend a lot of time on movies that didn’t get wide theatrical releases. But I definitely need to go back and flesh this article out a little. Some of the earlier articles weren’t as in-depth as the ones I am putting out now.


  3. next year i’m only seeing good movies with action and drama and maybe a little comedy if it has good actors i like who did great films in the 80s. robocop remake with keaton is one of them plus a sequel to beetlejuice if they ever get around to making it and having keaton and burton and the rest of the cast back.


  4. That’s Boardwalk Empire’s Kelly MacDonald in The Merry Gentleman with Keaton. She’s had an enviable career, including roles in Trainspotting, Elizabeth, Gosford Park, Finding Neverland, No Country for Old Men, and the very final Harry Potter film.
    I think she’s pretty.


  5. LeBeau, if you haven’t heard it yet, Marc Maron did a great, lengthy interview with Michael Keaton last week on his “WTF” podcast. I’m shaky at making links but you can find it at wtfpod.com. It’s the January 3rd episode.


  6. I posted this on Lebeau’s Facebok page previously about theories regarding why Michael Keaton feel off of the A-list by the end of the ’90s. When I posted this WTHHT page on Google Groups, somebody replied in saying that playing Batman may have hurt Michael’s career not from the standpoint of it typecasting him like what happened w/ Adam West, but because it convinced him to drift away from comedic and/or lighter roles and just focused on trying to be a dramatic actor.

    Perhaps the biggest problem was that Tom Hanks (who like Keaton, was more known as a comedic actor in the early part of his career) over the course of the ’90s took on the dramatic roles that arguably would’ve been suitable for Keaton.

    Granted, “Batman” most likely made it so that he didn’t have to play those types of comedic roles if he didn’t want or need to anymore (at least immediately) but in the few comedies he made after “Beetlejuice”, he arguably no longer had the same energy level.


    • I think there is some truth to that theory. It put Keaton in a position of power which he used to make movies which were less commercial. But I don’t really think that Hanks was taking Keaton’s roles. During Keaton’s reign as Batman, Hanks was making Joe Vs. the Volcano and Bonfire of the Vanities.

      Hanks was in a career slump. The movies that pulled him out were A League of Their Own, Sleepless in Seatle and Philadelphia. Keaton would have rocked A League of Their Own, but he didn’t need a comeback movie. The part was too small for him. Sleepless in Seatle would have been a poor fit for Keaton who didn’t really do rom coms. Philadelphia would have been a great fit. But I imagine Keaton could have made that movie instead of My Life if he had wanted to.

      I can’t really see Keaton as Forrest Gump. And that was the movie that cemented Hanks as America’s most beloved actor. From that point on, Keaton and Hanks were on completely different career paths.


      • I hate to bring up Tom Hanks again for why Michael Keaton’s star ultimately dwindled, but I would also speculate that just like Tim Burton replaced him w/ Johnny Depp as his favorite leading man, Ron Howard seemed to eventually replace Michael w/ Tom Hanks as his favorite leading man well after “Splash” (i.e. “Apollo 13″, “The Da Vinci Code”, and “Angels and Demons”).

        From what I’ve gathered, Michael has said in interviews that he doesn’t like doing movies that are repeats of projects he has already done. But since it’s a safe argument that Hollywood hardly original anymore, maybe he just hasn’t been offered anything good.

        I’ve been reading on Michael Keaton’s IMDb message board regarding which movie negatively effected his career as an A-list leading man the most. It’s understandable to first and foremost say “Jack Frost”, because after that, it seemed like he stopped trying to be a mainstream type of star. I also read that while “Jack Frost” may have been the “finishing blow” (and while we’re on the subject of that movie, you should check out the Nostalgia Critic’s review), movies like “My Life” and “Speechless” certainly didn’t help.


      • When I brought this particular discussion regarding how playing Batman ultimately had an adverse effect on Michael Keaton’s career to the “Batman (1989)” IMDb message board, several people in response, suggested that Michael Keaton was never really an “A-list caliber” star (but more or less really just an actor who has been in some successful movies) even though the peak of his career was playing the title character (let alone an iconic comic book superhero in Batman) in the biggest movie of 1989:

        I later suggested that maybe Michael should’ve followed Bruce Willis’ career path after “Die Hard” officially put him on the movie map (after previously being primarily known as “that guy on “Moonlighting” and that Blake Edwards movie w/ Kim Basinger”), and due more action-oriented stuff. I find it kind of odd that immediately after playing a larger than live hero like Batman, Michael had to take on a villain role in “Pacific Heights”.

        Somebody eventually suggested that the decline of Michael Keaton’s career came down to him playing comedic roles for so long that hardly anybody wanted to see him in more dramatic stuff (kind of a male version of Meg Ryan) and him simply getting older (and subsequently being replaced by Generation Xers as the “new stars”).


        • What happened to Thora Birch?–and other actors that seemed to disappear for no reason…:

          Originally Posted by Mississippienne

          Michael Keaton is a much more bizarre case — good actor, fits into a lot of ‘everyman’ roles, but seemingly dropped off the Hollywood radar. It seems he and Cuba Gooding, Jr. must share the same agent, since Keaton made a couple of dire movies — he was a snowman in one — and that seems to have killed any momentum he had.
          I guess maybe that’s part of the problem – that he’s just sort of an everyman actor. Looking back it’s kind of surprising he even got Batman, being a comedy actor, not particularly good looking, not known for being a tough guy. Granted, he turned out to be pretty good in it, and up until the Christopher Nolan films, he defined the role in my mind. But he’s not really an obvious choice for a lot of the sort of big budget action roles, especially back in the late ’80/early ’90s, that would have made him a star.

          Originally Posted by joebuck20
          But he’s not really an obvious choice for a lot of the sort of big budget action roles, especially back in the late ’80/early ’90s, that would have made him a star.

          The thing is, Keaton *was* a star. A big star. An A-lister. The question is why he didn’t keep doing movies that played to his strengths.


        • Michael Keaton’s career:

          He had “Shelly Long Syndrome” which simply means having one hit doesn’t mean long time success.

          The thing that makes “Shelly Long Syndrome,” unique is that the success was well earned. This is different from a fluke success.

          Shelly Long was quite good as Diane, but sucked at everything else and didn’t know it.

          Keaton was good as Batman but that was all.

          by: Anonymous reply 1 07/18/2012 @ 03:49AM


    • What Makes a Movie Good:

      89. mclaren says:
      May 16, 2009 at 10:23 pm

      Michael Keaton vanished because he built up a career making screwball comedy movies and his audience came to expect him in that role. Then Keaton completely jumped the rails to do 2 Batman films, playing a serious role. Suddenly Keaton’s fans no longer knew what to expect. Keaton found himself unable to return to doing light screwball comedies like Night Shift and Beetlejuice because he had now gotten the rep of a serious actor doing heavy roles in grim movies, like Jackie Brown. But Keaton never really found his metier in grim serious movies. So he disappeared.

      Actors get typecast, and if they make too many similar films (Burt Reynolds, Michael J. Fox), they bore their audience and vanish. But if they try to jump out of that typecasting into a radically different role, they risk confusing their audience and in that case, they also lose their audience and vanish.

      Being an actor or actress must be an incredibly tough life. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t…plus, 90% unemployment rate. If you think you’ve got it tough, be thankful you’re not an actor or actress.


  7. In a way, I want to believe that Michael Keaton stepping away from the Batman franchise after two movies was kind of the beginning of the end of his stint as an A-list, box office star. I’m not necessarily saying that it was an out and out mistake of him to not do what would become “Batman Forever” (he probably thought “If Tim Burton isn’t coming back then I’m not coming back!” and was tired of being overshadowed by the likes of Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer). It perhaps didn’t help that Tim Burton himself, seemed to replace him w/ Johnny Depp as his main go-to leading man.

    What I’m trying to say is that since Keaton was no longer going to be Batman (especially after “Batman Forever” proved to be more commercially successful than “Batman Returns”), much of the general public no longer had an extra incentive to want to see him in anything else. It’s kind of like how once for example, Pierce Brosnan stopped being James Bond or Tobey Maguire stopped being Spider-Man (or any other actor who became famous or gained extra notoriety for playing an iconic, larger-than-live action hero on screen), there was perhaps a lesser desire to want to see them do other things.


    • I really believe, that Batman Forever (even though I felt that Val Kilmer did an admirable enough of a job given the circumstances) would’ve had more credibility and weight to it had Keaton returned along w/ Michael Gough and Pat Hingle as Alfred and Gordon respectively. The whole subplot regarding Bruce Wayne trying to show Dick Grayson the consequences of killing out of revenge could easily be interpreted as referring to Keaton’s Batman’s encounter w/ the Joker in the 1989 movie and later in Batman Returns, where Batman’s killing of thugs is more blatant. Batman Forever ironically among the original four films features the most character development for Bruce Wayne. Also, Keaton is actually fairly old enough to plausibly be a father figure to Chris O’Donnell’s Dick Grayson (about 20 years) when compared to Val Kilmer and especially George Clooney.

      Also, Keaton leaving paved the way for Val Kilmer, who by the end of the ’90s, derailed his own career due to being notoriously difficult to work with (he clashed w/ Joel Schumacher a lot while making, Forever). And w/ Kilmer gone, we got George Clooney, who is by far, the worst ever Batman. In fairness, it’s not a guarantee that Keaton’s more shadowy and mysterious Batman could’ve easily fit into the more colorful and flashy world created by Joel Schumacher (especially the one found in Batman & Robin). Of course, Warner Bros. being so insistent on wanting to appeal to a broader demographic (by having presumably darker/deeper scenes in Forever cut out and bringing in hack extraordinaire Akiva Goldsman to “lighten up” the screenplay) after the parental/McDonald’s backlash to Returns was going to be problematic either way.



      Trevor Snyder

      4. Michael Keaton doesn’t star in Batman Forever

      Kind of a cheat here, as this isn’t about a movie the man made, but rather one he didn’t. Still, this might have been a very bad move on Keaton’s part, even if his reasons for skipping out on the flick were valid. I’ve always heard the studio wasn’t willing to pay Keaton what he was asking for, and given that I don’t know what his demands were, I can’t truly say whether it was the studio or Keaton that was being unreasonable. But even still, I’m sure part of Keaton’s decision also had to do with his buddy Tim Burton not returning in the director’s chair. Whatever the case, Keaton leaving was a pretty big blow to the franchise. Batman Forever was not the horrible movie that Batman & Robin would be, and I’m willing to bet that if Keaton had starred in it, fans would have a most positive attitude about it. As for Keaton himself, his early exit from the series seemed to bring an abrupt end to his brief time as a megastar, and he’s never really even come close to getting that status back. I think his highest profile hit since Batman Returns was White Noise, and even that wasn’t that big of a smash.


      • Now that I think about it some more, I wonder if in a way, people kind of blame Michael in part for the downfall of the Batman film series (w/ it becoming decidedly campier/sillier w/ Joel Schumacher at the helm) by leaving after “Returns” (and thus, refused to put their full support behind is post Batman mainstream projects).


        • I don’t think there was any resentment over Keaton leaving the franchise. I never heard anyone complain about his decision to do so. I have heard several people say how much they respected him for it. Unfortunately, Batman was the engine that powered his career. Without that, he stalled out.


          • I wonder if the same sort of thing is bound to happen to Tobey Maguire w/o the Spider-Man franchise:

            Much has been made of the so-called “Superman curse”: the tragedies of George Reeves’ death, Christopher Reeve’s accident and Dean Cain’s and Brandon James Routh’s careers. But could there be a “Spider-Man curse” as well? The only actor to play a live-action version of Peter Parker on TV, Nicholas Hammond, vanished into obscurity, with his most notable non-Spidey role a gig as Aaron Spelling in the 2005 TV movie Dynasty: The Making of a Guilty Pleasure. And now Tobey Maguire seems to be getting caught in a post-webslinger malaise.

            True, he got a Golden Globe nomination for 2009′s little-seen postwar drama Brothers, but Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby (in which Maguire stars as Nick Carraway opposite pal Leo DiCaprio) has been bumped until next summer—a not-so-great sign. He’s also been cut out of likely Oscar contender Life of Pi, which would’ve reunited him with Ice Storm director Ang Lee (he was replaced in his role as writer Yann Martel by Prometheus‘ Rafe Spall). And his dark suburban comedy The Details has been gathering dust on a shelf since it was filmed three years ago. It’ll finally be released on VOD next month. I got a sneak peek, and I can see why the Weinstein Co. is quietly burying this turkey after spending $8 million to acquire it at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

            Maguire stars as a disgruntled OB/GYN who becomes obsessed with eradicating racoons from his yard and winds up descending into a spiral of online porn, adultery and murder. The naif-like quality that served him so well in early films like Wonder Boys, Pleasantville and The Cider House rules isn’t aging well. Maguire mostly seems like a passive bystander while more colorful performers like Elizabeth Banks (as his unsatisfied wife), Kerry Washington (as his sexy paramour), Ray Liotta (as her jealous husband), Dennis Haysbert (as a critically ill pal) and Laura Linney (as a crazy cat lady) strain to carry the outlandish movie that’s collapsing around them.

            The Details suffers from that age-old dilemma: It doesn’t know the difference between funny strange and funny ha-ha. Written and directed by Mean Creek‘s Jacob Aaron Estes, it’s neither amusing enough to work as a comedy nor affecting enough to work as a drama. One thing’s for sure: It won’t pull Maguire out of his career tailspin.

            One other thing: Watch your back, Andrew Garfield! Are your Spidey senses tingling?

            Can Tobey Maguire’s career be saved, or is it deader than Seabiscuit? Comment!


            • I have been considering Maguire for WTHH. We’ll see how Great Gatsby does. I am running out of Batman actors to showcase. Could be time to do Spider-man. Kirsten Dunst too.


              • Is Kirsten Dunst Getting Her Career Back Thanks To Bachelorette?


                Just as we witnessed last year’s raunchy hit Bridesmaids launch Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson into the mainstream, one of the greatest effects of this year’s comparable dark comedy Bachelorette is that it’s brought Kirsten Dunst back into the collective consciousness. It seems that these all-female, sex-and-party-heavy movies have the dual power to give us new stars and revive the flagging careers of old ones.

                Ironically, just this morning I was wondering about how useful Bachelorette had been for Kirsten, if she had gotten everything she wanted and expected out of it. It was certainly a risky move for her to play Regan, the stone-faced, petty, bulimic antiheroine of this tale of female jealousy. But part of her appeal came from the fact that when we last saw her, she was on the path to becoming America’s Sweetheart. She’d charmed in Wimbledon, originated the Manic Pixie Dream Girl role in Elizabethtown, and was a competent Mary Jane Watson in the Spider-Man movies. Then she sort of dropped out of sight.

                I’d say that that time out of the spotlight led her to make much smarter moves when she returned—like owning the really dark roles. And now, she’s bagged herself a more somber, adult thriller/period piece combo: The Two Faces of January, a dramatic tale of lust and deceit set in the 1960s. Better for me to give you the synopsis:


                • How divas were lost in Hollywood history:

                  What ever happened to Kirsten Dunst? The American actress’s recent screen career underlines how difficult it is to be a movie star in a digital world.

                  Two of her most recent films, the raucous comedy-drama Bachelorette and Lars von Trier’s apocalyptic Melancholia were released first on VOD (video-on-demand) in the US. It is fitting, although not very flattering to her, that Bachelorette should have become a No. 1 hit on iTunes at just the time that Robert Aldrich’s caustic thriller What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962) is being revived. (Marking its 50th anniversary, Aldrich’s classic is being shown in a restored print at the London Film Festival this month.)

                  “Women old enough to know better act like horny sailors on leave, absorb mass quantities of alcohol and drugs, and generally behave horribly,” complained USA Today about Bachelorette. The more serious problem for Dunst, though, is that when your movies are watched first on laptops and TVs rather than in cinemas, your mystique is bound to be compromised.

                  No one is suggesting that Dunst is yet in the same doldrums as Baby Jane Hudson, the one-time child-star turned hectoring harridan, who torments her sister in What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? Nonetheless, Dunst’s case illustrates how completely Hollywood has been transformed since the heyday of female stars like Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Gloria Swanson and Greta Garbo. These actresses may not always have controlled their careers but they were ferociously protective of their screen image.

                  Dietrich, for example, was (as her New York Times obituary made clear) “a thorough professional and perfectionist, expert in make-up, lighting, clothes and film editing.” Having been tutored by Josef von Sternberg, who discovered her and directed her in films from The Blue Angel to The Scarlet Empress, she knew exactly how to project glamour on screen.

                  Garbo, meanwhile, had her own cinematographer, William H. Daniels, who used filters and side lighting to make her close-ups as striking as possible. Her hermit-like existence once her Hollywood career was over helped her retain an air of mystery.

                  As for Joan Crawford, she grew up dirt poor but, once she became a star, went to extraordinary lengths to live up to her fans’ expectations. In an interview with the American writer Studs Terkel, she revealed that on a typical publicity tour, she changed costumes five times a day and traveled with 36 matching bags and gloves.

                  “It gives you a responsibility to be to them [the fans] whatever they want you to be,” she told Terkel in his book American Dreams: Lost and Found. “It’s quite a responsibility, dear friend. You get on your mettle. You get a little taller, you stand on your toes.”

                  It’s easy to mock the vanity of Hollywood’s aging divas. As What Ever Happened To Baby Jane and Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard make very evident, the one-time stars led wretched lives, forever peering back into their pasts. Norma Desmond, the forgotten star played by Gloria Swanson, isn’t exactly a role model to emulate. Nonetheless, as she so famously put it as she remembered the silent era: “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces.”

                  The problem for Dunst’s generation is that these stars don’t have “faces.” If their movies are being watched on laptops and TVs rather than the big screen, they become just yet more talking heads. When sadistic celebrity gossip sites publish pictures of them getting drunk or taking their garbage out, fans are reminded very forcefully of how earthbound they now are.

                  The fans have long had a sneaking interest in the dark side of the industry. From the Fatty Arbuckle controversy in the early 1920s (when the popular comedian was charged with murdering the actress Virginia Rappé) to the deaths, suicides and illicit affairs covered in scandal sheets like Confidential (“uncensored and off the record”), the private lives of the stars have always been pored over in exhaustive detail. The popularity of Kenneth Anger’s muckraking Hollywood Babylon books underlined the fans’ interest in prurient yarns about the misbehavior of their idols. However, countering this worm’s eye view of the business were the films the stars actually made. Whatever allegations Anger made about Crawford’s misdeeds and dubious career choices in her early years, we could see her up on screen in Grand Hotel or Mildred Pierce. Even late in her career, in a film as curdled and vicious as Baby Jane, she retained the glamour and arrogance of a real movie star. With a contemporary tabloid idol like Lindsay Lohan, the balance isn’t the same at all. She hasn’t made enough movies to distract from the constant stream of unflattering stories about her private life.

                  It’s obvious that many contemporary actresses yearn for the glamour they associate with an older Hollywood. That’s why so many are playing stars from that era. Lohan’s new film Liz & Dick, in which she stars as Elizabeth Taylor opposite Grant Bowler’s Richard Burton, premieres on American television next month. Meanwhile, Nicole Kidman recently started shooting Grace of Monaco, a biopic in which she stars as Grace Kelly. Last year, we had Michelle Williams’ virtuoso turn as Marilyn Monroe in the British-made My Week With Marilyn. Sienna Miller is shortly to be seen as Tippi Hedren in The Girl and Scarlett Johansson is playing Janet Leigh in the new film Hitchcock.

                  What is equally clear is that these contemporary stars will struggle to emulate the power and charisma of Davis, Crawford, Monroe, Kelly, Hedren et al. on screen. This isn’t to do with their ability. They are mostly fine actresses. Their problem is that the machine that helped create the older stars is broken. Keira Knightley is fortunate in having a cinematographer (in Seamus McGarvey) she works with regularly both on films like Anna Karenina and on her Chanel ads. Nonetheless, the armies of publicists, make-up artists and technicians who helped mold stars like Davis and Crawford have long since disbanded. Notions of what constitutes glamour have changed too. Outside pop promos and advertisements, the highly stylized lighting, camerawork and make-up that characterized Dietrich’s collaborations with von Sternberg would seem jarring and odd to audiences today. The roles that stars are taking has changed too. After all, portraying a coke-snorting, hard-drinking party girl (as Dunst does in Bachelorette) isn’t quite the same as playing Queen Christina. Greta Garbo’s movies didn’t premiere on VOD – and she never had to share the screen with male strippers either.


              • What happened to Kirsten Dunst?


                She has not starred in a movie for a while. Is she going to become the next Heather Graham?


              • The Resurrection of Kirsten Dunst:

                She’s been the wunderkind, the girl next door, the “It” girl, and the first in the recent string of doe-eyed beauties pegged with the label “Manic Pixie Dream Girl.” The most rewarding category Kirsten Dunst has been thrust into is perhaps the most recent: the comeback.

                With the theatrical release of the comedy “Bachelorette” this weekend, Dunst, 30, has found herself back atop the list of bankable starlets after a few years filled with questionable film choices and a stint in rehab.

                We can track the beginning of her fall from grace around the time of the “Spider-Man 3″ release in 2007. For the final film starring Tobey Maguire as Spidey and Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, you could see the toll three blockbuster installments of the franchise in five years had done to both leads. The two were rather lackluster in their press commitments for the film, though Dunst went on record that she’d do a fourth if director Sam Raimi and Maguire returned. As it happened, Sony pressed pause on the franchise for five years and recently relaunched it as “The Amazing Spider-Man” with a younger cast (Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone).

                News broke in February 2008 that Dunst had checked into the Cirque Lodge Treatment Center in Utah, and though she and her team said it was because of depression, many of the celeb mags reported that Dunst was partying hard. Things didn’t get any better later in the year when her next big movie, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” with Simon Pegg, opened in the States with lackluster earnings and critical reception. At the end, the film grossed $2.8 million (the budget was $28 million) with a deflating 37% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

                After leaving rehab in late March, Dunst came out revived but perhaps realizing she was at a crossroads in her career.

                Before “Spider-Man 3,” Dunst had her pick of any tween comedy or drama that was hot at a studio. Whether it was a bubble-gum cheerleader (“Bring It On”), a troubled high schooler (“Crazy/Beautiful”) or an iconic queen with a penchant for cake (“Marie Antoinette”), her good looks and talents would plug any plot hole or non-existent storyline. However, closing in on 30 usually is when the former child star gets the wake-up call that they can’t be young forever. “Who you are at 25 and who you are at 29 is a very different thing. For me, it feels like a 20-year age gap,” she told British Elle in 2011.

                Dunst kicked off her reinvention by co-starring with Ryan Gosling in the drama “All Good Things,” which is based on an unsolved murder. Set in the 1980s on the posh Upper East Side of New York City, the story found a small audience through VOD and hardly made a peep in theaters. However, for Dunst it wasn’t about making “Spider-Man”-like money, as she told Harper’s Bazaar in 2008. “I remember reading an article about Jodie Foster, that at one point she wanted to give up acting and go be a ski bum, and then she did ‘The Accused’ and it reignited her passion for what she does again,” Dunst says. “‘All Good Things’ was a little bit like that for me. After you go through a difficult time, you don’t care anymore. You’re so much more free. You’re not as scared, and you’re not as dependent on what other people think of you”

                But then Dunst got the call she needed. Danish film-making legend Lars von Trier wanted Dunst for the lead in his pre-apocalyptic drama “Melancholia.” After losing Penelope Cruz for the role, von Trier turned to his fellow directing colleagues like Paul Thomas Anderson for casting advice, and Dunst received glowing remarks. She took on the role of Justine, a woman crippled with depression who, along with her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), is waiting to see if the aptly named planet Melancholia will smash into Earth and obliterate them all.

                Dunst won the Best Actress Award at Cannes 2012 for her performance, and the film is one of von Trier’s highest grossing films in America, as well as a big hit on VOD.

                Now Dunst is showing her comedic chops as the perfectionist ice queen Regan in “Bachelorette.” Based on the stage play by writer/director Leslye Headland and produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, the comedy was the talk of this year’s Sundance Film Festival where you either heard people call it “the raunchy ‘Bridesmaids’” or “the girls’ version of ‘The Hangover.’” Like “Melancholia,” the film has been available on demand weeks before its theatrical release; it’s also the first pre-theatrical release to hit #1 on iTunes. Dunst’s performance has not gone unnoticed either; as The Hollywood Reporter noted, the Regan character “is embodied to cool perfection and with precision timing by Dunst.”

                Up next you’ll find Dunst in the much anticipated adaption of the Beat novel “On The Road,” starring Kristen Stewart. Her next film “The Bling Ring” with Emma Watson is already in the can; her good friend Sofia Coppola (“The Virgin Suicides,” “Marie Antoinette”) wrote and directs this crime drama co-starring Emma Watson about a group of teens who rob celebrity homes.

                There’s nothing Hollywood loves more than a comeback story, and Kirsten Dunst has a good one. It’s going to be fun to watch where it goes from here.


                • Kirsten Dunst stars in ‘Upside Down':

                  Q: You’ve made a lot of interesting career choices lately with roles in offbeat films like “Melancholia,” “On the Road” and now this. Do you feel you’ve gravitated towards the unusual?

                  Dunst: For me, I gravitate towards the director. Always. Usually, I’d rather do a script that I find—and I’m not talking about this film, but in general—that maybe is not amazing, but I’d rather work with a great director than on something that has an amazing script and a director who I think is mediocre. That’s because I think it’s really all up to the director (to make a good film). They’re the orchestrators of the entire process. With Juan (Solanas), he is such a visionary director and I loved his short films so much, I knew the story would be important but the visuals also would be so magnificent. It was a concept that I’ve never heard of before. It was incredible.


              • Speaking of actors who portrayed superheroes in the movies, would Brandon Routh make a good WTHHT subject down the line? He has unfortunately (in light of Henry Cavill taking over as Superman in the upcoming “Man of Steel”), become the “George Lazenby” of Superman actors since he only got to portray him (like Lazenby w/ James Bond) once.

                As was the case w/ Christopher Reeve back in 1978, Brandon Routh was a unknown before landing the iconic Superman role w/ “Superman Returns” (the first Superman movie in almost 20 years). Unfortunately, instead of being allowed to put his own personal stamp on the role, Routh was pretty much hired and directed by Bryan Singer to act like Reeve’s Superman as best as possible (since it was meant to be a semi-sequel to the first two movies w/ Reeve). It didn’t help that Routh himself, was accused of being wooden and bland in his performance (and even some of his non-Superman performances).

                Here’s some links to put things into a better perspective:

                Superman Returns wasn’t the worst movie in the world, just one that was far too hyped and far too antiquated. Bryan Singer’s reboot of the character had all the pomp and grandeur of the original Richard Donner film but with none of the action. The finished movie was a thoughtful, if ultimately boring and bland superhero film. Warner Bros has been quick to disavow the film (another reboot, Man of Steel, is waiting in the wings this summer), though it was Brandon Routh whose career hurt the most from the film’s failure. While Routh’s performance was well-received, he’s forever been associated with a boring, pretentious take on the character. Superman Returns put his career on the map by the film, but he hasn’t been taken seriously as a leading man by Hollywood since.


                Superman Returns (2006)
                The casualty: actor Brandon Routh

                In 2006, Brandon Routh was on top of the world. Only 27 years old at the time, the young actor had appeared on various television programs, including Will & Grace, Gilmore Girls, and One Life to Live. But when he won the coveted role of Clark Kent in director Bryan Singer’s massive Man of Steel reboot, Superman Returns, Routh was poised to become one of Hollywood’s hottest new faces. Until comic book die-hards saw the film.

                To be fair, Superman Returns wasn’t a failure; Singer’s superhero blockbuster earned $391 million worldwide on a $209 million budget, and Routh even snagged a Best Actor prize at the Saturn Awards. Yet, in the eyes of DC Comics fanatics, his wooden, charisma-free turn as Superman was a non-factor in a largely miscast and ultimately unsatisfying production.

                The stigma of being unable to capitalize on such a golden opportunity has since prevented Routh from landing any notable, bigger-sized roles in any major releases. Consider this: His only other leading roles were in last year’s horrendous horror-comedy Dylan Dog: Dead of Night and the forgettably generic, and little seen, sports drama Crooked Arrows. Somewhere, Routh is probably praying that Henry Cavill, the star of next year’s second Superman reboot, Man of Steel, feels his pain.


                7. Brandon Routh – Superman Returns

                The culprit? Bryan Singer. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Superman Returns for what it was: a love letter to the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve films. But by relying too much on audiences’ nostalgia for the material caused Brandon to basically impersonate Christopher Reeve and, well, it backfired. The performance just turned out to be a wooden-faced, facepalm-inducing headache.

                Which is sad, because the young man had a LOT of talent. I really enjoyed him in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and he was a breakout on NBC’s Chuck. Sadly, he will fade into mediocrity, making films like Dylan Dog and Crooked Arrows, and TV shows like Partners. I have far much more confidence in his successor though.


                Brandon Routh comes right from the Orson Welles school of peaking too early, being plucked out of obscurity to play one of the most coveted roles in all of pop culture; the mild-mannered-reported-turned-superhero Clark Kent aka Superman.

                Though Routh received decent praise for managing to (mostly) live up to the immense stature of what was Christopher Reeve’s signature role, the film itself didn’t light the box office up, and both fans and critics were divided over the unconventional plot. As such, a sequel never materialised, and Routh hasn’t had a good starring role since.

                He’s been relegated to (admittedly hilarious) cameos in Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, as well as taking the lead in the critically reviled Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, which wasn’t even theatrically released in most markets.


                After appearing in a number of well-regarded supporting appearances in various films and TV shows, Brandon Routh got a massive push when he was cast in the role made famous by Christopher Reeve in Superman Returns in 2006. His Star-Making Role ended up being a dead end when the film received mixed reviews, general viewer apathy and (despite making $400 million at the box office) negative profit due to prior production costs. Routh then disappeared for two years before landing a pair of cameo roles in a couple of films (Zack And Miri Make A Porno, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) and a guest spot on the third season of Chuck, all of which failed to make much impact with audiences. His intended comeback in Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, based on a bestselling comic series, also flopped at the box office ($4 million against a $20 million budget). Barring a major hit, it seems like he’ll be stuck making small indie projects for quite some time.


                • The George Lazenby of Superman. Love it.


                • 12 Actors Whose Careers Were Destroyed By A Single Movie:

                  7. Brandon Routh – Superman Returns

                  The Actor: Like Henry Cavill, Brandon Routh looks like the ideal Superman. All chiseled features and rippling muscles, Superman Returns should have been the breakout role for Routh. With no previous jaw-dropping performances to note, it was clearly his looks that bagged him the role.

                  The Film: I never understood the hate leveled towards Superman Returns. It may not have been the best superhero film of Bryan Singer’s career, but there was a reverence for the original films and no one can deny the plane scene isn’t flat out awesome. But as with the likes of The Phantom Menace, which likewise got good reviews on release, fan-boy disappointment has colored the film’s long lasting reputation.

                  What Happened Next: The film admittedly performed poorly at the box office, failing to keep afloat in the middle the blockbuster saturated summer of 2006, but it’s the audience distaste that really hurt Routh. Despite any issues with the film coming from Singer’s directing, he’s the scapegoat used whenever the film’s quality is raised. He managed a large cameo in Chuck and popped up in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but in both cases he was there as ‘the guy who was an OK Superman once’. Other than those two projects, everything else has been small roles, often in straight-to-DVD movies or deleted before the film hit cinemas.


                • I think another thing that really hurt Brandon Routh besides his apparent lack of range (compounded by the feeling that Routh was basically hired to pretty much play Christopher Reeve playing Superman) and the lukewarm response of “Superman Returns” (which ultimately failed to launch a franchise around Routh hence a reboot w/ Henry Cavill) is his apparent affinity for playing gay characters. I’m not necessarily accusing Mr. Routh himself of being gay (a la the never ending rumors about John Travolta for instance), but doing that sort of thing over and over again can really hinder your marketability to mainstream audience:

                  Looking at Routh’s filmography, he has played a gay man on the TV shows “Cold Case”, “Will & Grace”, and “Partners” and in the movie “Zack & Miri Make a Porno”:


              • Five Once-Promising Actors and the Franchises That Ruined Them:

                4. Tobey Maguire

                “Anchoring the movie is Mr. Maguire’s sober, wide-eyed Homer, a wounded, moon-faced innocent who, in leaving the institution that nurtured him, blindly follows his heart and finds fulfillment working outdoors.” — Stephen Holden, reviewing The Cider House Rules

                The late ’90s were banner years for Tobey Maguire. Considered a talented rising star at the time, he had a string of good roles in good movies with The Ice Storm, Pleasantville, The Cider House Rules, and Wonder Boys. (He was so good that people mostly let him and Leonardo DiCaprio slide on that whole “Pussy Posse” thing, which in hindsight maybe we as a culture should have tried to come down on a bit harder.) He seemed sweet, loveable, and nearly the epitome of the boy next door. Hey! That sounds like the perfect guy to take on the role of Spider-Man, and he was, for a while. His Spidey was kindhearted and noble, and you wanted to give him a hug every time he had to put duty before making out with Mary Jane.

                And then the disastrous Spider-Man 3 came out, and all you could see was douchiness. It was intentional, of course — that’s what the story called for, even though it still wasn’t successful. But suddenly all you could see was his emo hair and his petulant frown and think, wait, wasn’t that guy once in a group called the Pussy Posse? That’s the problem with iconic roles: when they go sour, the stigma tends to stick with you. Maguire does have a shot at redemption with The Great Gatsby, but we’ll have to wait and see.


            • Different Roles Aren’t Always Better: 15 Failed Attempts To Overcome Typecasting:

              It’s hard to call Tobey Maguire’s performance as a traumatized veteran in Brothers a total failure. The role would win Maguire a Golden Globe nomination and strong reviews. Which is why one would think a film like Brothers would have performed better critically and financially. As is, the melodrama stands at a mere 61% on Rotten Tomatoes and made a little over $28 million domestically. Within the framework of an uneven film, Maguire’s performance sadly slipped through the cracks.


            • Tobey Maguire: 5 Awesome Performances And 5 That Sucked:

              With The Great Gatsby heading into UK cinemas this weekend, on the back of some mixed reviews, the critical reception – including my own review from the Cannes film festival – has pointed to Tobey Maguire as one of the weak points of Luhrmann’s grand romantic tragedy.

              Unfortunately for Maguire, this is not the first time he has faced criticism, and for all of his heralded performances, there have been those which have attracted negative press. He has certainly found it more difficult recently to find his niche, after a very strong start (and mostly in the wake of Spider-Man 3), but there is no doubting his potential to offer more great performances when given the right roles.

              So, to celebrate the release of The Great Gatsby this week, as well as the curio that is Tobey Maguire, we’ve put together his finest performances, as well as his worst for your consideration.


          • As I think I said earlier, it must of been a bit of a blow to Michael’s ego when “Batman Forever” turned out to be a bigger box office success than “Batman Returns”, which gave the indication that the series could survive (of course, this was before we got to “Batman & Robin” two years later) w/o him.


      • Batman Forever (1995) : If Michael Keaton returned:

        by vwisniewski » 6 hours ago (Sun Jul 21 2013 15:52:05)

        Joel Schumacher had this to say about it. “We were actually making it with Michael Keaton, but his demands were so ridiculous that Warner Bros had to fire him. I inherited him. I was given Michael Keaton. By the time he was fired, I was saying, “Val Kilmer, Val Kilmer, Val Kilmer.” I was saying, “Let’s go younger.” I’m always saying “Let’s go younger” on my movies.

        Still, this might have been a very bad move on Keaton’s part, even if his reasons for skipping out on the flick were valid. Even though I’ve always heard the studio wasn’t willing to pay Keaton what he was asking for, and given that I don’t know what his demands were, I can’t truly say whether it was the studio or Keaton that was being unreasonable even with Joel Schumacher’s testimony to back it up.

        Some are willing to bet that if Keaton had starred in Forever, fans would have seen it as a most positive attitude about it rather then negative. If you ignore the horribly, neon-lit, garish stuff, the movie did focus more on Bruce Wayne even more with the deleted material.

        I’d understand if he bailed out on Batman & Robin for being mega campy. Don’t you think?


      • What if Tim Burton directed the third ‘Batman’ film?


        After the first “Batman” film became a pop culture touchstone, Warner Bros. handed the keys of the franchise over completely to Tim Burton who followed up with a much darker “Batman Returns” in 1992. That film featured stunning production design and an awards worthy Michelle Pfeiffer as the best Catwoman ever (don’t even try to argue anyone else). Unfortunately, Burton went overboard in his vision of the classic Batman villain the Penguin. Danny DeVito was great casting, but the character was plain gross, scared children and dragged the entire film down whenever he appeared on screen. Happily, “Returns” was still a hit, but Warner Bros. was so concerned about the reaction that they insisted the third film be lighter and more commercially friendly (if not kid friendly). That meant Burton was out and he was relegated to an “executive producer” title as he moved on to other projects. Eventually Michael Keaton left the third film as well after director Joel Schumacher came on board and the role was recast with…blonde Val Kilmer. But, what if Warner Bros. and Burton came to an agreement on the proper tone for the third picture? History would have been much different as we ask:

        What if Tim Burton directed the third ‘Batman’ film?

        Three things that might not have happened:

        1. Joel Schumacher directs any Batman movie. Let’s take a step back. In 1993, when Schumacher was hired, his resume and reputation was a lot better than it was before both “Batman Forever” and “Batman and Robin.” But, his choices after “Batman and Robin” started to show his true colors. “8 MM,” “Flawless,” “Bad Company” and “The Number 23″ were all down the road. Granted, if Schumacher hadn’t gotten a crack at “Forever” he still might have helmed “A Time To Kill” (arguably his “best” film), but by the time Batman would have rebooted? Say, 2002 or 2004? The cat would have been out of the bag and no studio would let him near a franchise as valuable as this one.

        2. Tim Burton directs “Mars Attacks!” If Warner Bros. decision to bring him back snapped Burton into realizing his bigger budget films should be a tad less “out there,” he might have been convinced not to make “Mars.” The film had been in development for a number of years with an insane initial budget (a reported $260 million). If Burton made a third “Batman” film, a process which would keep him busy for another two to three years, “Mars Attacks” would have been either been put in turnaround or given to a different director. Considering it was always a Burton pet project to begin with another director is out of the question. Our guess it goes into turnaround, Disney picks it up for producer Jerry Bruckheimer and, well, you can figure out the rest…

        3. Christopher Nolan directs “Batman Begins.” Nolan still has his breakthrough with “Memento” and makes his Warner Bros. connection helming “Insomnia,” but if Burton sticks with “Batman” the fourth Schumacher film would have never happened. Our guess is this “Batman” cinematic world keeps going on for at least five or six films. Jumping on that train would not have appealed to Nolan. Instead, the Broccoli’s take a chance and let him help reboot another franchise with a little picture titled “Casino Royale” in 2006.

        Three things we predict would have happened:

        1. Michael Keaton’s career as an A-list movie star would have lasted much longer. If Burton returned for a third “Batman” so would Keaton. That means he likely wouldn’t have had time for the bombs “The Paper” and “Mutiplicity” (yes, “My Life” probably still would have happened). It also means he could have continued with a fourth “Batman” film and wouldn’t have been, um, desperate to take “Desperate Measures” (another bomb). Keaton’s quirky style probably would have still pushed him to supporting roles, but not as quickly as it happened in the late ’90s after he said goodbye to The Dark Knight.

        2. The long rumored ‘Catwoman’ (Michelle Pfeiffer) spin-off movie would actually have happened. If Burton was back in the fold there was no way a solo “Catwoman” movie would have died in development. “Catwoman” would have hit theaters in 1996, a year after “Batman 3.” It isn’t a smash on the level of the “Batman” films, but it’s still makes back to back blockbusters for Pfeiffer after “Dangerous Minds” the year before. It also means she has to turn down “Up Close & Personal” (whew) and extends her A-list status to the end of the Century. Sadly, we can’t predict a reboot featuring Halle Berry doesn’t end up happening with the following decade (revisionist history isn’t always that rosy).

        3. A new “Superman” film would have hit theaters by the year 2000. Burton was supposed to direct Kevin Smith’s “Superman Lives” script in 1998. That didn’t happen for numerous reasons, but if Burton was back in the fold for “Batman 3″ it would have opened the door for another director to come on board Smith’s script. Perhaps (gasp) Joel Schumacher? In any event, “Superman Lives” mostly died because Burton wanted to change so much of the script Warner Bros. had signed off on. Another director, such as Schumacher, may have just gone with the flow. Especially with hand-on producer Jon Peters fiddling with the project. Granted, “Superman Lives” may have made a horrible movie, but it would have gotten the Man of Steel back in theaters much sooner than Bryan Singer’s 2007 “Superman Returns.”

        Did history work out for the best?
        Aside from the potential train wreck of a “Superman Lives” movie and missing out on Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, absolutely not. You can argue not one of the major players in “Batman Returns” benefited from Burton not coming back for the third film. Burton himself had the successful “Sleepy Hollow,” but hasn’t made a good movie outside of the stop-motion animated “Corpse Bride” in 2006. Michael Keaton career tanked after he followed Burton out the door, Michelle Pfeiffer had two real hits (“Dangerous Minds,” “What Lies Beneath”) over 15 years until a supporting role in 2007’s hit “Hairspray” and you could argue Joel Schumacher dug his own grave following studio guidelines with “Batman Forever” and the insanely horrible “Batman and Robin.” So, yes, fans lost out as well. Plus, George Clooney would have also skipped over “Batman and Robin” (the worst decision of his illustrious career). Burton’s third “Batman” movie may not have been as blatantly commercial as what Schumacher delivered, but at least it would have had a vision behind it. The only person you can say truly benefited from Burton leaving the franchise was Seal. He had the biggest hit of his career with “Kiss From A Rose” off the “Forever” soundtrack. If Burton was on board? Probably wouldn’t have even made the album.

        Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/news/what-if-tim-burton-returned-to-direct-a-third-batman-film#MgdsA0IhJPm1d33O.99


      • What if Tim Burton returned to direct a third ‘Batman’ film?


        Three things we predict would have happened:

        1. Michael Keaton’s career as an A-list movie star would have lasted much longer. If Burton returned for a third “Batman” so would Keaton. That means he likely wouldn’t have had time for the bombs “The Paper” and “Mutiplicity” (yes, “My Life” probably still would have happened). It also means he could have continued with a fourth “Batman” film and wouldn’t have been, um, desperate to take “Desperate Measures” (another bomb). Keaton’s quirky style probably would have still pushed him to supporting roles, but not as quickly as it happened in the late ’90s after he said goodbye to The Dark Knight.

        Did history work out for the best?

        Aside from the potential train wreck of a “Superman Lives” movie and missing out on Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, absolutely not. You can argue not one of the major players in “Batman Returns” benefited from Burton not coming back for the third film. Burton himself had the successful “Sleepy Hollow,” but hasn’t made a good movie outside of the stop-motion animated “Corpse Bride” in 2006. Michael Keaton career tanked after he followed Burton out the door, Michelle Pfeiffer had two real hits (“Dangerous Minds,” “What Lies Beneath”) over 15 years until a supporting role in 2007’s hit “Hairspray” and you could argue Joel Schumacher dug his own grave following studio guidelines with “Batman Forever” and the insanely horrible “Batman and Robin.” So, yes, fans lost out as well. Plus, George Clooney would have also skipped over “Batman and Robin” (the worst decision of his illustrious career). Burton’s third “Batman” movie may not have been as blatantly commercial as what Schumacher delivered, but at least it would have had a vision behind it. The only person you can say truly benefited from Burton leaving the franchise was Seal. He had the biggest hit of his career with “Kiss From A Rose” off the “Forever” soundtrack. If Burton was on board? Probably wouldn’t have even made the album.


    • Perhaps the problem w/ Michael Keaton landing the Batman role is that by that point, he had automatically or officially reached what could be considered the natural peak in his career. Michael Keaton was arguably an exception to having an already well established actor or considerable household name play a comic book superhero (when compared to say, Christopher Reeve as Superman, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man and so forth). Of of course, it’s going to be very hard to get that type of visibility or notoriety again or elsewhere.

      What didn’t help was that the Batman brand if you want to call it that, had been severely diluted by the time it was officially announced that George Clooney was going to take over for Val Kilmer in the fourth Batman movie (“Batman & Robin”). It’s not really Michael’s fault in that regard, but what I’m saying that this seemed to officially signify that the Batman role didn’t really matter as much as say whom was going to play the villains. It isn’t like James Bond or Doctor Who, in which we’ve come to expect the leading actor to be changed every few years. I mean, long after he last played Superman in 1987, many people still associated Christopher Reeve as the definitive Superman actor. Even “Superman Returns” reconfirmed this since Bryan Singer, the director seemed to try his hardest to make a homage to the 1978 Superman movie.


  8. I’ve been listening to this commentary podcast for “Batman Returns” and at about the 0:47:45 mark, Michael Keaton’s performance is criticized. Basically, Michael seems really understated (but not in a good way) and lost.

    It’s highlighted that he really doesn’t like to do sequels (which probably in part, explains why he didn’t come back for “Batman Forever”). He apparently has an idea that when you play in another movie, even if it’s the same role/character, you’re not supposed to play it the same way:


    • Superman 4 Commentary Podcast:

      At roughly the 0:38.35, Michael Keaton’s approach towards playing Batman in “Batman Returns” is once again criticized. Basically, this relates to Christopher Reeve gaining significant creative control in “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace”, which lead to the more (then relevant) political approach involving nuclear weapons.


      • I meant to type “at the 0:38:35 mark”. Anyway, to add to the point regarding Michael Keaton’s approach towards Batman, Keaton despite only playing Batman just once prior, would apparently, during the making of “Batman Returns”, insist that loads of dialogue for Batman be cut out because he figured that Batman (since he mistakenly felt that he understood the Batman character well enough by that point to dictate what Batman should say in the first place) shouldn’t be saying this or that. As I said prior, Michael Keaton was apparently reluctant to play Batman again after the 1989 movie because he was worried that he wouldn’t be able to play Batman a different way (since “every movie regardless of it being a sequel is supposed to be different”).


    • From my understanding, apparently Michael Keaton didn’t want to return to the Batman franchise after “Returns”, but didn’t say no to the prospect of doing another sequel either. So he requested $15 million to return and the studio balked at that amount. Either way, Keaton would get what he wanted.

      If that’s truly the case, then can’t believe that Michael when he first signed up to play Batman back in 1988-89, didn’t seem to fully realize that Batman is a character much like say Superman (or any other comic book superhero) or James Bond, that was ready made to be featured in a series of films. How ignorant must you be to not understand that going in!? And I’m pretty sure that Michael would’ve made a ton of money off of the franchise (like say the merchandise for example) anyway.

      The whole thing really made him look bad in my book because he came across as a pushy, prima donna type actor. Plus, Michael sort of inadvertently helped screw up the franchise from a continuity stand-point (w/ the transition from Tim Burton to Joel Schumacher) and set the stage for an even more problematic Val Kilmer as the new star.


      • In ’89 Keaton did a great interview in Premiere magazine. I wish I still had my copy. But one of the pull quotes from the article was that he didn’t want to be some middle-aged guy playing Batman at mall appearances. He cracked a few jokes about himself as a sad, washed-up Adam West type. This was before the first movie ever came out. So I don’t think he ever planned to make a ton of Batman movies.

        I don’t fault him for it at all. I think he was taking it on a movie by movie basis. He did the first two because the money was good and he liked collaborating with Burton. With Burton out of the picture, he was going to need some serious incentive to make another one. The script for Batman Forever sucked and I credit Keaton for realizing that. He wanted to push the series one way, but he recognized the studio and director were taking it in the opposite direction. So why not throw out a ridiculous figure?

        I don’t consider Keaton to be pushy or a prima donna. But he has no problem walking away from the negotiating table if a project doesn’t suit him. Look at Lost. I’m sure he would have loved to have been associated with Lost. But he made it clear up front that he wasn’t up for a full-time TV gig. So when that became the plan, he bailed. Seems reasonable to me.

        I don’t know. I’ve never met the man. But in interviews, he just seems like the coolest, most down-to-earth guy in movies.


        • Another problem was that around the time that Michael Keaton first played Batman, superhero movies (and the superhero movie genre itself) where pretty much still in the embryonic stages. During much of the ’80s and ’90s, all that we really had were the Superman films w/ Christopher Reeve and the Batman films from Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher.

          I think in general, what really did the original Batman film series in were egos. I know that this sounds like I’m bashing Michael Keaton (and maybe to a certain extent I am), but he isn’t alone. There was Tim Burton only agreeing to return (no pun intended) for a second Batman film if he was given full creative control (and we all know how well that turned out).

          There was Warner Bros. (who was scared about more lost sponsorships (and toy sales) after all of the trouble that “Batman Returns” got them in w/ parents and McDonald’s) frequent meddling once Joel Schumacher took over. The original cut of “Batman Forever” was apparently a lot darker and deeper. There was Val Kilmer allegedly “being Val Kilmer” on the set of “Forever”, which pretty much guaranteed that he wouldn’t come back for a second movie. There was George Clooney saying in interviews for “Batman & Robin” that he doesn’t understand why Bruce Wayne is still bummed out over his parents’ deaths. And I can go on and on (we all know how it ended w/ “Batman & Robin”).

          My point, is that one of the biggest (if not thee biggest) or glaring problem w/ the 1989-97 Batman film series is that there wasn’t a solid and consistent tone, feel and look going from movie to movie. They pretty much felt rather self-contained and in their own universes.


      • We’ll probably never know for sure why Michael didn’t want to play Batman anymore after two movies (Joel Schumacher suggested publicly that Michael was demanding too much money). I’ve also heard theories that he didn’t want to do a third one w/o Tim Burton and didn’t like what Joel Schumacher had in store for what was to become “Batman Forever”. Also, Michael (as I think I’ve said before) apparently wasn’t really down w/ sequels to begin with because he has this theory that if you’re playing a character, even if it’s the same one for said sequel, you have to play it differently. More to the point, Michael supposedly was fed up w/ having to wear the cumbersome Batsuit (kind of like Peter Weller when he played RoboCop for the first two movies). Finally, Michael presumably figured that what point was it to keep playing Batman when he was going to be shortchanged in favor of the villains again. Regardless, I think or want to believe that at the end of the day, Michael and to a certain extent Val Kilmer, perhaps made the mistaken in acting or approaching matters as if they were bigger or better than the Batman character.


        • I think we know the basics of it. Everyone involved seems to agree that Keaton wasn’t all that interested in a Batman movie without his pal, Burton. He didn’t like the script. He didn’t see eye to eye with Schumacher. He asked for an insane amount of money because he didn’t really want to do it.

          I don’t see that as thinking he’s bigger than Batman. I just see it as negotiating yourself out of a job you didn’t want. I think if Keaton had his way, we’d have gotten a Batman movie a lot more like the Nolan films than the Schumacher movies. And that would have been a good thing.


          • I find it a bit ironic that if Keaton wouldn’t want to do another Batman film w/o Tim Burton (which is otherwise understandable, since Burton was his biggest advocate, when just about everybody else lost their minds when it was first announced that Michael Keaton was going to play Batman), since his two Batman films under Burton had Keaton play second (and third in “Batman Returns”) fiddle to the Joker, Penguin and Catwoman. I think this is because in all honestly, I really believe that Tim Burton felt that Batman was the least interesting character in his own movies. He’s more intrigued by the utterly grotesque and fantastical elements that the villains provide.

            Say what you will about Joel Schumacher’s approach to his Batman films, but at least “Batman Forever” in my estimation, did a better job handling Bruce Wayne and Batman’s psychology the prior to films (especially “Returns”).


  9. Batman in 1980s/90s: Michael Keaton:

    Sam Hamm: Our guy is basically insane and Batman is a manifestation of his insanity (Anthology)

    Tim Burton’s Batman world mirrored the roots of the character, in many ways thanks to the creative involvement of Bob Kane.
    One must have in mind that at the time the general public’s perception on batman was that of a constantly smiling, blue/grey hero in tights, mainly due to the 1960’s TV show and the cartoons that followed which featured Batman.
    Burton and his creative team really pushed the envelope as far as they could at the time, and brought him back to the roots while adding original ideas such as black makeup around the eyes, the suit being a black armor and the sculpted expression on the mask.

    The character goes back to roots and presents not a typical hero, but a Gothic character who truly is insane, has a split personality disorder and doesn’t mind killing, as his original version. Burton’s Batman is the Batman Bob Kane first envisioned when doing the early, pre-Robin issues with a bit of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns Batman also in for good mix.

    Michael Uslan (producer): I only let Tim see the original year of the Bob Kane/Bill Finger run, up until the time that Robin was introduced (DVD)

    Keaton’s hero is dark, mysterious and melancholy–“the way I created Batman in 1939,” says Bob Kane, comic creator and a consultant on the film. (USA today 1989)

    Bob Kane: At the beginning I drew him as a vigilante, very mysterious, dark and broody (20/20 1989)

    Jon Peters (producer): This Batman would be a comic book Gothic, a dark fable that would restore Bob Kane’s original gloomy luster (Newsweek 1989)

    Sam Hamm: The idea that interested us the most was to go back to the original Bob Kane notion, and we thought that that was the version that would give us sort of the most antre to the story which we wanted to tell, to go kind of dark mysterioso myth, that we could also say that we’re going back to the roots of the character, you know, were kind of peeling away all the detours the character’s taken over the years and trying to zero in on what this original concept was (Anthology)

    Burton’s Batman movies are a mix of German Expressionism, Gothic literature (which features characters with psychological and physical terror and mystery), fairy tale, the art of silent movies, Opera and conventional filmmaking (all of those confirmed by Burton)

    Michael Keaton portrays the Dracula Batman of the roots, a stoic figure which is like a ghost, intimidating with silence and just his presence

    Batman in the script is referred to or described with such words as the Bat, Black Apparition, Black Figure, Human Bat and Black Spectre

    Expressionism is a mode of representation whereby internal feelings and abstract concepts are displayed externally, often at the expense of realism and artistic convention. Expressionist art usually has a surreal or fantastic quality to it, presenting distorted aesthetics through which the true nature of a thing is belied in its external countenance (Catwoman’s patchy suit – Selina’s patchy and fragmented personality, Batman’s suit – his inner darkness and psychosis, the Gothic look of Gotham with gargoyles – the dark and evil nature of the city, etc). In narrative terms, Expressionist films were often preoccupied with dark subject matter such as evil and madness (Keaton’s Batman, Joker, Catwoman = madness, Penguin-evil)

    Tim Burton: “It was the strength and simplicity that I really loved about the expressionists’ work. That and the fairy-tale element.”

    “I love things like Hunchback and Beauty and the Beast” (San Diego Tribune Batman article, 1989)

    “That’s why I like this material, there’s an operatic tragedy really to the whole thing” (BR audio commentary)

    Here, Batman was not placed predictably as main character because it would take out all the mystery and spookiness out of him. In this Gothic version of the character, Batman is shown as a dark avenger, a creepy and shadowy phantom who we never get to know well and see much. Just like the characters in Gothic literature, such as either the phantom from Phantom of the Opera or the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, we only see the glimpses of him, and we don’t see much of what Phantom of the Opera is doing, but rather see glimpses of him and get to know his story through other characters’ point of view. In Gothic stories the characters are like vampires or phantoms and we see them only through the eyes of other, normal people. And he’s a mystery. He sleeps upside down, sits alone in the dark and stays away from people, living in a castle with only a butler. He’s a perfect Gothic character, in many ways similar to and as interesting as Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
    Elfman’s score filters Hermannesque themes through a Gothic sensibility and the result is heroic and sinister all at once.

    The genius of Burton’s conception was in decenteralizing the superhero. By closely pairing Batman with the Joker, Burton showed two halves of same obsession. The strong similarities between hero and villain became the new movie’s focus. Burton realize what the makers of the “Superman” movies did not, that “Star Wars” Darth Vader was as, if not more, interesting, than Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. A Manhattan bank employee told Newsweek: “Batman is the best of both worlds, a hero who looks like a villain.” Truth to tell, the Joker was more interesting than Batman, which reaffirmed Burton’s philosophy by showing how substantially “Batman” rewrote the rules of the American superheroand Hollywood entertainment. (NY Times’ Emanuel Levy)

    Tim Burton: Again for these characters, they have a tragic beginning, the middle and end and that sort of opera tragedy goes with this material (…) He’s a man whose dressed as a bat, it doesn’t get anymore operatic than that in a certain way (…) You know that’s an opera , you can see why it’s an opera, it’s such a grand sort of phantom of the opera kind of thing (BR Commentary)

    What drew Burton was “that I loved the extremes, the operatic quality of the characters. (…) I loved that basic good vs. evil, night fable, Phantom of the Opera stuff.” (San Diego Tribune 1989)

    The bat symbol, like the mask from The Phantom of the Opera, has become an icon of gothic glamour–a talisman for those seeking light entertainment from the dark side.(Maclean, 1992)

    Bob Kane: The first year of Batman was heavily infuenced by horror films, and emulated a Dracula look (via BRT)

    It is also worth noting that Michael Gough played Lord Ambrose d’Arcy in 1962’s Phantom of the Opera and Max Shreck is a name of the actor who portrayed the creature in 1922’s Nosferatu

    Naturally no origins were shown in order to preserve the mystique character.

    Sam Hamm: You totally destroy your credibility if you show the literal process by which Bruce Wayne becomes Batman (Cinefantastique 1989)

    Also, it’s yet again simply reconstructing the original Batman story. In Burton’s films, Batman is a mysterious Gothic figure who sometimes kills the criminals he comes across, similar to the Batman of 1939. Though the character is introduced in Detective Comics #27, we don’t Batman’s origin until Detective Comics # 33, similar to how the audience doesn’t see Batman’s origin until shortly before the climax. Detective Comics # 27 begins several weeks after Batman has begun fighting crime, similar to how Batman begins with muggers already talking about Batman.

    Tim Burton: “This guy wants to remain as hidden as possible, and in the shadows as possible, and unrevealing about himself as possible, so all of those things – you know, he’s not gonna eat up screen time by these big speeches and doing dancing around the Batcave”

    “Again, I felt less is more with him in the sense of who he is. (…) Michael’s eyes – it goes back to kind of like silent movie acting. I like when people sort of just look. It’s a movie so you kinda get more between the lines then you do [from] the actual lines (…) There’s a loneliness to that character and witheldness. He’s a character that is sad and is private”
    “Even when he’s standing there looking there’s an electricity about him. Again this is why I wanted him for Batman because its all about that.” (BR audio commentary)

    “I wanted Michael from the start. I knew he could do it after working with him on Beetlejuice. And there is something in his eyes, a dimension of feeling, even with the mask on.”(San Diego Tribune 1989)

    “Michael has this explosive side. All you have to do is look in his eyes and you know he’s nuts” (Newsweek, 1989)

    Keaton was stunningly perfect for the Gothic expressionist presence he was suppose to portray, similar to the one in Murnau’s Nosferatu (another Expressionist Gothic story in which characters worked with presence and eyes) which was also one of Tim Burton’s favorites. Like Burton said, they were going back to the silent movie acting with presence and stare, with which Keaton did wonders

    Bob Kane: Michael Keaton has an edge about him. (…) [He] has a maniacal quality that Nicholson has, the same craziness going on in the eyes. (People, 1989)

    Michael Keaton plays his part with a brooding style and style that suggests much more than meets the eye (Times 1989)

    As already mentioned, this Batman is indeed insane, just as the original Batman was. This Bruce didn’t put on a Batman suit. He was transforming into Batman

    Bob Kane: When Bruce Wayne was 10 years old, his mother and dad were murdered coming out of the theater. This dramatic shock motivated him to become a vigilante. became, in his own way, as psychotic as the Joker, except the Joker fights against justice and for evil. They’re mirror images of each other. (People, 1989)

    Sam Hamm: Our guy is basically insane and Batman is a manifestation of his insanity (Anthology)

    Michael Keaton: What makes it doubly interesting is that he’s kind of psychotic. At first, I wasn’t willing to take it that far, but Tim was more than willing to take it that far. I read the script thinking, ‘This guy’s really angry and depressed and dark (Boston Globe 1989)

    For Keaton, Bruce-Batman is something of a schizophrenic (Times 1989)

    Dan Didio (VP editorial, DC comics) It’s about boy who loses his parents and can never overcome the grief for that (Anthology)

    Tim Burton: Batman is dark, scarred, depressed. (Newsweek 1989)
    There’s tension and insanity. We’re trying to say this guy is obviously nuts, but in the most appealing way possible (from Allison McMahan’s Tim Burton book)

    There’s a strange nature about Keaton’s Wayne. It is implied that it wasn’t his choice, he did not choose Batman but Batman chose him. It’s as if there was a reckoning, he was summoned to be Batman which added to his over the edge nature of almost snapping at any point (You wanna get nuts!?). He was compelled to become the Batman. And it was something that consumed him. He almost has no life outside of that suit and he himself can’t explain it and admittedly tried to fight it before: “Look sometimes I don’t know what to think of this. It’s just something I have to do. Look, I tried to avoid all of this but I can’t. This is how it is”

    Keaton does locate the troubled human inside Batman’s armature. He is amusingly awkward wrestling with the threat that Vicky’s inquisitive love represents. (Time magazine 1989)

    Tim Burton: Thats what I appreciated about him as well. He’s able to take that distraction and sadness and loneliness and intensity but then also have a humor without it calling too much attention to itself (BR Commentary)

    Bruce’s psychosis wasn’t explored in numerous flashbacks but we certainly get to understand who he is. It’s just conveyed in other ways. The fact that he mistakes himself for being in the costume when he is out of the costume. He enters an iron maiden. He has no one besides Alfred. He refers to himself as Bruce Wayne only some of the time. He sits in Wayne Manor alone patiently awaiting when to suit up.

    Dan Didio: Batman’s the real identity. Bruce Wayne is the secret identity, Bruce Wayne is who he is but it’s just a shell. Bruce Wayne is just passing time until Batman can take over and Batman can be who he is. The wonderful aspect of Michael Keaton’s portrayal is that you felt almost sad for him, the fact that he looked so uncomfortable in his own skin, in his own house, talking to people who were suppose to be his best friends. The you wonder where does he fit in in the world, thus when you see him sitting in the batcave in front of the console you realize this is where he belongs, this is where he should be (Anthology)

    Also it is important to note that this Bruce is not a socialite. The most he does is host a gala and even then, he tries to hide among the crowd and refuses to even answer to Bruce Wayne. Even members of the press have no idea how he looks like. Most people in Gotham were only vaguely familiar with the name Bruce Wayne. There was no Wayne Enterprise at all and it seemed like his money just came from old family wealth, which allowed him to be a hermit stuck in Wayne manor instead of a socialite that the newspapers wanted to print about.

    Even in the suit, he’s a creature of the night and constantly keeps backing up into the shadow and keeps the interaction to a bare minimum (just like in the original portrayal).

    Tim Burton: I thought a lot about the character. I wanted to deal with understandable human issues. Loneliness is a big part of it. The kid’s 10 years old and he sees something very bad happen and he shuts down. He becomes a very lonely, isolated person (Newsweek 1989)

    He wants to remain as hidden and as silent and as unresponsive as possible, both figuratively and literally, and being this Gothic phantom, naturally he’s not present at the unveiling of the bat signal, and the only time he speaks to police and Gordon is when he says “we’ll see” in Batman Returns without even stopping or looking at them (and again, as in the original portrayal).

    Even when he asked Vicky for a date he picked his own house where they ate dinner alone in a big diner room. When he invited Selina for a date he also picked a secluded place, which is his home, far away from people and public places

    Keaton’s Batman is stoic, almost mechanical. When he sheds his armor, the emotional barrier remains. There isn’t much shading to Keaton’s superhero. That’s the point. His psyche is scarred almost beyond repair. He’s a vacuum, in danger of imploding. It is a riveting, understated performance. (St Petersburg times 1989)

    What Keaton brings to his characterization of both Batman and his millionaire-playboy alter ego, Bruce Wayne, is a quality of coiled concentration, a wary vigilance. In his Batsuit, Keaton’s movements are stylized, almost robotic, and the stiffness of movement carries Arthurian associations, as if he were indeed a dark knight, armored for battle
    But as evocative as he is in his Bat regalia, it’s as Bruce Wayne that Keaton announces his own arrival. This is a true star performance, subtle, authoritative and sexually vibrant.there’s genuine pain in the performance, signs of a wounded man trying to shake free of childhood traumas.The Warren Skaaren-Sam Hamm script portrays Wayne as a realist who isn’t sure himself why he does what he does. Driven by the vision of his parents’ murder, his life is not his own. (Washington post 1989)

    There’s also more to the mysterious and disturbing personality of this Batman, as he’s seen grinning occasionally without uttering a sound for no immediately apparent reason in sick context. The first time was when Bob The Goon threatened to kill Gordon if Batman won’t release Napier (not as a reaction to Napier’s comment about the outfit as some say), and in Batman Returns he smiles just before blowing a guy up to pieces

    Lets also not forget the terrific idea of Bruce Wayne entering the bat cave via an iron maiden. A “tortured soul” both literally and figuratively.

    Tim Burton: The iron maiden is a torture device, so you know, him being a tortured individual, you could see him connecting to that on some level emotionally and I thought it would be a good image (BR commentary)

    All that leads up to his split personality which he confirms himself in both movies. When asked by Joker if he’s Bruce Wayne, he says “most of the time” When first talking to Selina, he says “I mistook me for someone else” and during their date by the fire he’s talking about “two truths”, duality and even likens himself to Norman Bates and Ted Bundy. By the end of Batman Returns he states that he and Selina are both “Split, wrecked in the center”. Worth noting is that at the masked ball in Batman Returns he was the only one not wearing a mask, meaning that his face , the Bruce Wayne name, was a mask (same goes for Selina).

    Michael Keaton: I wanted to see and to show that transition when he goes from Bruce Wayne to Batman, the time when he’s about to don the suit and go out and wreak some havoc. That’s not a casual thing, obviously, it’s not putting on a jacket to go out for the evening. So what is that transition like? So there was a thing we did early on that showed him going into a sort of trance and it justified this shift in him. So we did that scene and it never made it into the film but I think helped me in a way. It was part of the way he became this other thing and even if you didn’t see it, it was part of the character and the way we created him. (latimes.com 2011)

    As already mentioned, this Batman is like a phantom, a spook, and this performance wasn’t just based on comic books and human beings, but bats as well, helping to craft the creepy and Gothic presence and performance of the character in the suit

    Micheal Keaton: “I went to the source and read about bats.” (USA Today 1989)

    Tim Burton: Batman lives by night, and we wanted to explore the man behind him, Bruce Wayne, who really has a dark past to confront. It’s a tale of primal emotions.(San Diego Tribune 1989)
    I’ve always enjoyed the images associated with Batman. Somehow, they strike a very primal chord. Maybe it has to do with bats, because they’re such great creatures. Show anyone a bat and right away, they’ll perk up.
    “They’re very beautifully designed creatures, very primal, very old and very interesting. They’re there throughout history, from Dracula to opera. When you see that image of the Bat logo out there now, it’s like you’ve got the DTs or something.”(Tornonto Star 1989)

    Brian Bolland: “To me [Batman] looks good when he’s kind of like monolithic and motionless somehow, just this shadow” (Anthology)

    It was also Tim Burton who originated the idea of Batman changing his voice while in the costume. While it may sound to many nowadays like a natural thing to do, it was never mentioned in the comic books before 1989 and wasn’t used in any of the serials or the TV show or any of the cartoons featuring Batman before 1989.

    Tim Burton: “We’d try all sorts of movements. Then we’d say, ‘How about changing your voice?’ (AMC)

    He only speaks when absolutely necessary, and when he does it’s in a ghost – like whisper. When he does speak, you know without doubt he means what he is saying. The obvious way to play a superhero is a gruff yell, but Keaton dials it down to a whisper, which makes him seem all the more intense.

    Batman changes in the second movie. He starts out as the same character in the beginning of Returns (although “[Tim and Michael] still saw him as a wounded soul” – Daniel Waters Fangoria 1992), he’s in his study, sitting alone in the dark and there is only deafening silence. And then the bat-signal turns on and he has found his one and only purpose in life. That simple dialog free scene conveys a very important message about the character. At the end of Batman, Batman killed The Joker for revenge and in Batman Returns he becomes more consumed by the monster within himself as he took more pleasure killing criminals in the beginning of the film where he burns that guy in devil suit, straps the bomb around the strongman and shoots the spear gun into the clowns head. And then he meets Selina – “We can go home…together. Selina…don’t you see? We’re the same. Split. Wrecked in the center”. This is a big growth of character for him. This is the first tie he opened up. With Vicky, he was always dismissive of her and she was always secondary to his crime fighting (“I can’t think of it right now”). He lied to her that he’s going away for a couple of days which was even before he knew about Joker’s existence, he was constantly ignoring her calls and even completely ignored her in person in front of the City Hall. He looked even annoyed by her

    It wasn’t until almost at the end when he finally decided to tell her why he ditched her after one night after constant naggings from her and Alfred, thinking that she deserves the truth after all this behavior towards her. And also they went their separate ways because she couldn’t deal with his dual personality and life, so she had to go.
    But with Selina, it’s the first time he thought of hanging up the cape and leading a semi-normal life. After all these years of internal pain and revenge driven life, he meets someone who is hurting as much as he does inside, and also as fractured, someone who shares the pain – someone who understands. This is exactly the same thing as with the Frankenstein monster – he was an outsider who was hurting and all he wanted was just one person in the world who understood him, one person like him, to talk to and to spend his life with. And Selina was this Bride of Frankenstein for Bruce.

    Tim Burton: It was kind of him opening up for the first time (BR commentary)

    His pain was eased and he was now more in peace, lighter in a way and focusing on Selina. In her he saw a reflection of himself, that she was another psychologically damaged person like him out for revenge, so he attempts to stop her from killing Max Shreck by suggesting that he gets apprehended and this was Batman’s way of protecting her from getting consumed by revenge the same way that he did after killing The Joker.

    There’s not much known about this Batman’s upbringing’s, but he is shown to master detective skills (figuring out Joker’s identity, hideout and poison combination, going through old newspapers figuring out Penguin’s true side and past murders etc – classic detective work with research and deductive/creative thinking), he’s extremely knowledgeable in chemistry (figuring out the chemical poison code which police couldn’t do) and even more so technology, since he builds all of his equipment alone and fixes and designs his gadgets himself, not to mention being able to figure out radio frequencies and ways around to jam the signals etc.

    The moment when he slides down the tunnel to the Batcave in Returns, and instantly puts on his glasses as he touches the ground makes him look more serious, very intelligent, sciency and professional.

    Christian Bale: [In answer to: which one of the previous Batmans added the most amount of credibility to the role?] I would say Michael Keaton because of Tim Burton and the way that he approached the movie (Rebecca Murray Int, 2005)


    • 10 Best Batman Film Casting Decisions:

      1. Michael Keaton – Batman

      When it was announced that Michael Keaton was set to play The Dark Knight in Tim Burton’s 1989 motion picture adaptation, there was initial outcry – being that the actor was most recognized for his comedic roles, in such films as ‘Mr Mom’ and ‘Beetlejuice’; fans feared that the star’s presence indicated that the movie would follow in a similar tone to the 1966 ‘Batman’ television series. In actuality, Keaton’s recognition as a comedy actor would actually play to his advantage when donning the Bat-Suit – “serious actors” of the time, who were all in line for the role of Batman (names that included; Harrison Ford, Dennis Quaid and Kevin Costner) would have all likely received unintended laughs from the audience. The humorous Keaton – no stranger to wearing unconventional garb in motion pictures – is able to don the iconic outfit without appearing self-conscious; giving a deadly-serious performance – his experience in comedy allowing him to summon a tinge of insanity to the character, something very few ‘serious’ action film-stars are able to convey.

      Physically, Keaton is the anti-type of the tall, muscle-bound, square-jawed Caped Crusader of the comics – on paper, the concept of this actor as Batman, seems completely inappropriate; until one views the opening scene of Burton’s film. The armor-plated Keaton emerges from the darkness, meters on-the-spot justice to two sleazy street thugs, and murmurs in a voice no louder than a whisper “I’m Batman” – suddenly, the casting that originally seemed perplexing, makes perfect sense. Keaton’s ‘normal-sized’ Batman reminds us that the character is one of the only comic-book heroes who is no more than a mortal man. If the actor were a hulking brute, as depicted in the comics – there would be even less need for the bat-costume itself; for Keaton, who appears as the ‘every-man’, the molded muscular physique of the outfit is essential in ‘enhancing’ Bruce Wayne – giving him superhuman visual aspects. The 5’8″ Michael Keaton, presents a believable character, who would HAVE TO don a bat-costume in order to fight crime in Gotham City.

      Essentially, the key to making Batman plausible is to make Bruce Wayne believable, and through his employment of mentally unsound characteristics as well as physical attributes, Michael Keaton is able to portray the tortured billionaire misfit to perfection. From Wayne’s introductory scene at his mansion party – even before the man is revealed to the audience as Batman – Keaton’s character is intriguingly aloof; as Vicki Vale asks him – “Which one of these guys is Bruce Wayne?”, the young man’s eyes show an adhering focus as he replies “I… I’m not sure.” Quite simply, his words are the truth; Bruce Wayne is an illusory concept, lost behind the persona of Batman. We do however, see aspects of Wayne seep through in Keaton’s performance – especially during a blistering outburst of anger during his confrontation with The Joker in Vick Vale’s apartment, as Keaton puts it;- “What nobody understands is that the key was not Batman. The key was Bruce Wayne – that’s where the real power comes from.”

      The emotional spectrum displayed by Keaton’s Batman/Bruce Wayne surpasses the likes of Val Kilmer, George Clooney and Christian Bale – in Burton’s films, we witness an unhinged Batman with a fiery temper, a murderous streak and perhaps the only two convincing depictions of the hero in love. The casting of Keaton in response to Jack Nicholson’s Joker was another ingenuous decision – both actors share similar traits; with their flare for comedic wit, suave mannerism that echo through their tonally comparable nuanced baritone line-delivery as well as their physical appearance; including their wicked way with an eyebrow. During the confrontation in Vale’s apartment, Keaton’s crazed shouting of; “you wanna get nuts? Lets get nuts!” features strange allusions to Jack Nicholson’s deranged performance in ‘The Shining’ – completely fitting, as clearer parallels between The Joker and Wayne are drawn earlier in the scene, as both characters identically comment on Viki Vale’s apartment upon entering – both saying “Nice place you’ve got here. Lots of space.” These subtle dynamics make Michael Keaton, in my opinion, the best actor ever to don the cape and cowl – as well as the best piece of casting in any Batman movie. As Tim Burton said; “there aren’t many performers that when you look into their eyes, you see a lot going on” – this is precisely true; Keaton gives Batman a fascinating degree of depth, whilst subtly acknowledging in his portrayal that “Bruce Wayne and Batman was a little crazy” – something no other actor has managed to captivate in the role.


      • 5 Oddball Comic Book Movie Casting Choices That Worked Perfectly:

        Michael Keaton as Batman

        In: Batman

        Oddball Because: Because prior to Batman, Keaton was known predominantly for a number of wacky comedic performances. He didn’t just play “Mr. Mom” type roles, he played THE Mr. Mom. He was Beetlejuice. The casting of Keaton led fans to fear that Tim Burton planned on following in the footsteps of the old Adam West TV show, and would emphasize the campiest aspects of the characters. Keaton’s rep hasn’t exactly improved over the years, as Bale has taken the title of Best Bat while the original franchise is mostly remembered for Nicholson’s hamming it up and the Schuamacher-ization of the later entries.

        Why He Was Perfect: Michael Keaton was the first actor to really grasp that Bruce Wayne was just as much, if not more, of a costume as Batman. The fractured psyche of the Bat has come to the forefront of most modern tales of the character, and Keaton was the first to bring that aspect of the character to flesh-and-blood life. Other actors tend to just play Bruce Wayne, even under the cowl, but Keaton completely changed his body language when he was in the Batsuit. There are moments where Batman is looking out at the world through Bruce Wayne’s eyes, and Keaton navigates that personality split beautifully.

        Nowadays, the popular portrayal of Batman is one of slow-burning, coiled fury, thanks to the work by Christian Bale and Kevin Conroy. This is great and all, but Keaton’s take stands out because of the barely restrained psychotic fury that underlines his performance. There are moments where his rage boils over and he flips out (“LET’S GET NUTS!”) and its terrifying, hilarious and exhilarating in equal measure. Keaton was the first person to grasp that Batman is insane and that the audience should, at least in part, be freaked out by the guy. While later actors may have refined that approach, Keaton deserves credit for being the foundation upon which the modern incarnation of a pop culture icon is built on.

        Best Moment: That heart-breaking moment in Batman Returns when, in each other’s arms under the mistletoe, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle each realize who it is that they’re holding.


  10. Hey STFU, My Life was a really good, if also very depressingly sad, movie! just cuz you didnt like it doesnt mean its a bad movie. i dont recall that movie getting bad reviews, but who really listens to critics anyway?

    anyway, hes still the best batman. screw christian bale with the stupid voice. val kilmer comes in 2nd place, but keaton is still batman to me. noone else comes close.


    • How can I argue with such a well-reasoned response? Profanity always wins. Glad you liked My Life. I found it the cheapest kind of emotional manipulation. But, too each their own.


  11. I recently posted a the link to this blog to the BATMAN WORLD forum on SuperHeroHype Forums:

    Even though I simply quoted the section regarding Michael Keaton’s time as Batman, the moderators removed it completely (w/ just the link remaining) due to “possible copyright infringement”.


  12. Michael Keaton: Batman (Finally) Returns!:

    After sharpening his comedy chops in the late ’70s and early ’80s on TV—guest-starring on Maude, doing sketches on a pair of ill-fated Mary Tyler Moore variety shows, and headlining two short-lived sitcoms, Working Stiffs (with Jim Belushi!) and Report to Murphy—Keaton burned up the big screen with his explosively funny turn as Henry Winkler’s fast-talking sidekick, Bill Blazejowski, in Ron Howard’s 1982 morgue farce Night Shift. That manic persona would define his roles for the next half-decade in comedies good (say it: Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!), mediocre (Mr. Mom), bad (Johnny Dangerously) and downright ugly (The Squeeze).

    Then a funny thing happened to Keaton: He started getting serious. He gave an emotionally devastating performance as a recovering addict in 1988′s Clean & Sober, which led to his unconventional casting as Caped Crusader Bruce Wayne in Tim Burton’s Batman. (He’d previously worked with the director on Beetlejuice, making him Burton’s proto-Johnny Depp muse.) Yet Keaton pulled off the cowled role, holding his own opposite Jack Nicholson’s Joker as well as Danny DeVito’s Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer’s fierce Catwoman (who makes Anne Hathaway’s version look like a harmless sex kitten) in the 1992 sequel Batman Returns.

    But Keaton (and Burton) walked away from the franchise, and the actor started to follow his own quixotic muse. He tried Shakespeare in Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing, reteamed with Ron Howard on the underrated newsroom drama The Paper and made a few missteps with the terminally sappy drama My Life, the toothless rom-com Speechless and the unoriginal cloning comedy Multiplicity.

    Quentin Tarantino attempted to engineer a John Travolta-style renaissance for him with a showy role as FBI agent Ray Nicolette in Jackie Brown (a character he’d reprise in Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight), but Keaton soon found himself relegated to thankless dad roles opposite Katie Holmes in First Daughter and Alexis Bledel in Post Grad.

    Keaton has done great work in obscure indies like Game 6 (as a die-hard Mets fan) and The Merry Gentleman (as a suicidal hit man), but RoboCop represents his best opportunity in ages to strut his stuff in a movie people might actually see. And as anyone who caught his indelibly scary turn as a psycho tenant in John Schlesinger’s chiller Pacific Heights can testify, Keaton gives good bad guy. For an actor whose career has gone colder than Jack Frost (the less said about that creepy snowman weeper, the better), he’s earned—to paraphrase the title of his overlooked soccer drama—one more shot at glory.


  13. keaton has still got talent. i think he will get back into leadingman status if robocop and the sequel to beetlejuice does well. i’m glad to see terrence michael clay agrees with me on the whole michael keaton, johnny depp, tom hanks conspiracy.


  14. The TBTS Actor Evaluation: Michael Keaton:

    Who doesn’t love Michael Keaton? Not only is he a stalwart of eighties and early nineties cinema, but Keaton has always had the good sense to stay out of the limelight, dutifully doing his job as an entertainer without boring us all with his relationships, Twitter feed and unnecessary need to keep his face on camera twenty-four hours a day. During Keaton’s recent stint in the beautifully absurd 100th episode of 30 Rock, where he played a harried janitor trying to fix a gas leak poisoning the cast, it got us to thinking: where the hell has he gone? We need Michael Keaton back right about now. It also got us to wondering how the actor would fare when called onto the carpet. So here’s to you, Michael Keaton, and good luck today in what is perhaps the ultimate test of an actor’s worth — The TBTS Official Actor Evaluation. (Note: Not all movies are accounted for in this list, but the majority have been considered.)

    Night Shift (+2) — Lot of folks forget this movie. Lot of folks shouldn’t. In his first big-role motion picture outing (and one of director Ron Howard’s early films), Keaton played loose cannon morgue attendant Bill Blazejowski, who lures Henry Winkler’s dull Chuck Lumley into an elicit career as an after-hours pimp. It’s kind of surprising no one’s decided to remake this, actually, but it still hold up. It’s worth revisiting and a lot of fun, and I’m not just saying that because as a young adolescent with access to HBO, it had slutty semi-nude women in it.

    Mr. Mom (+3) — In the film that put Keaton on the map as a comic lead, Keaton’s harried stay-at-home dad cemented his status as a go-to eighties comic. He also co-starred with Teri Garr and Martin Mull, which in 2011 means virtually nothing, but in 1983 was solid company to be in. If you remember the name Schooner Tuna at all, it’s because of Mr. Mom. Virtually unseen on television these days, for many years after its release, Mr. Mom held strong in the replay circuit.

    Johnny Dangerously (+2) — Continuing his run as a big comic star of the early eighties, Johnny Dangerously wasn’t the greatest comedy ever, but it’s weird and funny and — though aged — it was a pretty solid comedy for 1984. The pre-Goodfellas tale of a kid growing up in the ranks of the Irish mob had a lot of great gags and memorable lines, and like Mr. Mom, Keaton anchors an ensemble cast featuring Griffin Dunn, Marilu Henner and Joe Piscopo (again, super-eighties alert) with dexterity.

    Gung Ho (+1) — Gotta be honest, I was never a big Gung Ho fan, but then again I was only eleven years old in 1986, so a lot of the context was lost on me at the time. Feel free to bump this one a notch if you appreciated it more. The working-class comedy (and another Ron Howard joint) about blue-collar automotive workers facing a Japanese takeover gave Keaton the opportunity to play a bit of straight man, which would serve him later.

    Touch and Go (-1) — Keaton as a hockey star who enters a romance with Maria Conchita Alonso. File this in the same place as Surrender with Sally Field and Overboard with Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.

    The Squeeze (-1) — A caper starring Keaton as a gambler thrust into a “web of intrigue” P.I. caper about a mysterious parcel with Rae Dawn Chong and Meat Loaf, The Squeeze saw Keaton starting to move away from silly comedies, but this one was pretty forgettable. Straight eighties, right down to Rae Dawn Chong’s involvement.

    Beetle Juice (+4) — Score big for Keaton. It’s crazy that Tim Burton, given what we know about him now, saw Keaton as the right fit for the “human exorcist” employed by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis to rid their home of living people, but his Beetle Juice is a completely bonkers performance. As Burton’s big burst onto the scene, in 1987 there weren’t many movies like Beetle Juice, and still remains one of Burton’s weird, gothic best.

    Clean and Sober (+2) — Coming off the madcap Beetle Juice, Keaton slows it down as an in-demand real estate agent spiraling out of control with cocaine and drinking. The first big shot we get of Keaton as a serious actor, and though it seems somewhat cookie cutter in the pantheon of dramatic “alcoholic” movies of the later eighties (Clean and Sober, Barfly), Keaton’s strong performance can’t be denied — nor can his choice to stretch his legs.

    The Dream Team (+2) – …And back to screwball. Keaton plays the lead in another comic ensemble (also starring Christopher Lloyd and Peter Boyle) as a mental institution worker who decides to take some of his patients out on the town for the day. A 1989 movie that feels like it should have been made in 1983, but you can’t beat those co-stars.

    Batman (+3) — The first Burton Batman, and without question the best until Nolan came ’round. His Beetle Juice karma cashed in with the gloomy director and again Burton saw something in Keaton that no one would have thought to peg (seriously, in 1989 would you have picked this casting decision?). But Keaton’s a charming Bruce Wayne and plays the role with a great semi-comic sincerity that bounces nicely off Nicholson’s Joker.

    Pacific Heights (+2) — Following the early nineties “psycho who live in your neighborhood and are part of your life” era (Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Fatal Attraction), Keaton stars as Carter Hayes, a cockroach enthusiast and certifiable nutjob landlord to poor Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith. It’s not great, but it works, and again our boy goes in a completely new direction.

    One Good Cop (-2) — If there’s one thing you can’t accuse Keaton of, it’s being typecast. One Good Cop isn’t a great cop movie or a particularly good movie in general, and it’s formulaic in almost every sense. But we learned one thing: Michael Keaton can play a cop. And a good one, I guess.

    Much Ado About Nothing (+3) — Note that avoiding-typecasting thing I just mentioned as Keaton takes on the incredibly incompetent constable Dogberry, chewing scenery as one of Bill Shakespeare’s middle-of-play comic scenery chewers. And directed by Kenneth Branagh, the film is also a forgotten though solid adaptation of the Bard.

    My Life (+1) – Manipulative but effective. Keaton stars as a terminally ill man preparing for his own death. If you can watch this movie without crying, I suggest you go back to Mars, alien.

    The Paper (+2) — Most people would give this movie only one point or less because it was a critical flop, but I’m going to give it two points because I think it’s a tremendously entertaining movie. Keaton teams again with director Ron Howard to ground an ensemble cast in a film about a frenzied newspaper editor trying to get a story right before printing. Actually, you know what? If you haven’t ever seen The Paper, you should watch it. It’s a good film, even if it’s a bit all over the place at times. And it’s got a great cast.

    Speechless (-1) — Geena Davis (what the hell happened to her, by the way?) and Keaton star as warring speechwriters on either sides of a political campaign. It’s a serviceable romantic comedy, I suppose, but kind of ho-hum.

    Multiplicity (+3) — Back to his old tricks as a screwball comic lead, Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day foll0w-up Multiplicity stars Keaton as a busy inventor who clones himself to get more done. Keaton plays several roles, all variations on the same character, and Ramis made a good call picking him for the role.

    Jackie Brown (0) — I’m probably going to take a lot of flack for this, but even though I’m a big Tarantino guy, I was never a big Jackie Brown fan (I’m sorry, but with a few exceptions, I just don’t think Elmore Leonard novels make good movies). My friend Craig, however, raises the point that even though it’s not a great movie, Michael Keaton is probably one of the best small-role guys in it, which is a fair point. We’ll call this one a wash.

    Desperate Measures (-1) — Returning back to his Pacific Heights days, Keaton is a psychopathic patient holding a hospital hostage as cop Andy Garcia tries to find a donor for his son’s illness. Eh.

    Jack Frost (-3) — Creepy CGI and a creepier storyline contribute to a poor score in Keaton’s family film Jack Frost, about a dad who dies and comes back as a snowman. Kinda weird, I think you’ll agree.

    Out of Sight (+4) — Remember what I said about Elmore Leonard novels adapted into feature films? This is one of the good ones. Keaton reprises his role as detective Ray Nicolette in a great ensemble cast starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez (back before we realized she wasn’t all that great of an actress).

    A Shot at Glory (0) — I can’t judge this, because honestly I’d never even heard of it. But it stars Robert Duvall and Keaton in the tale of a struggling Scottish football team. Sounds interesting, though.

    Live From Baghdad (+2) — Post 9/11, Keaton stars as journalist Robert Weiner in this HBO movie about CNN reporters dealing with touchy ethical choices during the Gulf War. A TV movie that was good enough to be released in theaters, but wasn’t, so woefully fewer people saw it.

    First Daughter (-2) — A by-the-numbers family film wherein Keaton plays the President trying to reign in his daughter studying abroad. The weirdest thing about this movie is that it was made in 2004 and Katie Holmes basically plays a kid, but she would marry Tom Cruise less than two years later. Sorry, I can’t stop thinking about that weirdness when I see this movie.

    White Noise (-3) — What could have been an intriguing thriller about ghosts talking on tape recorders turns into a jump-cut “boo” movie as Keaton plays a man who thinks he’s communicating with his dead wife (spoiler alert: ghosts are evil, except in Ghost Dad). If only his wife had come back as a snowman instead.

    Herbie Fully Loaded (-3) — Oh Michael Keaton, we can’t fault you for this. After all, it was Disney, and the Herbie Franchise. It’s not your fault you couldn’t see into Lindsay Lohan’s future. Or Breckin Meyer’s, for that matter.

    Cars (+2) – Now this was a good Disney film. Much better choice, buddy.

    The Other Guys (+2) — In a movie with a lot of stuff to like, Keaton’s TLC-quoting, Bed Bath & Beyond-moonlighting police captain was one of the best.

    Toy Story 3 (+3) — In what was in all likelihood the best movie of 2010, Keaton played the duplicitous but ultimately semi-heroic Ken doll. And was pitch-perfect in an absolutely loaded cast of voice actors.


    Michael Keaton’s Overall Score: 25

    The hastily-configured scoring system:

    50 or higher: You have made a ton of fantastic movies.

    40-50: You’ve done pretty well for yourself. Good on ya.

    30-40: We still like you. But you need to pick it up a little.

    20-30: You’ve made some good movies. But probably more bad ones.

    10-20: You either lost it or you never had it.

    0-10: Many of your films are still available on VHS at an interstate truck stop.

    0 or negative points: You are comedian Jackie Mason.

    The Analysis: If you’re really looking at the Michael Keaton oeuvre, this low technical score doesn’t do the actor justice. Michael Keaton has made a lot of movies, but his lack of big-ticket Oscar types and his proclivity in the eighties to star in pretty quintessentially eighties films with quintessentially eighties co-stars (Rae Dawn Chong! Maria Conchita Alonso! Kathy Baker!) sell him tremendously short. Also, some duds more recently in his career (White Noise, Herbie Fully Loaded, Jack Frost) deliver a big hit to his numbers. When all’s said and done, I think we can all agree we love Michael Keaton and wish he’d come back. If nothing else than to take us back to a simpler time, when movies were just plain entertaining — because he made a lot of those and we didn’t have jobs, families, or shit to do when we watched them. When that was the case, Michael Keaton, you were totally our guy.


  15. Would Michael Keaotn’s “Multiplicity” co-star, Andie MacDowell make a good “WTHHT” candidate down the line:

    Best Known For: Groundhog Day (1993), Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
    Most Recent Project: Breaking at the Edge (2013)

    After garnering media attention for her modelling, MacDowell ascended to Hollywood. Unfortunately, she wasn’t ready for the demands of acting. Her first film, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, had to be dubbed after she couldn’t fake a British accent.

    In the wake of the failure, MacDowell threw herself into method acting, training at the Actor’s Studio, and emerged a few years later to star in Steven Soderbergh’s game-changing Sex, Lies, and Videotape. The next five years brought a string of award nominations and prestigious roles. Just as success arrived, her A-list status fell away, leaving nothing but TV movies.


    • Andie MacDowell is definitely on the list.


    • Whatever happened to Andie MacDowell?


      Do you remember her? The woman who starred in our Movie of the Week?? The girl who tangled up with Hugh Grant around funerals and weddings? The gorgeous face of care company L’Oréal? The lady with all that hair? So I ask the question… where is Andie MacDowell now?

      Andie started the early 1980s modelling for Vogue and other fancy companies when a billboard and tv advert campaign for Calvin Klein gained her début experience into film with Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (a mouthful in itself). Alas because of her southern accent, her face may have appeared in the film, her voice did not and was re-dubbed by Glenn Close (you remember her – Cruella DeVille?)

      At the end of the 80s, Andie was filmed by Steven Soderbergh in his independent picture Sex, Lies, and Videotapes. She starred alongside James Spader, who played Graham who filmed women discussing their sexual fantasies. The film won the Palme d’Or at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival and shot Andie into stardom with her first flurry of independent awards (and a few nominations to boot too).

      The 1990s saw Andie become a romantic interest, coming side by side with the likes of Bruce Willis, Gérard Depardieu and Michael Keaton. But this period also saw Andie become a shining star in Hollywood, with such romantic films as Groundhog Day and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

      With Groundhog Day she starred opposite Bill Murray, a man who keeps having the same day reoccur over and over again in a hope that he’ll see tomorrow someday. But it was when Andie jumped over the water to play opposite Hugh Grant that she made her last big box office success.

      Written by Richard Curtis, Four Weddings and a Funeral paired the beauty of Andie with Hugh Grant, at the time British’s hottest hunk. Grossing over £155 million in worldwide box office sales, this was the last Andie would ever reach these kinds of figures. The film also was big for Wet, Wet, Wet with their cover of “Love is all around”.

      Since then she starred opposite Michael Keaton in Multiplicity, a bizarre film about a man who clones himself several times, she even appeared with the Muppets on two occassions, but nothing would spark interest anymore. She moved onto other pastures appearing in odd episodes of TV shows such as The Practice, 30 Rock and a few TV movies and independent pictures. But nothing would align her back to Hollywood.

      So where is she now? She still does some campaigns with L’Oréal, and even though her short TV stint with Jane by Design in 2012 got 18 episodes, it was cancelled by the studios. Andie is currently doing another pilot for a new TV series called Cedar Cove on the Hallmark Channel, based on the popular book series by Debbie Macomber, so who knows, we might not see her on the big screen soon but the little screen, maybe this year??


  16. Craig Hansen

    I’ve long been a fan of Michael Keaton, ever since his scene-stealing role in Night Shift, which really was a great debut for him. Looking back over his career, he really did have a lot of terriffic films to his career. I’ve always thought Multiplicity was highly underrated. I remember seeing it opening weekend to a packed audience when it came out, and the movie played extraordinarily well, eliciting laughter from the packed audience throughout. I walked out thinking from the positive reaction from the audience it was going to be a hit, then I was surprised when I saw the box office numbers come in, where it underperformed unfortunately. I’ve seen it a few times over the years since, it still holds up well I think. It turned out to be his last worthwhile comedy as a leading man, though I did enjoy his supporting roles in The Other Guys and Toy Story 3 quite a bit.


    • I had the same experience with Multiplicity. Keaton gives a great comic performance in an okay movie. I really expected it to be a return to form for him and was surprised when that didn’t happen. He was probably my favorite thing in The Other Guys and Toy Story 3. Voice-over work seems to suit him well, so hopefully he will keep working with Pixar.


  17. Is Michael Keaton Going Through A Career Resurgence?


    Twice in one week I have heard or read Michael Keaton’s name in two separate stories. This must be some sort of record for the 2000s, which have seen very little of Keaton. Late last week it was announced he would take over as the lead villain in the Robocop remake. Now it seems he is directing his second film, an indie titled Buttercup. I don’t know about you, but any mention of Michael Keaton getting back to work – more importantly, back to promising work – is good news.

    Keaton has never reached the heights of some of his peers as a star, but it isn’t because he is not a wonderful actor. He simply made some bad choices along the way, like Jack Frost and White Noise and, well, the list is painfully long. But there are those Michael Keaton performances out there where you can really see the range and the versatility of Keaton’s acting. I say bring on a new side to Keaton’s career as an older actor. If Matthew McConaughey can turn things around the way he has, I have faith that Keaton can do the same.

    Keaton was made famous starring as Batman in Tim Burton’s franchise kick-starter. But he had some wonderful roles leading up to the Bat Suit, one showing his comedic timing and energy (Mr. Mom), and another showing his ability to draw us into a dramatic role (Clean and Sober). then there was Beetlejuice, something wildly different than the other two films, or any films for that matter. When Keaton donned the cape and cowl he had been somewhat established, but playing the crusader opened up doors in his career. The only problem was, Keaton chose the wrong doors to walk through more times than not.

    Some of his follow-up films to Batman weren’t as popular or as well received in general. But there are still good performances in films like One Good Cop, Pacific Heights (as corny as the film may ultimately be), and especially the Ron Howard ensemble dramedy, The Paper. Keaton’s small turn in Much Ado About Nothing, playing Dogberry, showed he could truly slip into just about any role. Whatever the case may have been with his mediocre box office returns and middling films, they were never bad because of him. Keaton could bounce from straight comedy in the wildly underrated Multiplicity right into a solid supporting part in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, playing DEA Agent Ray Nicolette. But then Jack Frost happened, and his career would never be the same.

    Jack Frost is a strange, boring, all-around terrible movie no matter what age you may be. Ever since this 1998 debacle, Keaton has slipped to the back row of the stars, flailing about in a Disney Herbie remake (playing the stock Disney father because Dennis Quaid must have been busy), to the bland thriller White Noise, and a whole group of movies that never found an audience. But Hollywood is cyclical for actors like Keaton, and his name starting popping up a few years ago. 2010 saw him play Ken in Toy Story 3 and Captain Mauch in the solid summer comedy The other Guys. And now, we have word he is directing his second film and taking over as the bad guy in Robocop. I say there is nothing wrong with more Michael Keaton. He is a special actor – even in the worst movies most of the time -and can slip into any tone of any type of film. Just look at the range he showed when he had his eyes on the right roles.


  18. Great article…..love him and miss his work….maybe he will have a comebavk like travolta…….he was out for a long time …..then reappeared.


  19. 14 Scifi and Fantasy Movies That Killed Actors’ Careers:

    5) Michael Keaton, Batman

    It might not be fair to say Batman and Batman Returns killed Michael Keaton’s career, but it did mortally wound it. You have to understand, Keaton was one of the biggest stars of the ‘80s, starring in a ton of hits like Clean and Sober, Beetlejuice, Mr. Mom, and more. And Batman and Batman Returns were hits, and Keaton did well in both of them… and then he had a clone comedy called Multiplicitly that went nowhere… and a bit part in Jackie Brown… and then he was a talking snowman in the sub-straight-to-video movie Jack Frost, a mere six years later. He’s done a little bit of work here and there, but for some reason Batman Returns remains his last major role and hit.


    • Some responding comments to this particular io9.com list regarding Michael Keaton’s inclusion:

      lightninglouie > Rob Bricken
      Michael Keaton was one of the great instinctual comedians of his generation, right up there with Bill Murray. In retrospect his casting as Batman was a profound misstep, both for the franchise and his career. Today 11:30am

      GrestchVox > Rob Bricken
      To be fair, I’d say it was Multiplicitly that killed Keaton’s career. If his follow ups to Batman had been good he would have survived. Today 10:29am

      OmegaLazarus > Rob Bricken
      As far as Micheal Keaton, I think there was another factor.

      I was younger, but I recall there being a sort of money dispute that started with the second movie and carried over. From what I remember Keaton wanted what others thought was way too much money to continue as Batman after the first one. So, there may have been a sort of blackballing after that or even a self-imposed dry spell as a sort of petulant reaction by him.

      I should clarify that I like his work and don’t want to think of him as an ass, but am just restating what I recall. Maybe someone more in the know can expand on or crush this idea. Today 11:05am

      vidvamp01 > Rob Bricken
      Movie careers are all about making the studios big money, not leveraging an actors talent for artistic reasons.

      The film industry is youth obsessed. Most contemporary blockbuster actors are not necessarily cast with good actors as much as they are just young, fit, attractive in some fashion, and can fake a cry.

      I think the people who lost their careers were not superior to those who did not. They just starred in a movie that, for miscellaneous and often arbitrary reasons, not enough people wanted to see to make the movie effectively profitable.

      On the aside, I do not agree that these movies ruined careers. What I actually think is that their social skills, and their choices of prior and subsequent acting roles ruined their careers. Every one of these actor has done stuff prior to and after these movies. Their every role choice along the way informs the judgement in casting.

      Kristen Kreuk would have done well to not take the part in street fighter. That is probably the one movie in this whole set that would most objectively ruin careers.

      Jake Lloyd probably should have had some acting coaching on set. We will probably not ever see him on screen again.

      Lori Petty was still a bit of a character actor, so Tank Girl probably seemed like a big break for her. The comic was popular, and well done, but the movie was not exactly faithful to the source material and disappointed fans. But, she did a good job, and made the movie entertaining in her own way.

      In the case of Sean Connery, for decades he was simply James Bond.

      For Kevin Costner, he was just in Man of Steel, being the same dead pan character he has always played. There is nothing new to see from this one-note actor. So as far as his career being ruined, if his bad acting did not do it, I doubt that there is anything that will ever keep him from working.

      For Mark Hamill he was Luke Skywalker, until he became the animated voice of the Joker. He was excellent as the Joker, the Trickster, and as the Cock Knocker. He is a great character actor, and has some wonderful cameos, but he just needed to play more varied characters. His return to Star Wars is a conceit that he is Luke Skywalker, and so be it.

      For Michael Keaton, he was seen as a comedic actor, and Batman was a wild departure. The for movie was excellent version of the Batman character, and it was well received for it. What Michael Keaton did with his career afterwards was of his own construction.

      For Hayden Christensen, Star Wars was his first high profile role, and it was a perfect storm of bad acting choices, bad script, and bad direction that made him so annoying to watch that it tainted his appearances in other roles.

      For Brandon Routh, his first high profile roles was a recast sequel to the long abandoned Christopher Reeve’s Superman movies. The Actor recasting in the same continuity does not always work like it does for James Bond and Dr Who. That and the story was not terrible, just unpopular.

      For Chris O’Donnell and Alicia Silverstone were still upstarts, Batman and Robin had to seem like the big break they wanted. It was still a bad choice. Today 11:09am

      LemurLad > Rob Bricken
      Thing about Keaton is, there weren’t any huge glaring problems with Multiplicity, it just was simultaneously too similar and not as good as Groundhog Day. He was locked in the Bill Murray comparison death spiral, and you can’t pull out of that.

      I think you should have put James Marsden on your list. Today 11:24am

      Cat VonAwesome > Rob Bricken
      I think Multiplicity is the sci-fi movie that ruined Michael Keaton, not Batman itself.

      For further discussion of Mark Hamill feel free to call my mom who has not stopped talking about how that accident ruined Mark Hamill’s career for thirty years now. Anytime Star Wars comes up. Today 10:48am

      kaspe_r > Rob Bricken
      Really have to disagree with Michael Keaton. If anything, it was multiplicity that killed his career. After the Batman movies he still had another big hit…My Life with Nicole Kidman.

      It was after My Life that he went in to star in The Paper, Multiplicity, Speechless and Desperate Measures. Today 10:22am

      HeartBurnKid > Rob Bricken
      Shouldn’t Multiplicity be the sci-fi movie that killed Michael Keaton’s career, and not Batman? I mean, everybody was looking to see what he was going to do after Batman, and then it turned out to be THAT. And it has cloning, it counts as sci-fi.

      Oh, and the only good thing to come out of Waterworld is the stunt show at the Universal Studios theme parks. Seriously, that thing is awesome. Today 10:51am

      narffet > Rob Bricken
      Keaton was hilarious in The Other Guys. But you’re not wrong, it was quite a dry spell between it and Multiplicity and his double shift as Batman. Though his role in TOG was a supporting role (but also a prominent one).

      Guess there’s still a lot of talent in him, just needing the right outlet. Today 11:15am

      Wax-tadpole > Rob Bricken
      I think Keaton pretty much just walked away after Batman Returns. He’s probably got enough money that he can act only when he wants. Today 12:48pm


      • JinDenver > Rob Bricken
        See, I think Keaton was just out of time. Correlation does not equal causation (obviously) But I think it was just time for new stars. 1993 and 1994 (the years after Batman Returns) we got movies like Forrest Gump, Shawshank, the Lion King, Pulp Fiction, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Philadelphia, and more. We’d just simply moved on to other actors.

        As far as the likes of Denise Richards, Alicia Silverstone, Hayden Christensen, Brandon Routh and even Kristen Kreuk to some extent: they were awful at their craft. They were/are horrid, horrid actors who simply stopped getting shots at films. And with good reason! It just so happened that these movies were among their last. Today 2:00pm


        IkeReece > Rob Bricken
        I heard someone on NPR say that Michael Keaton walked away from the Batman franchise after the second movie, for whatever reason (artistic I guess, definitely not monetary) and that Hollywood has been punishing him ever since. A lot of powerful people pissed at him for not continuing in such a successful series(??)….anyone else hear that? Today 5:41pm


  20. 10 Promising Film Careers that Stalled:

    5. Michael Keaton

    Michael Keaton made his way into the A list of after playing the title role in Tim Burton’s classic Beetlejuice and then he went on to cement his position after starring in Batman and Batman Returns. His portrayal of the superhero won him legions of fans and he was in high demand throughout the 90s.

    But a combination of so-so film choices and a decision to scale down his workload in order to concentrate on his family stunted his once flourishing career.


    • Batman Before And After: How The Batsuit Can Change Or Ruin Careers:

      Michael Keaton – Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns
      Before Batman: Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, Keaton rose to stardom in a variety of comedies that proved his worth as the everyman who could deliver lines with biting wit and pull off any physical comedy with aplomb. He co-starred with Jim Belushi in the short-lived series Working Stiffs, he starred in Ron Howard’s Gung Ho and Night Shift, and he absolutely killed it in Amy Heckerling’s 1930s throwback Johnny Dangerously. (Not that it’s hard to look amazing next to Joe Piscopo.) Even in something like Mr. Mom, it’s Keaton’s performance that saves what otherwise would have been a tepid commercial comedy.

      When Tim Burton cast him for his macabre 1988 comedy Beetlejuice, it seemed like an odd pick, but ended up being one of the better decisions of Burton’s career. The bizarre and over-the-top antics combined with that gravelly voice make it one of Keaton’s most memorable roles, even though he’s only on screen for a little over 17 minutes. And it’s this performance that gave Burton the confidence that Keaton would be perfect as another costumed character of the night.

      As Batman: While it was of course a shock to see Keaton replace the warm smiles with a brooding blankness, his performance as both the Bat and Bruce Wayne stunned the naysaying masses, rendering their previous complaints useless. In both of Burton’s films, Keaton turns out what are arguably the two of the best dramatic performances of his career, causing people to forget the slapsticky 1960s TV show and returning their attention to the comic franchise that spawned the character. It would be quite a while before we got another Batman that could realistically answer the question “Why so serious?”

      After Batman: It’s a shame that so much of Keaton’s later career was spent in lackluster thrillers like Desperate Measures and White Noise, although his directorial debut The Merry Gentleman, which he also starred in, was enjoyable enough. Appearances in Jackie Brown and The Other Guys prove that Keaton is still very much in control of his comedic talents, so I can’t wait to see him in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s upcoming ensemble comedy Birdman, even if it means having to watch him in the Robocop reboot and the Need for Speed video game adaptation too.


    • I hope that I’m not repeating myself, but I think what hurt Michael’s career post-“Batman” was that it seemed like he was trying to hard to be a traditional leading man (which in return, nullified all that was interesting/fascinating about him) so to speak. I recall saying that Michael spent too long focusing on just being a dramatic actor. I’m not necessarily faulting Michael Keaton for wanting to grow and expand as an actor (like for example Tom Hanks or Robin Williams, who were also known mostly as comedic actors). Let’s put it this way however, unlike say Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton never had his “Philadelphia” (meaning a true “dramatic breakthrough” so to speak).

      Michael I think strayed way too far of what he perhaps did best (i.e. a somewhat manic and/or eccentric, everyman) at the height of his success and notoriety. What really didn’t help in retrospect, ironically, is that Michael’s most successful roles (Beetlejuice and Batman) were ones that didn’t properly give him a lot of face time (since he was other in heavy make-up or wearing a mask). By the time, he tried to go back to “his roots” w/ “Multiplicity”, the much of the general public had already moved on. What really didn’t help was that Michael no longer had a major blockbuster franchise like Batman to fall back on and help gravitate people towards his other projects.


  21. 8 Michael Keaton Movies That Remind You He IS Batman:

    Michael Keaton continues to have a conspicuously versatile career. He consistently explores new territory, not only through the characters he plays but also through branching out into other production roles like directing. Part of the reason he is able to do this seems to be because rather than jumping at every offer that has likely come his way, Keaton seems to have the opportunity to be very particular about what movies he appears in. He continues to have a strong presence whenever he does show up on-screen, in good movies and in bad. Although he has his own signature stylistic preferences, he frequently changes up the overall timing, voice, and tone in many of his performances.

    He’s a great part of movies.

    But despite all of this, there is an elephant in the room—one might call it another presence in the darkness of the screening room. In many of Michael Keaton’s movies, elements have a tendency to coalesce and remind us of a greater legacy, distracting us from the goal of just enjoying his movies for what they are and properly appreciating Keaton’s body of work. It’s a legacy that has been somewhat transferred to Christian Bale in recent years, but always comes back to Keaton in the end—Batman.

    Sure, Hollywood is a small club, and at the rate things are going now, all of its members will one day have participated in one superhero movie or another, but even today, a superhero film is never the most mainstream thing on the boulevard. Yet Michael Keaton has appeared in numerous movies with cast and crew from other Batman movies in particular, both before and after his role as the Caped Crusader. Some of the combinations seem just too much to be coincidences or networking. Do these intersections represent destiny? Will all the machinations of Hollywood ultimately lead to direct connections to Batman and Michael Keaton? Maybe Batman movies can’t live without Keaton. Or maybe Keaton’s presence is the equivalent of cosmic rays, attracting and creating new members of not just a Batman, but a superhero, fraternity.

    In any case, it’s exactly like how Christian Bale’s Batman just can’t get rid of a bomb.

    Keaton’s upcoming movie Birdman will be a major statement on this phenomenon, as it outright embraces exploring this legacy and audience perception of it.

    So without further delay, click “next” for 8 uncanny accidental Batman sequels and/or superhero crossovers starring Michael Keaton.

    NOTE: I could have also put One Good Cop, Post Grad, and Porco Rosso on here, but:

    1. For the sake of humanity, I don’t want to explore the Batman link between Michael Keaton and Benjamin Bratt. Explore that at your own risk!

    2. Although J.K. Simmons is probably very excellent in Post Grad, I don’t want to write about that movie at this time.

    3. I don’t even know how to do justice to all the Batman voices starring alongside Keaton in Porco Rosso.


    Bad Director, Diva & Grinch
    … Says Lawsuit


    Michael Keaton’s alter ego ain’t Batman anymore … it’s Hollywood D-bag — this according to movie producers who claim Keaton’s diva antics torpedoed their Christmastime flick.

    Keaton is being sued by Merry Gentleman, LLC — a production company that claims it sunk more than $4 million to make “The Merry Gentleman” … which Keaton both directed and starred in.

    In the suit, filed in federal court in Illinois, M.G. claims Keaton was a total pain in the ass from the moment production began in 2007.

    First example — M.G. claims they put time, energy and money into building an editing facility for Keaton in California … and once it was set up, Keaton decided to go on a fly-fishing trip to Montana. M.G claims Keaton forced the production company to build another editing facility in MT, so he could work and play at the same time.

    Second example — M.G. claims Keaton slacked on the directing duties at first … and he knew it … because he personally told producers his first cut was a piece of crap.

    According to the suit, producers decided to cut their own version of the movie … and when Keaton found out, he flipped — threatening to use his connections to have the movie pulled from the 2008 Sundance Film Festival unless they agreed to run one of Keaton’s versions instead.

    Producers conceded … but M.G. claims Keaton’s diva antics continued … because when it came time to promote the film on “GMA,” Keaton was less than enthusiastic about the movie.

    The flick eventually bombed in theaters — raking in less than $350k … and producers are pointing the finger solely at Keaton.

    M.G. is suing for unspecified damages — likely in the millions. Calls to Keaton’s camp have not been returned.


  23. Beetlejuice sequel gaining traction finally? Lots of noise in the press recently about Tim Burton in talks to direct, and Michael Keaton interested. This could potentially affect three of the WTHH entries here (Keaton, Ryder, Davis)… any thoughts? If Burton and Keaton really are on board, I’ll definitely give the sequel the benefit of the doubt.


    • There’s been a lot of noise. But I’m not holding my breath on this one. Keaton and Burton have busy schedules. Even if a script were ready – which is not the case – it would be years before we would see a Beetlejuice sequel.


  24. 10 Excruciating Films That Ruined Your Image Of Batman Actors:

    5. Keaton Plays A Vigilante Again – One Good Cop

    If One Good Cop’s storyline sounds familiar, it’s probably because it bears certain uncanny, and unhelpful similarities with Batman. It has orphans to a murdered parent, dirty cops and a vigilante played by Michael Keaton, who goes Robin Hood on criminals (though this time it’s to pay for a new house, and to give some cash to charity.)

    There are differences of course – Keaton does’t wear a cape, or have a high-tech cave full of gadgets, and he has to balance his crime-fighting with a difficult family life centred on looking after the kids of his dead partner.

    It sort of boils down to the question of how Batman would cope if he had three kids to look after, and if Commissioner Gordon was the least understanding cop in the world.

    The problem here is that the film sort of trades on Keaton’s association with the Batman property: he was once a vigilante taking from the bad guys and protecting the good, and fans could have been tempted towards One Good Cop under a similar, false pretense. For that mistake, they were rewarded with a bland melodrama that mishandled its talents, and reduced an intriguing story into something almost entirely unwatchable.

    The Low Point

    Realising that the Robin Hood vigilante premise doesn’t really work with all of the emotional backage that would traditionally categorise a day time cable movie.


    • 10 Excruciating Films That Ruined Your Image Of Batman Actors:

      9. Keaton’s Cool Goes Too Far – Jack Frost

      Christmas films often get an easy ride, partly because showing a Christmas tree against the backdrop of snow is deeply evocative, and partly because everyone spends a good portion of the three weeks they are traditionally aired inebriated from over-strong Egg Nog and morning time Mulled Wine.

      But there are some that don’t deserve the protection.

      Jack Frost is one of Michael Keaton’s unfortunately characteristic dips in form (more of which later) that combine with the exceptional films he has made to make his career trajectory look like a particularly perilous rollercoaster. Not only is the film dripping with manipulative sentimentality (which somehow allows it a special romantic status, despite the fact that it is horribly mean-spirited and nightmarish) it also features the most repulsive creature in Hollywood history, to paraphrase Roger Ebert.

      And therein lies the issue – for as iconic and engaging as Beetlejuice and Batman were for Keaton, Jack Frost was the ultimate counter-point. He’s a sickly-sweet personification of good humanity, inadequate fatherhood and chocolate box sentimentality, wrapped up in a marhsmallowy body, and the whole sorry affair threatens to destroy Keaton’s infinite cool as Batman, despite the casting of three of Frank Zappa’s children.

      The Low Point

      It’s either when you realise that you haven’t picked up the horror movie of the same title, which at least self-consciously embraces how awful it is, or when you find yourself bawling by the end, manipulated by the ladles of sugar and Hallmark card emotion into really feeling.


  25. Here is my Question: WTHH to posting a link, instead of cutting and pasting huge swathes of internet chat boards to every single WTHH article?


  26. I would love love to see Michael Keaton back on the screen again. his talent is still there. He is from Pittsburgh Pa. and so am I. I sure would love see him come back and win a Oscar !.


  27. The Mother Brain Files Underrated Actors Special: Michael Keaton:

    I find it very hard to believe that it was 22 years ago when Tim Burton’s Batman hit the big screen. I was 5 years old at the time and I remember seeing all the bat symbol logos at movie theaters, bus stops, Times Square, etc. I even collected the first set of toys when they hit shelves. What I was not aware of at the time was the controversy surrounding the actor who was playing the title character and his name was Michael Keaton.

    Of course Batman made Michael Keaton an international superstar in 1989; however, his career has been that of a journeyman actor always looking for a new challenge. Whether it’s comedy, drama, or even a superhero flick, Keaton demonstrates a discipline in his work that makes his performances so memorable. Perhaps that explains his hit or miss track record as far as box office is concerned. Having just turned 60 years old this year, he may well be in line for a comeback very soon.

    Michael John Douglas was born in Coraopolis, PA in 1951 and was the youngest of seven children. His blue collar, Catholic family would live in the Robinson Township where Keaton was raised and was a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He attended Kent State where he studied speech only to drop out, move to Pittsburgh, and take a stab at stand-up comedy. When his stand-up career went nowhere, Keaton landed a job as a television camera operator at a local Pittsburgh station which gave him the spark to go in front of the cameras rather than stay behind it.

    Among some of Keaton’s earliest appearances included a role as one of the “Flying Zucchini Brothers” on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood where he also worked as a production assistant. Then in the late 1970s, he moved out to Hollywood when due to SAG rules, he had to change his name since there were two famous actors with the name Michael Douglas. He would read an engaging article on Godfather actress Diane Keaton that ultimately led to changing his last name to Keaton. He had planned to eventually change it but never did.

    Keaton landed a number of guest spots on major primetime shows before landing his first but short-lived sitcom Working Stiffs opposite James Belushi in 1979. But stardom in movies came around with Ron Howard’s 1982 comedy romp Night Shift. Keaton played the wild-man morgue attendant Bill Blazejowski who starts a prostitution business with his insecure ex-Wall Street stockbroker co-worker played by Happy Days’ Henry Winkler. Critics responded unanimously to Keaton’s infectious comedic energy on screen and was the kind of living cartoon persona that preceded most of Jim Carrey’s earlier films.

    Knowing that the Blazejowski role could cause him to be typecast, Keaton sought after different kinds of comedic roles including Mr. Mom, Johnny Dangerously, and Gung Ho. His turns in darker comedies like Touch and Go and The Squeeze, however, went without a trace. Then in 1988, Keaton was cast in the title role of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice. The horror comedy about a ghost helping and manipulating a dead couple into forcing a living family out of their home was the first signature Burton film with its unique production design and macabre-looking characters. But for the 17 minutes of screen-time that he spends in the film, Keaton was electric and deceptive at the same. It would be his most favorite performance:

    ““I wanted him to be pure electricity, that’s why the hair just sticks out. At my house I started creating a walk and a voice. I got some teeth. I wanted to be scary in the look and then use the voice to add a dash of goofiness that, in a way, would make it even scarier. I wanted something kind of moldy to it, too. Tim (Burton) had the striped-suit idea and we added the big eyes. I think that movie will go forever because it’s 100% original.”

    On the heels of Beetlejuice’s success, Keaton would work with Burton again as the Dark Knight himself in 1989’s Batman.

    Initially, the announcement of Keaton’s casting drew a firestorm of controversy among long time fans of the character who judged him for his comedic efforts and thought it would be another camped-up adaptation like the 1960’s Adam West series (Of course most people overlooked Keaton’s dramatic turn as a recovering cocaine addict in 1988’s Clean and Sober). But to everyone’s surprise at the time of Batman’s release, Keaton became the Bruce Wayne/Batman that was inspired by Frank Miller’s 1986 Dark Knight Returns comic series.

    While the more recent series of films starring Christian Bale are more sophisticated and grounded in reality, the 1989 Batman film worked on several levels which included Keaton’s performance. He had the look of an everyman as Bruce Wayne, mysterious without extroverting his playboy status. One look at him on the street and he’s the last guy you’d believe as the Dark Knight. Of course Keaton had the advantage of stuntmen in costume for the action scenes; however, whenever we saw Keaton in the costume, his eyes alone revealed the darkness inside him and his brooding voice was quietly natural without being over the top as Bale would do in the Christopher Nolan-directed series.

    After Batman made him an international superstar, Keaton would play another dark role as a sinister con artist terrorizing the lives of Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith in 1990’s Pacific Heights. Then he turned 180 degrees as a hero cop supporting his dead partner’s children in 1991’s One Good Cop. Although Keaton won critical praise for his performances, the public still could not shake the image of Batman and neither film got close to its success. Keaton was so identified with the role that young kids would go crazy when they saw him on other film sets.

    Keaton immediately returned as the Dark Knight in 1992’s Batman Returns which pit him against Danny DeVito’s Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. But at that point, Keaton felt as if he was impersonating his earlier outing as Batman with lacking character development. Despite the film’s success, he felt discouraged by the harsh public and studio reaction to Burton’s more dark direction which lead to Burton being ousted from the series and ultimately Keaton’s departure from the role.

    Without Batman, Keaton tried to return to his character actor roots with roles ranging from Dogberry in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, a dying husband in My Life, media journalists in The Paper and Speechless (which also co-starred Superman’s Christopher Reeve), a serial killer in Desperate Measures, and a man who clones himself in Multiplicity. None of these films were successful and even his role as a dead dad-turned-snowman in Jack Frost was a far cry from the $50 million he was offered for Batman Forever.

    In 1997, Keaton landed a significant role as ATF Agent Ray Nicolette in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, an adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel. While not extremely memorable, he would reprise the role in a cameo for another Leonard adaptation, Out of Sight, in 1998. Afterwords, Keaton mostly appeared in forgettable movies like White Noise and Herbie: Fully Loaded.

    By 2010, comedy helped to get Keaton back on the a-list beginning with his voiceover work as a living Ken doll in Toy Story 3 and reprised the part in the Pixar short, Hawaiian Vacation, which was screened with Cars 2. Then there was the part of Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell’s TLC quoting captain in the buddy cop comedy, The Other Guys.

    Even now at 60 years old, the future remains promising for Michael Keaton. He’s rumored to be working with Tim Burton again not only in a remake of Burton’s Disney short, Frankenweenie, but he also seriously interested in reprising his role as Beetlejuice in a possible sequel currently in development. Despite his years of huge success and movie stardom, Keaton still remains that blue-collar Pittsburgh guy who enjoys the Pirates, the Steelers, and saltwater fishing.


  28. I just recently watched Night Shift again, for the first time in many years. I forgot how entertaining, funny, and downright charming the movie is. Michael Keaton just steals the show. Every scene he’s in has you laughing. A revelation. Yet, It’s easy to overlook Henry Winkler when you have a scene stealer like Keaton, but I’m really impressed by Winkler’s work in Night Shift. Of course the entire world knew him as The Fonz, the epitome of cool, but he gets to display a different set of comedic skills in this film; a shame he was typecast as Fonzie to the point no one else would hire him for anything, because he showed he was no one-trick pony here. I was even surprised, looking Winkler’s career up on IMDB, that despite the respectable success of Night Shift, he would not appear in another theatrical film until 1995’s Scream, and even that was just a small cameo.

    Ron Howard, too, made his first impression as a director with Night Shift. This, along with his follow-up Splash, an even bigger success, showcased he had a knack early on for winning romantic comedies. I kind of wish he would try another one of those again, but then again nobody really makes charming romantic comedies like those anymore, nowadays every comedy has to have crude humor to sell. Ironically Night Shift’s comedy centered around prositution yet there isn’t much in the way of naughty or bawdy humor, certainly no nudity or swearing. Winkler falls for Shelly Long, a hooker with a heart of gold that looks like the girl next door. It’s about as family-friendly as a comedy can get while still centering around the world’s oldest profession. It’s still a gem.


    • Either you watched a sanitized version of Night Shift or you missed a few things. There is indeed some nudity, language and bawdy humor. Just probably not as much as one would expect given the subject matter. In the end, the movie’s sweetness wins out. I’m a big fan of Night Shift and especially Keaton’s performance in it. As you say, he was a revelation. Winkler and Long are also very winning. I’ve been batting around Long as a WTHH candidate for a while now. I’d like to get to her soon. People forget what a viable movie career she had for a while there post Cheers.


  29. Craig Hansen

    Shelly Long is the queen of actors leaving a hit tv series in an ill-fated attempt to become a major movie star. I for one would enjoy a Shelly Long write-up. Just don’t forget to include the Brady Bunch movies from the mid-90’s! They actually were entertaining and serve as the only real hit movies she had after leaving Cheers…. even if they did come a whole decade after leaving Cheers.


    • She had a pretty successful movie career on the side while she was still on Cheers. But it really did fall apart once she left the show. Which is a shame because the Sam/Diane story was really used up by then. Long leaving Cheers added life to the show and wounded her career.


      • Craig Hansen

        I agree with you 100% about Shelley Long leaving the show adding years to the shelf-life of Cheers, that’s something I’ve thought about as well. Don’t get me wrong, she was wonderful on the show, but I think the Sam/Diane central story would’ve run its course after a couple more years. The addition of Kirstie Alley (along with Woody Harrelson) brought fresh blood to the show and added years to its life, I think. Cheers had already become immensely popular during Long’s run, but it went on to even greater success afterwards: in its 9th season, Cheers was the #1 tv show in the ratings for 1990-1991. I just don’t think that would’ve happened if Long had stayed on, again no disrespect to her.

        A somewhat similar thing happened to another popular 80’s sitcom, Three’s Company. Whereas Long left Cheers on her own terms, Suzanne Somers was booted off the show for excessive demands. By the end of Somers’ run, the show was getting a bit tired and the ratings were starting to slip, if Somers had stayed on I think the show would’ve petered out. New cast additions helped give the show new blood and life, and it rose in the ratings and stayed on a few more years. Shelley Long and Suzanne Somers’ departures inadvertently helped their shows stay successful for more years, I think.


        • Totally agree. Which isn’t all that surprising since you were agreeing with me in the first place. ;)

          I prefer the Diane years to the Rebecca years. The show felt a little classier and more sophisticated. But after several seasons of “will they or won’t they”, there was nowhere left to go. That story-line had run out of juice. The same thing happened to Moonlighting. You can only drag that kind of romantic tension on for so long. The Office had a similar thing with Jim and Pam. But they were able to shift the focus to the rest of the ensemble once Jim and Pam had their “happily ever after”.

          With Alley, the focus shifted away from the central romance and onto the goofier antics of the ensemble. The who changed. I wouldn’t say for the better. But it became more of a workplace comedy like The Office which is more sustainable than a Moonlighting-style comedy/drama.

          Speaking of Cheers, I’ll be seeing ol’ Cliffy himself (John Ratzenberger) in a week and a half at Star Wars Weekend in Disney World. Just thought I’d throw that out there. ;)


          • Craig Hansen

            Hey, that’s pretty cool! I’m a huge Star Wars fan myself. The Original Star Wars trilogy were some of the biggest movies of all time, yet John Ratzenberger is the only cast member from those three movies to have any real success outside of Ford, Hamill, Fisher, despite the fact that Ratzenberger just had a small role as a rebel in Empire Strikes Back. Empire, Cheers, all of the Pixar movies (he’s the only actor to appear in every Pixar movie to date), even a cameo in the first two Superman movies….. yep he’s done pretty well for himself.


            • Yeah, he’s done all right. And by all accounts, a swell guy. He plays on the Pixar softball team. He also had a show on Travel Channel for a while.

              If I want to meet Cliffy face to face, it would require lining up in the wee hours of the morning. That’s not going to happen. But I will smile and wave as he passes by in a car during the parade portion. There’s also a talk show-style show we could attend. By the wife and kids would kill me if I used our theme park time for a Star Wars-themed talk show. So that also will not happen. But I did sign us up for a VIP dessert party which apparently includes a swag bag that will have “autographed” pictures of all the guests.

              The following weekend, Mark Hamill is going to be there. As well as Billy Dee Williams. On the one hand, kind of bummed I missed the big SW celebs by a week. On the other, glad I’m going to miss the crowds that will come with them.

              Also, I will be eating one of these.


  30. Agreed, the BB movies were excellent satire and entertaining in their own right. Much better for Long’s career than say Troop Beverly Hills and other bombs!


  31. Mark Hamill, in the flesh!?
    Nothing will ever beat the original Star Wars trilogy.


    • Yes, it is his first Star Wars Weekend appearance. Disney and Star Wars fans are going nuts. That weekend will likely be a madhouse.

      The weekend I am there the two big draws are Ratzenberger and Ray Park (aka Darth Maul). I think most of the other guests are voice actors on various Star Wars cartoons like The Clone Wars and the up-coming show, Rebels. I have seen some of their presentations on You Tube. I have to say that even though these guys aren’t big stars, they give really interesting presentations. The guy who plays Obi Wan Kenobi on the cartoon does a lot of different cartoon voices. Park does a martial arts exhibition. Really cool stuff.

      But for Star Wars starpower, it’s hard to beat Luke and Lando.


  32. Trailer Tracker: Will Birdman mark the return of Michael Keaton?


    Not since 2008, when The Wrestler promised the second coming of Mickey Rourke, has a simple movie trailer stirred such hope for a career renaissance. The picture in question is Birdman, and the actor is Michael Keaton, a.k.a. Batman.

    Granted, Keaton’s caped crusading days are more than 20 years and three-and-a-half Batmen ago. He donned the cowl for Batman in 1989 and Batman Returns in 1992. Since then, he’s been succeeded (if not always surpassed) by Val Kilmer, George Clooney and Christian Bale, with Ben Affleck waiting in the wings for 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

    Like Rourke before The Wrestler, Keaton hasn’t exactly disappeared from acting, but he’s had a low profile of late. Recent projects have included voice work (he was Ken in Toy Story 3 and Chick Hicks in Cars) and some character bits such as an evil executive in RoboCop and a mysterious race promoter in Need for Speed. In other words, nothing huge.

    That could change with Birdman, co-written and directed by Mexico’s Alejandro González Iñárritu. Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a washed-up actor famous for once playing Batman – I mean Birdman – and now trying to mount a comeback in the form of a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

    The haunting opening of the trailer – a 32-second single shot, an eternity in a medium known for rapid-fire editing – features Keaton’s character walking sullenly through a backstage throng of techies, grips and makeup personnel, backed by Gnarls Barkley’s 2006 hit Crazy. In voice-over, he growls in his best Bat-voice: “How did we end up here? In this dump? You were a movie star, remember?”

    And then he remembers, through images of superhero special effects and other scenes that look as though they might be dream sequences – Keaton running almost naked through Manhattan, and walking into what looks like a room of frozen, multi-colored bubbles.

    Then: “You’re Birdman. Let’s go back one more time and show them what we’re capable of.”

    And then he fights The Hulk! Well, not quite; he takes a swing at Edward Norton, and the two of them have at it. Norton played Bruce Banner back in 2008′s The Incredible Hulk, although maybe the relevant reference here is 1999’s Fight Club. And if the first rule of Birdman is that you don’t talk about Birdman, then fine me now. The film flies into theaters on Oct. 17.


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