Who Is Michael Keaton?
American actor attended Kent State but dropped out to pursue acting. After some false starts in television, Keaton had his first hit with Mr. Mom. He later worked with directors Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Batman), Kenneth Branagh and Quentin Tarantino, and in 2014 won great acclaim for his Oscar-nominated lead role in the drama Birdman, for which he also won a Golden Globe.
Born Michael John Douglas on September 5, 1951, in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, Keaton grew up in the Forest Grove area of the township of Robinson as the youngest of seven children. His father worked as a civil engineer, while his mother stayed home to take care of the kids. At school, Keaton displayed his interest in acting by performing humorous skits.
After attending Kent State University for two years, Keaton dropped out to pursue an acting career. He found work as a cab driver and an ice cream truck driver in his hometown for a while, as he tried his hand at stand-up comedy. In 1975, Keaton made his television debut on the children's series Mister Roger's Neighborhood, which was filmed in Pittsburgh. He later moved to Los Angeles, where he started to land some television work. Keaton changed his last name in order to prevent confusion between he and famous actor Michael Douglas. In an interview in 2012, Keaton admitted he chose his famous surname quite randomly, despite the rumors that he was inspired by actress Diane Keaton.
In 1977, Keaton joined the cast of the sitcom All's Fair. He played a presidential aide in the short-lived series, which starred Richard Crenna and Bernadette Peters. After appearances on such shows as Mary, Maude and Family, Keaton landed a lead role in the comedy Working Stiffs. He and Jim Belushi played brothers who worked as janitors. The show only lasted a month. In 1982, Keaton tried again for television success with Report to Murphy, a sitcom in which he played a parole officer. The program aired for a month and a half before being canceled.
While he couldn't find fame on television, Keaton was starting to experience success in films. He starred with Henry Winkler and Shelley Long in Night Shift (1982), a comedy directed by Ron Howard. The film told the story of two morgue workers who start using their workplace as a brothel. The film was met with critical success; co-star Winkler earned a Golden Globe for his performance, and Keaton was recognized with a Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor. Box office attendance, however, was low.
The following year, Keaton had a career breakthrough with the domestic comedy Mr. Mom, a film about a man who becomes a stay-at-home dad after losing his job. The film became his first big hit, grossing more than $64 million domestically.
Keaton then starred in Johnny Dangerously (1984), a send-up of old gangster films. Unfortunately, the film received the cold shoulder from both critics and audiences alike. In 1986, Keaton again floundered with Gung Ho, which found humor in an American automotive plant after a takeover by a Japanese automaker. In 1988, however, Keaton proved his range as a performer with two very different films. He starred as a mischievous demon who helps a pair of ghosts (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) get rid of a family that moved into their old house in Beetlejuice. Directed by Tim Burton, the supernatural film that also starred Winona Ryder became a popular hit. "Tim and I both have the same sensibility. He has this darkness and melancholy about him that's kind of funny. People weren't ready for that at the time," Keaton later explained to the Guardian newspaper.
Keaton showed off his ability to handle dramatic material in his next project, Clean and Sober. In the film, he played a real estate agent with a substance abuse problem. The National Society of Film Critics recognized Keaton for his nuanced performance by giving him the award for Best Actor in 1988.
Keaton moved to blockbuster fare in 1989, taking on the role of one of the country's most famous comic book characters in Batman (1989) and its sequel, Batman Returns (1992). The films reunited Keaton with director Burton, and Keaton played the famous Batman character with a darker edge than had been portrayed in previous incarnations. Keaton's Batman was edgy, moody and emotionally wounded. In the films, he battled such legendary bad guys as the Joker (played by Jack Nicholson) and the Penguin (played by Danny DeVito). Val Kilmer replaced Keaton for the third installment. George Clooney and Christian Bale also followed in Keaton's footsteps in the later Batman films.
In 1990, Keaton starred as psychopath tenant Carter Hayes/James Danforth in the thriller Pacific Heights, opposite Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine. The film received mixed reviews overall but Keaton was praised for his performance.
Again showing his range as an actor, Keaton had a supporting role in the Shakespearean comedy Much Ado About Nothing (1993), directed by Kenneth Branagh. That same year, he starred with Nicole Kidman in My Life, playing a man facing death from a terminal illness. Keaton starred in The Paper (1994) as a New York City newspaper editor. Again working a literary angle, he played as a political speechwriter in the romantic comedy Speechless (1994) opposite Davis. Keaton then starred in Harold Ramis's comedy Multiplicity as a man who able to make copies of himself. None of these films matched the success of his early hits, however.
In 1997, Keaton worked with director Quentin Tarantino on the crime thriller Jackie Brown, a film adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel. He played a supporting role as an ATF agent who busts a stewardess Jackie Brown (played by Pam Grier) for smuggling cash for an arms dealer (played by Samuel L. Jackson). Reprising his role, Keaton made a cameo appearance in Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight (1998).
Keaton's career appeared to be in decline at the start of 2000, with appearances in only a few television guest appearances. He then starred in the 2002 television movie Live from Baghdad, about CNN reporters during the Gulf War. For his impressive work on the project, Keaton received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television. His co-star, Helena Bonham Carter, was also nominated for a Golden Globe.
After the success of Live from Baghdad, Keaton started working on a series of film projects. He played the president in the 2004 comedy First Daughter starring Katie Holmes. In 2005, he appeared in three films: the independent drama Game 6; the supernatural thriller White Noise; and the family-friendly Herbie Fully Loaded.
In 2006, Keaton voiced one of the characters in the popular animated film Cars. The next year, he returned to television with a role in The Company, a movie about the CIA. Keaton stepped behind the camera in 2008, when he made his directorial debut on the small-budget independent drama The Merry Gentleman. He also starred in the project along with Bobby Cannavale and Kelly Macdonald. In the film, Keaton played a depressed hitman who falls for a woman trying to recover from an abusive relationship. "If I've done it right [the audience will] enjoy spending time with these people, and they'll want to see how the relationships play out," Keaton explained to the Guardian newspaper.
Keaton returned to his comedic roots with 2009's Post Grad, playing the father of a recent college student starting out in life. He also lent his voice to the animated film Toy Story 3. Working with Damon Wayans Jr., Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, Keaton also starred in the 2014 action-comedy The Other Guys.
In the fall of 2014, Keaton executed an acting tour de force with his lead role in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), a film that follows the travails of an insecure, addled super-hero actor looking to return to the limelight via Broadway. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu and co-starring Emma Stone, Edward Norton and Naomi Watts, the project earned Keaton an array of new acclaim, with the actor receiving a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination. Though he didn't win an Oscar, Birdman did win the prize for best picture in 2015. Later that year, Keaton starred in the newspaper drama Spotlight, which looked at the Catholic church sex abuse scandal that rocked various communities in Boston. The film received the Oscar for best picture in 2016, with Keaton starring in the Academy's best picture wins two years in a row.
In July 2016, Keaton received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2016, he also starred as Ray Kroc, the businessman who turned McDonald's into a fast food empire, in the biopic The Founder.
Keaton was married to Caroline McWilliams from 1982 until 1990. The couple has one son together, Sean Maxwell, who was born in 1983. He also dated actress Courteney Cox from 1990 to 1995.
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