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Who do you think of when someone asks who are the most prolific actors of this era? I personally think of Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Denzel Washington and...Michael Keaton?!?! One might think Michael Keaton is the odd man out amongst this accomplished group of actors, but his body of work firmly puts him alongside them. It may be hard to believe, but he's actually 2nd in career Box Office Earnings among this group, only slightly behind Pitt in the mid $2B range. He's been an A-list actor for three decades now and he doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. While all of these actors have had some dry spells in their career, Keaton's body of work stacks up if not exceeds his contemporaries.
After a few short lived TV appearances, Michael Keaton literally burst onto the Hollywood scene with a starring role in Ron Howard's Night Shift (1982). If you have not seen it yet, add it to your queue as soon as possible. It has aged fairly well after 35 years. In his very first starring role, Keaton managed to outshine "The Fonz" at the very height of Happy Days.
He immediately followed that up with Mr. Mom (1983), which proved he had what it takes to be a true star in any capacity. In a time when gender roles were far more defined, the notion of a man staying home to watch the kids defied the status quo. I didn't realize until many years later what I thought was a simple comedy was actually a somewhat groundbreaking satirical take on the family unit. He had solid roles in Johnny Dangerously and a few other comedies until...
Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetle…don't you say it Hoosier! Most actors pray for a career defining role like Beetlejuice (oops). It is an all-time cult classic that truly marked the launch of many Hollywood greats. These include Alec Baldwin (Married to the Mob, Glengarry Glen Ross), Geena Davis (Fletch, A League of Their Own), Catherine O'Hara (Home Alone, Wyatt Earp) and Winona Ryder (Edward Scissorhands, Heathers) With all of this talent in the film, Michael Keaton still managed to steal the show as Beetlejuice. He outshone all of that talent, which is an accomplishment itself. Still to this day one of the most recognizable characters to appear in film, Beetlejuice is a role that simply transcends the actor playing it. And Keaton still wasn't done yet.
Two more solid turns in Clean and Sober and The Dream Team deserve mention, because they are easily overshadowed by…Batman! Instead of taking the dapper Alec Baldwin from his previous film, Burton knew Keaton was the perfect actor to take on the role of Bruce Wayne. To this day, for my money, Keaton is still the best Bruce Wayne and Batman that we have ever seen. Christian Bale may have been a solid Batman (if you could get over the voice modulator), but he fell completely flat as Bruce Wayne. Ben Affleck is what I think of as Bruce Wayne character, but his Batman was downright comical (pun intended). Keaton made the role his own and made it the gold standard many others have yet to live up to, George Clooney included. With two career defining roles under his belt, where did Keaton go from here?
Pacific Heights was the perfect follow-up for Keaton. Showing a completely different side of himself as the sadistic tenant, Keaton starts to show us just how wide his acting range really is. His ability to emote fear and suspense with his acting simply stole the show in this thriller. He then flips back to the good side in One Good Cop (well kinda), as he has another solid performance as a cop turned savior battling the internal good vs evil struggle until...
Batman Returns. Keaton returned to Wayne Manor to shine even brighter than before. At a time when comic book movies weren't exactly a box office draw , Batman Returns managed to have the highest opening weekend gross and be the 3rd highest grossing movie overall in 1992. He even received a VMA for Best Kiss with Catwoman Michelle Pfeiffer. Why that Catwoman movie never got made is beyond me?
Keaton continued to receive acclaim throughout the 90's. I could go through in depth by title but to highlight a few standout performances:
My Life - A tear jerker dealing with Keaton having terminal cancer at a time when we as a nation were just truly starting to understand the devastating effects of cancer. I can't even watch it anymore having lost my mom to cancer.
The Paper - Ron Howard tabbed Keaton as the lead again in another phenomenal ensemble cast. Keaton again shows his range in this dramedy (before that was even a word) mixing the serious real world emotions of his situation with his subtle brand of humor.
Multiplicity - It definitely has its faults, but as a silly comedy you could do a lot worse. It also showcases the full range of Keaton's ability, as he played multiple versions of himself in the film. Again, this film was ahead of its time due to the social issues it framed within the context of the movie. The question of cloning was a hotly contested topic in the mid 90's, and this was a full year before Dolly the Sheep was cloned.
Jackie Brown - Tarantino added Keaton to mix it up with Samuel L Jackson and Bobby DeNiro in this underappreciated crime drama.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Jack Frost. A completely flawed concept but it's still one of my favorite yearly Christmas movies.
The turn of the century saw Keaton turn to doing more TV roles. He even received some award nominations and wins for his appearances in the miniseries The Company and the TV movie Live from Baghdad. Before we get back to the more iconic stuff, I want to mention a few other notable roles Keaton had in this decade. He played Katie Holmes father as the president in First Daughter, a teeny romance yarn of a film. Keaton's highlight for this decade was his role in White Noise. While the film was widely panned, he was still lauded for being the only shining element of it. Even still, White Noise holds the 20th highest opening horror-supernatural film of all time. This is the part where I refuse to speak on Herbie Fully Loaded. Keaton's career started to perk back up with some voice work in Cars and Toy Story 3.
The Other Guys in 2010 ended what was basically a decade of Hollywood silence for Keaton. One of the best supporting roles in a comedy I can recall, his subtlety in playing the hapless Police Captain is a stroke of genius. Among all of the over-the-top performances of Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Rob Riggle, Damon Wayans Jr., Steve Coogan and more, Keaton brings a quiet nuance with his unwitting TLC references and overall randomness. He had many memorable lines in this film, such as "This paperwork is like Bob's wife here. It's thick, ugly, and has Danson's fingerprints all over it. No offense, Bob." I consider this Keaton's "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" movie so to speak. Keaton had some more solid turns in RoboCop and Need for Speed, which then bring us to…
Birdman, a 30 year old short story from Raymond Carver, became the breakout film of 2014. I'm not sure what they were expecting when they put this together, as director Alejandro Gomez Inarritu was seemingly stepping outside of his normal comfort zone. Keaton hadn't had a true leading role in nearly the 10 years since White Noise, but it turned out to be a great decision. Class is class and it always has a way of shining through. Amidst rising star Emma Stone and the ever reliable Naomi Watts & Edward Norton, Keaton once again stole the show. The film won the Oscar for Best Picture, and Keaton won a Golden Globe for Best Actor. He should have won the Oscar for Best Actor, but the Academy preferred Eddie Redmayne's heartwarming portrayal of Stephen Hawking instead of Keaton's riveting performance.
Back on top, Keaton had nowhere to go but down right? Nah, not even close. Keaton took an ensemble role in Spotlight, a biopic that tackled another very pressing social issue concerning abuse from Catholic Priests. Spotlight won the Oscar for Best Picture, making Keaton one of the few actors to be in consecutive Best Pictures. A true, and very talented, ensemble cast (including Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Liev Schreiber) took home the SAG award along with several other nominations.
Next Up. The Founder shows Keaton try his hand at portraying the larger-than-life founder of McDonald's, Ray Kroc, in this biopic. His performance was absolutely phenomenal. I don't think you could have produced a better performance from anyone in Hollywood at the time. The film was great and I'm just shocked by how little fanfare it received. I believe due to the subject matter and how it portrayed Kroc and McDonald's, both hallmarks of American culture, people felt dirty nominating it.
Admittedly, I've not yet seen Spider-Man Homecoming as of this post, so I'm going to turn to my fellow Knight (also my editor for this piece - you are all welcome) Bighen1516 to finish out Keaton's latest installment as he switches from DC to test the MCU waters.
"One of the biggest problems with most Marvel Cinematic Universe is their shallow villains. Most MCU movies have one-dimensional villains who are simply evil for the sake of being evil. I can gladly say that is NOT the case with Spider-Man: Homecoming. While Vulture is a well-written character already, Keaton's performance really made this character be as effective as he was. His ability to go from loving father to cold-blooded kingpin in a matter of seconds was insane to see play out in the film. Keaton brings another dimension to Toomes, and that makes him one the best MCU villains of all time."
Thanks, bighen! American Assassin releases this week and early reports seem to indicate this will open to a mediocre reception ($13-16M). While it may not put up huge numbers at the box office, I think the film will be far more enjoyable than most people think and I know that Keaton will turn in a performance worth your time. It's simply what he does best.
In spite of all his accomplishments, I'm not saying we're ready to etch Keaton's face on the Mt. Rushmore of acting greats just yet. My goal was just to open your eyes to the fact that Keaton deserves to be in that conversation. He is a much more accomplished actor than you probably thought when starting this article. He is one of the great actors of MY lifetime, and while many of his hits were in the 80's and 90's, he's showing us that he still has plenty left in the tank. I expect more greatness to come from him, especially since he is working with director Tim Burton again in the new Dumbo film coming in 2019.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Keaton http://www.boxofficemojo.com/people/chart/?id=michaelkeaton.htm http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000474/?ref_=tt_cl_t1
What did I miss?
Extra Tart: Keaton is a stage name. When he went to apply for his SAG card there was already an established actor with his birth name: Michael Douglas.
Great tidbit on the extra tart!
So, which Michael Douglas is better?
That's a whole different debate! Hahaha. I gotta go Keaton for versatility (plus nearly a $1B in BO) With Douglas, he's reliable and talented, but you know exactly what you're going to get from him going into it.
Shake your dicks, this pissing contest is over
The Dream Team & Pacific Heights... need to revisit those Keaton classics sometime soon
Hahaha. I almost used that one but wanted to keep it somewhat more PG. As long as you've been playing this game I should've counted on you to provide that one. 😉
Very good stuff! To answer the question, YOU'RE our Movie Guy! (I'll see myself out now)
Love the extra tart. Hope to see more little tidbits like that next time.
Keep up the good work HMG!
Haha excellent work! I can't believe I just read nearly 2000 words about Michael Keaton, but that definitely made my day.