Michael Keaton has had a key role in the last two Oscar best picture winners, and even earned a nomination for himself for Birdman.
That has made him very relevant to today’s moviegoers, especially as his next project – the Ray Kroc sort-of biopic The Founder – is set to open in a couple weeks.
But Keaton’s fame goes back quite a few years – including a major comic book franchise he walked away from because of one particular thought: “It sucked.”
Keaton, earned critical acclaim for his breakout role in the 1983 comedy Mr. Mom. And by the end of the ’80s, he was the man who brought Bruce Wayne and Batman to the big screen.
Tim Burton, who had just worked with Keaton on the popular supernatural comedy Beetlejuice, was sure Keaton was perfect for the Dark Knight role, even if the media and Batman fans weren’t so sure themselves.
Once Batman hit theaters in 1989, however, that all changed.
We might look back at that film as what truly gave birth to the superhero explosion in films, earning a massive $411.3 million worldwide (or $807 million today). But as he told The Hollywood Reporter, Keaton nor anyone had any clue if this would be a major success, or a huge embarrassing flop.
“If it went down, we were going down in a big way.”
Instead, it went up in a big way to the point that when fans thought of superheroes, they didn’t just think if Superman’s Christopher Reeve, but they also thought of Keaton.
He returned in the title role for Burton’s sequel, Batman Returns, in 1992, earning half of its predecessor. Burton moved on and director Joel Schumacher took his place in the director’s chair. When Schumacher showed Keaton the script based on a story from Lee Batchler and Janet Scott Batchler, the actor wanted nothing to do with it.
“It sucked. I knew it was in trouble when (Schumacher) said, ‘Why does everything have to be so dark?'”
Val Kilmer would replace Keaton, and Batman Forever was a modest success in 1995. But the franchise would not be the same until Christopher Nolan took over in 2005.
The sudden high and then resulting low was a lot for Keaton to bear, and it looked like he’d never do a superhero film again – until Spider-Man came along. He’s far too old to play the web-slinger, but he was a perfect choice for director Jon Watts to play the villain Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which debuts in July.
First is The Founder, however, which marks the third year in a row he’s starred in a movie that has earned tremendous Oscar buzz. His character, Kroc, is credited as the “founder” of the McDonald’s restaurant chain. However, the film focuses on Kroc’s maneuvers to grab the company from its actual founders, creating a legacy that still remains almost impossible to surpass today.
“It’s a sneaky kind of movie. You think you’re just gonna see a biopic, and then you realize there are layers to this movie.”
The Founder already has had sneak previews in major cities to qualify it for this year’s Oscars, but expands to a wide release Jan. 20.
Spider-Man: Homecoming follows July 7.
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