He rules, at least in his head. Actor Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) commands the world with a snap of his fingers in the surreal dark comedy, "Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)."
Keaton's performance has won accolades greater than any in the actor's long career, which began with slapstick comedies like "Beetlejuice" and "Mr. Mom," and grew to super-hero proportions in his two stints as Batman.
Of his nearly four-decade career, Keaton told CBS News' Lee Cowan, "There's not a person breathing who's more grateful than I."
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, an actor who's famous for playing The Birdman, a comic book superhero. But the role has overshadowed his career, and we find him trying to mount a comeback on Broadway - writing, directing and starring in a show beset by problems, including an out-of-control actor played by Edward Norton.
"Risk is part of the deal, I think, with everything how I've made my living," Keaton told CBS News' Lee Cowan. "Being an actor, fear could be a good thing, you know? If it's the right kind of scared, that's usually a good sign. That's when I go, 'Oh, boy!'
"In 'Birdman' it was chocked full of fear, man. 'Birdman' was like, 'Wow. I don't know if I can do this.' But there was no question. I was just goin', "No, no, you're doin' this. But whoa, boy! Whoa, boy!'"
Born in Pittsburgh in 1951, Michael Douglas (he later changed his name professionally, on account of two other famous Michael Douglases) was the youngest of seven, and grew up a joker.
"I was pretty funny and I must have liked the attention," Keaton said. "It's weird, 'cause I actually don't like attention. But I must have liked the attention [then]. And I probably got a lot of it."
"Mister Rogers' Neighborhood"
One of Keaton's first jobs was as a stagehand at PBS station WQED in Pittsburgh, which produced "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." In addition to operating the Trolley, Keaton was recruited to perform.
"I'm pretty sure I dressed up as Black and White Panda," he laughed. "Fred was really a nice man, and really a great sense of humor."
Michael Keaton's early TV roles included 1982's "Report to Murphy" (top left, with Donnelly Rhodes); "Working Stuffs" (1979), costarring Jim Belushi (bottom left); and the 1978 variety show "Mary," starring Mary Tyler Moore. Keaton's castmates included (clockwise from top) David Letterman, Dick Shawn, Swoozie Kurtz, James Hampton and Judith Kahan.
Keaton based his exuberant character in "Night Shift," a comedy about a call girl ring operated out of the city morgue, on guys he grew up with. [His costars were Henry Winkler and Shelley Long.]
Keaton "improvised like crazy, which [director] Ron Howard was totally cool with."
But not everyone was. "They wanted to fire me," he said. "I've almost been fired from several things!"
Michael Keaton as an unemployed father with his hands full, taking over domestic responsibilities in the comedy "Mr. Mom."
"I talk about this movie a lot, actually -- first of all, what it had to say about men and women in the work force. And at the time, the economy wasn't so great. And people were talking about that.
"I didn't, frankly, think it was that big a deal that, you know, the man had to stay at home. It was just people living their lives trying to pull it all together."
Although Keaton turned down the comedy "Splash," he worked again with director Ron Howard on "Gung Ho" (as the liaison between Pennsylvania auto workers and the Japanese management) and "The Paper."
"I got spoiled," Keaton said of the freedom of improvisation on Howard's films. "That's what was good about having to do, when Kenneth Branagh asked me to do his movie, there was no improvs. You can't really improvise Shakespeare, you know?"
Michael Keaton's first collaboration with director Tim Burton was as the hyperactive zombie in the ghoulish comedy, "Beetlejuice." Keaton praised the freedom he had to develop his character, from the walk and the voice to the hair and fake teeth.
"The great thing about that is, you can't compare that to anything. That was free rein. 'Cause you can never say, 'My character wouldn't do that!'" he laughed.
"You go, 'I don't know, I don't even know what my character is. He could do anything. So let's just run!' And it was really fun. Oh, man, really, really fun."
"Clean and Sober"
Michael Keaton played a cocaine addict who enters a drug rehabilitation program run by Morgan Freeman, in the 1988 drama, "Clean and Sober."
Michael Keaton and Kim Basinger in Tim Burton's "Batman" (1989).
Years before there was a "blogosphere" and Ben Affleck, there was media buzz about the announcement that comic actor Michael Keaton would play the Caped Crusader. "Sorry, I think this is hysterical that people take any of this that seriously. But it was a huge controversy. I mean, you know what you have controversies about? You have controversies about ISIL, Gaza. To this day I think it's funny. Now, I dig it. Now, I love it. I really think it's awesome!"
"But there were, like, petitions, right?" said CBS News' Lee Cowan. "People were writing to Warner Brothers saying, 'Oh, no, you can't have 'Mr. Mom' play Batman.'"
"Yeah, villagers with torches coming to get me," Keaton laughed. "I went, 'Jeez, why is everybody so upset?' I probably did a combination of squelching it, but also, 'Okay, good. This what I need, a little juice!'"
Michael Keaton with director Tim Burton on the set of "Batman."
The film grossed more than $400 million worldwide, squelching any criticism about "Mr. Mom" playing The Bat.
Michael Keaton played an extremely dangerous tenant who rents an apartment in Melanie Griffith's townhouse, in John Schlesinger's thriller, "Pacific Heights."
"One Good Cop"
Michael Keaton played a New York City police detective and family man in "One Good Cop," costarring Rene Russo.
Michael Keaton returned to the Batman character in 1992's "Batman Returns," featuring Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. But he turned down an offer for the third Batman film.
"Now that we've seen it and kind of dipped our toe in the water a little farther, now it was clear to me what you had to do," Keaton said, "which was what Christopher Nolan ended up doing. I was really interested in that - and 100% uninterested in everything else that they wanted to do."
"What was it about 'III' that you just didn't like?" asked Cowan.
"Sucked!" replied Keaton.
"Much Ado About Nothing:
In Kenneth Branagh's 1993 film adaptation of "Much Ado About Nothing," Michael Keaton costarred as Dogberry the constable.
In "My Life," Michael Keaton starred opposite Nicole Kidman as an expectant father who learns he has terminal cancer.
Clones of Michael Keaton's character create chaos in the pre-CGI Harold Ramis comedy "Multiplicity."
"It was really fun," Keaton said, "which was my opportunity to, you know, totally steal from Jerry Lewis and everybody else!"
"Jackie Brown"/"Out of Sight"
Quentin Tarantino asked Keaton to play an FBI agent in his 1997 crime film, "Jackie Brown" (top). When he was then asked by Steven Soderbergh to play another FBI agent in "Out of Sight" (below, with Jennifer Lopez), Keaton told him he'd do so if he could appear as the same character.
"I thought that was the coolest idea," Keaton said. "I said, 'I'll do it. But you have to do one thing: You have to make sure he is that guy.' There has to be something in the wardrobe that you go, Oh, there he is again! 'Cause I wanted the people to be sitting in the theatre going, 'Oh, I might see him at the Dairy Queen later, like he's a real guy out there wandering around in life. Then he might pop up in another movie. He might be down at the mall!"
In the 1998 thriller "Desperate Measures," Michael Keaton played a convicted mass murderer who has something that police officer Andy Garcia wants: bone marrow, for a son who suffers from leukemia.
"Live From Baghdad"
Keaton, who had studied journalism at Kent State before dropping out of college, and who played a journalist in "The Paper," returned to the media front lines in the HBO film, "Live From Baghdad."
Written by Don DeLillo, "Game 6" starred Michael Keaton as a Broadway playwright whose anger over the Boston Red Sox's loss to the New York Mets in a crucial 1986 World Series game triggers an act of violence. Costarring Robert Downey Jr and Ari Graynor.
In 2004 Katie Holmes starred as the "First Daughter" of President Michael Keaton.
"Herbie Fully Loaded"
"The Love Bug" returned to the screen in the 2005 comedy, "Herbie Fully Loaded," costarring Lindsay Lohan and Michael Keaton.
Keaton returned the following year as the voice of another vehicle, Chick Hicks, in the Pixar animated film, "Cars."
Michael Keaton played an American counterintelligence officer searching for a KGB mole in the miniseries, "The Company."
"The Merry Gentleman"
In his directorial debut, "The Merry Gentleman" (2008), Michael Keaton starred with Kelly Macdonald ("No Country for Old Men," "Boardwalk Empire") as a professional killer who befriends an abused woman running from her husband.
"Toy Story 3"
Michael Keaton returned to Pixar to provide the voice of the Ken doll in "Toy Story 3."
"The Pixar guys are so talented. I like being around creative people. So they called and said, 'We're doing 'Toy Story 3,' and then they started talking about Barbie and stuff, and I thought, 'Oh, is this going where I think it's going?' And then they told me. Literally the phone fell, 'cause I started laughing. I don't know, I just thought the idea was really funny, just to play Ken."
"The Other Guys"
Michael Keaton played the suffering captain of police detectives Will Farrell and Mark Wahlberg in "The Other Guys."
Philip Baker Hall and Michael Keaton in the HBO comedy, "Clear History."
Michael Keaton (pictured with Abbie Cornish) starred as the CEO of OmniCorp in the remake of the sci-fi actioner, "Robocop."
"Need for Speed"
Michael Keaton played the host of an underground road race in "Need for Speed."
Michael Keaton's Riggan Thomson, tailed by the voice inside his head, that of his most famous character, Birdman.
Much has been made of Thomson's similarities to Keaton, who likewise gained extraordinary fame playing a superhero, and then seemed to fall off many people's radar. But the actor says it was all coincidence.
"I wouldn't call it autobiographical by a long shot, at all. But of course, the meta of it, that everyone now talks about, is amazing," he told Lee Cowan." It makes it all the stranger for me. I don't know why, frankly, people are so intrigued. But I probably relate less to this character than anybody I've ever done. That's the irony."
"You don't have that voice in your head?" asked Cowan.
"I've got other voices in my head!" Keaton laughed. "I don't have that one!"
Michael Keaton, Naomi Watts and Zach Galifianakis in "Birdman."
Michael Keaton with Amy Ryan, who plays the actor's ex-wife, in "Birdman."
Michael Keaton with director Alejandro G. Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki on the set of "Birdman."
It was filmed in long, unbroken takes, stitched together to appear as if the movie were one continuous shot. It plays more like a theater production than a movie.
"It was the most intense thing I'll probably ever do," Keaton said. "You had to be cue perfect. You come around the corner on a certain word and enter the shot. And if one person messes up - and it could be the prop man, it could be makeup, it could be anyone - you start all over and go back and shoot it again."
Michael Keaton in a Times Square liquor store, in "Birdman."
New York Film Festival
Actors Edward Norton, Michael Keaton and Naomi Watts attend the Closing Night Gala Presentation of "Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)," during the 52nd New York Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall on October 11, 2014 in New York City.
For more info:
"Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" (Official site)
Michael Keaton takes wing in "Birdman" ("Sunday Morning")