Simply hearing the name “Michael Keaton” conjures up images of what feels like countless movies from the past 50 years. Indeed, the iconic actor has close to 100 acting credits to his name in a career that started on “Mr. Rogers‘ Neighborhood” in 1974. Sunday, the Hollywood legend turns 70 years old. In honor of all the entertainment he’s provided us over the years, let’s take a look back at his career.
Born Michael John Douglas, Keaton quickly realized that if he wanted to make a career out of acting, he needed to separate himself from the great Michael Douglas. According to IMDb, he was reading a profile on Diane Keaton soon after arriving in Los Angeles and thought something along the lines of “that name sounds pretty good, I’ll take it.”
And so Michael Keaton was born. After a short stint on “Mr. Rogers” that saw him working on the crew and appear sparingly in three episodes, he caught a break. His first serious role came on a show called “All’s Fair.” It only lasted a season, but Keaton had eight episodes worth of screen time and leveraged that into a career.
He worked consistently, landing smaller roles on TV shows for the next few years before it happened. Come 1982, Michael Keaton’s career would change forever. In 1982, he landed a lead role alongside Henry Winkler in the Ron Howard-directed comedy “Night Shift.” From there, Michael Keaton was a movie star.
Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’
Michael Keaton played plenty of big roles between “Night Shift” and 1989 when “Batman” came out, but the superhero role is iconic. When Keaton was initially cast for the role, public opinion was split. Many fans of the comics didn’t feel that the comedically-inclined actor had what it took to play a convincing Bruce Wayne.
These days, many look back at his Batman fondly. Some even consider him the best yet. That’s saying something, considering the sheer number of acting powerhouses that have put on the costume. Michael Keaton is one among Adam West, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Ben Affleck, and Christian Bale (Not counting the TV Batmen of the 1940s, which included Robert Lowery and Lewis G. Wilson). Keaton returned three years later, reprising his role in “Batman Returns.”
Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Jackie Brown’
Again, skipping over a fair bit of Keaton’s career here for the sake of including some of his most memorable roles. That’s not to say the work he did in movies like 1993’s “Much Ado About Nothing” is anything less than awesome. But when Tarantino calls an actor, they pick up.
Keaton played the smaller, albeit important role of FBI agent Ray Nicolette. Alongside his partner Mark Dargus, Ray keeps the narrative moving by trying to take down Samuel L. Jackson’s drug dealing, gun-toting antagonist Ordell Robbie.
A quality 2016 biopic that finds Keaton playing Ray Croc, the man who turned fast food into a global phenomenon via McDonald’s. What’s not to love?
Michael Keaton made an impressive return to the superhero genre in the contemporary Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movie launched Tom Holland as the new Spiderman, and it found Keaton playing a very different role than Batman.
He played the villain, and a great one to boot. His Vulture character was believable as a blue-collar construction man just trying to provide for his family.
There are 80-plus other roles of Keaton’s to explore, and hopefully, many more coming in the future. Happy Birthday, Mike.