Actors often pass into obscurity, even the ones who at one point were the hottest thing in Hollywood; unsurprisingly the world of celebrity is a fickle beast. Take Michael Keaton, who, for a short period of time -in the late ’80s and early ’90s -was one of Hollywood’s top leading men; a status indisputably due to his casting in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989).
But despite being prominently positioned, Keaton never quite matched the success of Beetlejuice (Burton, 1988), Batman or Batman Returns (Burton, 1992). After his final film -to date -with Burton, Keaton’s career clearly took something of a nosedive, rarely finding a project worthy of his awkward and haunted abilities, and films like Much Ado About Nothing (Branagh, 1993) did very little to help his cause -and that’s despite starring alongside my own personal Jesus friggin’ Christ, Keanu ‘cool breeze’ Reeves.
There are of course a few exceptions, like Multiplicity (Ramis, 1996), a small role in Jackie Brown (Tarantino, 1997) and a cameo in Out of Sight (Soderbergh, 1998). I’m also rather fond of his bad guy turn in the trashy but fun Andy Garcia thriller Desperate Measures (Schroeder, 1998). But during this period we also had to endure Jack Frost (Miller, 1998) and Herbie Fully Loaded (Robinson, 2005). However, I would argue that the good performances still outweigh the bad, but the writing was clearly written on the batcave, Keaton’s mass appeal had waned.
But, like a vigilante beckoned out of retirement, Hollywood’s Dark Knight has returned, with something of a career resurgence, not necessarily as the leading man he once was, but in the fringes as a supporting actor, albeit in some very big Hollywood productions: Robocop (Padhila, 2014) and Need for Speed (Waugh, 2014).
Ok, so neither of those are exactly great films, but then there’s the upcoming indie Birdman (2014) from the director of Amores Perros (2000) and Buitiful (2010), Alejandro GonzÃ¡lez IÃ±Ã¡rritu.
Birdman tells the story of a washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero, and in an attempt to reclaim his former glory he must overcome his ego and family troubles. Ooo, see what Keaton did there! *Coughs; Batman!*
However, back in the late noughties, prior to lending his vocals to Toy Story 3 (Unkrich, 2010) as Ken and his supporting role in the Will Farrell comedy, The Other Guys (McKay, 2010), quietly and without pomp, or to much applause for that matter, Keaton directed and starred in the scandalously -but predictably -overlooked drama, The Merry Gentleman (Keaton, 2008).
I say scandalously overlooked, but that was largely by the general public alone, generally, critics received Keaton’s directorial debut very warmly and the late Roger Ebert called it: ‘original, absorbing and curiously moving‘ and he knew a thing or two about a good movie.
For more on The Merry Gentleman click here to read retrospective review, but in the meantime, enjoy these clips from my favourite Keaton films and don’t forget to tell us your favourites in the comments section below.
Need for Speed is on national release now and Birdman will be in cinemas later this year.