Actor Michael Keaton has impressed audiences and critics for four decades in a variety of roles in films that have grossed billions. First in comedic roles, then dramatic ones, and on to a pivotal performance as the first big-screen adaptation of the DC comic book superhero Batman. He's known for his range of roles, but says range isn't defined by the different characters he plays but by the range within each one; finding who they are and what they do.
Keaton speaks to Jon Wertheim about his craft, his career and his latest role as a rural doctor overwhelmed by Oxycontin, on the next edition of 60 Minutes, Sunday, October 24 at 7:30 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on CBS.
Wertheim visited the 70-year-old actor on his thousand-acre ranch in Montana for the interview.
"People talk about range… flattering. But range doesn't really-- range, schmange," Keaton tells Wertheim. "I don't think of it in terms of, 'Well, you played that. Then you were funny. And then you-- then you were a sad man. And then you--' you know, that's not really to me… range… you go inside the person... Because they're human beings, you know."
Working as a stand-up comic in Los Angeles and in sit-coms, Keaton got his big break in 1982 with "Night Shift" transferring his improv chops to the big screen. Then came "Mr. Mom." And later a deep, dramatic turn in "Clean and Sober" and a fantasy role in "Beetlejuice." That mixture of light and dark roles caught the eye of director Tim Burton and he would cast Michael Keaton in the 1989 blockbuster "Batman."
Coming off his early comedic roles, both Tim Burton and Michael Keaton knew casting him as Batman could be risky. Fans of the DC Comic hero had a hard time seeing "Mr. Mom" in the role.
"There was a lot of pressure on that movie for everybody," says Keaton. "I think Tim [Burton, the director] and I both knew… 'Ooh, this-- this could really fail.'"
The film made more than $400 million and catapulted Keaton to new heights, and another 30 movies, from "Shakespeare" to "Spotlight."
"Birdman," and his absurdist role as an actor trying to resuscitate his career, came in 2014. Keaton calls this role the most difficult thing he's done.
"It had to be so specific and so precise. You actually had to be, like, on a certain word or a point in the sentence and geographically in a spot," he tells Wertheim. "Like in a hallway or down a set of stairs. Specifically word perfect. And it was really hard. Scary every day."
That performance won Keaton a Golden Globe for best actor.
Currently Keaton can be found playing Dr. Samuel Finnix in the Hulu miniseries "Dopesick," about Big Pharma's role in this country's opioid epidemic. "You know, that means a lot to me, because… I lost a nephew to fentanyl and heroin," says Keaton of the part.
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