Michael Keaton is just a few months shy from the traditionally accepted age of retirement. Sixty-five: when most people decide they’ve saved up enough to enjoy themselves from now until they reach their deathbeds, maybe make a few trips to Florida, and spend the rest of their days fly-fishing. Well, to be fair, Keaton does go fly fishing in his off-season, according to his interview with Midcurrent.
“When I started fishing with a fly I was probably twenty-five. It was more than that. However long I’d been doing it. Over twenty-five years ago. Thirty years ago. More than thirty.”
Keaton has been fishing for just about as long as he has been in the entertainment industry, and at sixty-four years old, he is beginning to find his way back into the Spotlight. Released in late 2015, the aforementioned movie –forgive the pun– is based on the investigative journalism unit from the Boston Globe of the same name that uncovered widespread child abuse by Roman Catholic priests – a lengthy history of corruption, monstrosities and scandalous cover-ups.
The feature resonated with Keaton’s own Catholic upbringing, as he recounted in GQ, “I had an old-school nun who beat my hand with a ruler. ‘Go stand in the corner.’ Stupid, mean, shameful punishment. It was what it was. And it shaped me. It was never a horrible thing. That said, I got lucky. I had some terrific nuns. But I got lucky. We both did. Now…those motherfuckers [the priests who abused children] have to pay the price.”
Keaton garnered widespread critical acclaim for his uncanny portrayal of real-life Walter “Robby” Robinson, although the two share limited physical similarities – might it be Keaton’s access to the high-end facial creams and moisturizers exclusive only to Hollywood superstars?
Spotlight, which has received over 100 industry and critics awards and nominations, currently holds a rating of 97% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Not too shabby for a man coming off an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his role as Riggan Thompson in Birdman, a fading actor taking one last stab at respectability in an industry that eats its old alive.
Much like himself – Keaton’s been told – with a seemingly endless throng of journalists penning story after story about how Riggan’s path in life draws parallels to Keaton’s own curriculum vitae. Asked by The Telegraph if he was offended in the least bit that director Alejandro González Iñárritu approached the two-time Batman for a role as an ex-Birdman, he replied, “No, no… Although I have to admit I’m an actor and I was in Batman, and this thing’s called Birdman and it’s about an actor, and a bird is like a bat.”
An astute observation, and Iñárritu seemed to agree. “There was no other option… He was the one,” he said, casting Keaton. And the rest is history, glory and a whole bunch of silverware. Birdman took home Academy Award for Best Picture, along with Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography from a total of nine nominations at the 87th Academy Awards. Keaton himself gleaned a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.
But even with the accolades firmly behind him, Keaton is still in the process of staunchly denying his purported resemblance to caped crusader impersonator Riggan. Birdman and Batman – not the same person. “If that was your reading of it, it’d be pretty superficial,” Keaton says. He cited Riggan’s personality as his core rebuttal, “mean and narcissistic”, he told the Huffington Post, “I wouldn’t want to hang with him a lot.”
Whether or not Keaton would want to “hang” with his on-screen counterpart is of little importance. What mattered was that Birdman re-established Keaton as one of the premier method actors of this day and age, at a time when it seemed almost certain that Keaton’s fame was beginning to dwindle like his contemporaries Al Pacino and Kevin Costner; this notion reinforced by his cameo-esque roles in Need for Speed and Toy Story 3. He drew critical acclaim for his role in Robocop, but Birdman provided him the hefty role he most certainly needed to re-emerge at the head of the pack. In Keaton’s own words, “Actors don’t get to be well-known if they’re horrible.” Or if they play horrible roles, that is.
Now with Spotlight in the clear, Keaton has emerged at the vanguard of acting’s “sixty is the new thirty” movement and has rediscovered his passion for showbiz. Which does draw an ostentatious parallel to Riggan – whether he likes it or not.
The only thing I would say is that in the last two years, I’ve started to really enjoy acting again… Not that I ever hated it; it wasn’t as dramatic as that. But I’d raised a kid, I’d been through a lot of stuff like everybody. Then things started to level off, and I thought, ‘OK, you know what? I’m feeling like I want to (focus) more. It’s no accident that I happen to be in a really, really special project right now.
Keaton is set to play Ray Kroc, McDonald’s infamous forefather in The Founder, which comes out on November 25, 2016. Plenty of time for fly-fishing until then.
Above: A scene from Birdman, “What has to happen in a person’s life for them to become a critic, anyway?”