Can that be true? I almost can’t believe that today Michael Keaton turns 60 yrs of age. Has it really been 22 years since the release of Tim Burton’s Batman? Believe it or not, the answer to that question is yes. It has been that long since the film in which Keaton played Bruce Wayne/Batman hit theaters and truly changed the way movies have been marketed since.
Here is a piece I wrote 3 years ago asking the question why Keaton (who’s been one of my all time favorites) didn’t have the overall career popularity/longevity that Tom Hanks has had. I think the comparison is a fair one considering that both of these fine actors can and have shined in both comedic and dramatic roles.
Here’s hoping Keaton still has a few great roles ahead of him. Happy Birthday Beetlejuice!
WHY didn’t MICHEAL KEATON ever become the SECOND coming of TOM HANKS?
After reading that actor Michael Keaton has been cast as supporting voice of the Ken doll in Pixar’s upcoming TOY STORY 3, it made me think: “Why hasn’t Keaton been more prominent in movies over the past ten years?” I’ve always been a big fan, even before he got cast as Bruce Wayne in Tim Burton’s 1989 original Batman movie. One of my all time favorite films is Ron Howard’s NIGHT SHIFT. Released in 1982, this comedy was Keaton’s first starring role and he was never better. Cast as the film’s comic engine – idea man Billy Blazejowski opposite Henry Winkler’s straight man – Chuck, Michael stole the film.
When the film hit theaters that year critics raved about this new kid on the block and. the movie scored at the box-office. This despite reports that he was close to being fired numerous times when studio executives didn’t like the film’s dailies and seriously considered replacing him. The sleeper success of Night Shift, and the buzz around a new up and coming talent, opened the door for this fresh and energetic actor. From here, Keaton went on to do MR. MOM, a big box-office success, just one year later. After Mr. Mom, Keaton worked consistently, starring in films like JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY, a spoof comedy that I always thought was a very funny although most critics weren’t as kind and the box-office wasn’t so good either. In 1986 he teamed up with Ron Howard for their second movie together, GUNG HO. The film received a mixed response from critics and, while the box-office was alright, it was far from a blockbuster. Personally, I really liked both his work and the movie itself.
It was at this point in his career that he hit his first big dry spot with back to back bombs; the little seen TOUCH AND GO in 1986 and mega bomb THE SQUEEZE one year later. That film was regarded as one of that year’s worst and many feel it was the most sub-par movie in his career. At that point the talented actor was stuck in Hollywood limbo as roles dried up. It wasn’t until Tim Burton cast Keaton in BEETLEJUICE, a part that was originally only supposed to be little more than a cameo, that his stock started to rise once again. After watching the dailies of his performance as the bio-exorcist, or the “Ghost with the Most,” Burton decided to keep beefing his part up and Keaton eventually became the heart and soul of the film. Opening in the summer of 1998, Beetlejuice was both a critical and box-office hit. Keaton, once again, was back on Hollywood’s radar screen.
That same year the actor took on a serious role in CLEAN AND SOBER and the result was astonishing. Nominated for a Golden Globe award, Keaton proved he was multi-dimensional in terms of his acting range, giving a complete and compelling performance as a recovering drug addict. While not a big box-office hit, Keaton garnered the respect of both critics and his peers. It appeared that he was entering the TOM HANKS realm of an actor who could thrive in both comedy and drama, a feat that isn’t easy to pull off. In 1989 Michael would gain worldwide attention when seen on the big screen in Warner Bros mega blockbuster, BATMAN. While many doubted the casting choice, he pulled it off in spades and was riding higher than ever! Two years later he returned for the inevitable sequel, BATMAN RETURNS. While the movie was profitable, it was not as big as the original and fans were spilt on the direction Burton was taking the franchise.
Things turned once again, and not for the better, in his career when he took a pass on the third Batman film, Batman Forever. He reportedly turned down thirty-five million dollars simply because he didn’t like the direction the studio was going in when Burton passed and Joel Schumacher took over. Since 1994 Keaton has only been in one high quality film, a starring role in THE PAPER, the third film he has done with Ron Howard. He’s gone from one bad project to another – DESPERATE MEASURES and JACK FROST in 1998, QUICKSAND, which went straight to DVD in 2003, the mediocre First Daughter in 2004 and the flat out awful WHITE NOISE in 2005, although the film did do well at the box-office. While Tom Hanks’ career thrived in the decade, Keaton’s clearly was the polar opposite. Born Michael John Douglas, Keaton is now 56 years old. Do I ever expect him to become a huge star once again? Probably not! As a big fan, I hope he may still catch a great role and win an Oscar and, yes, I think he’s that good! In a perfect world I would love to see Warner Bros let him put on the bat suit one more time and play an aging caped crusader. That would make a fascinating movie and Keaton could pull it off! Will it ever happen? Probably not. So, am I excited about his involvement in TOY STORY 3? Not really, as I think he can give the world of movies so much more than that and hope that he finds the right vehicle to make it happen.