In his new film Birdman, Michael Keaton plays an aging actor living in the shadow of a past superhero role. It would be easy to see this as Keaton’s swan song to Batman, a character he re-invented for the big screen in Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. But Keaton says that’s not the case. In fact, he’d be willing to play Batman again – under one condition.
“If it was Tim Burton directing? In a heartbeat,” Keaton tells Entertainment Weekly in a new cover story.
That idea of Keaton and Burton making another trip to Gotham should be enough to give Batman fans heart palpitations, however unlikely it may be. For now, Warner Bros. won’t give the cowl to anyone except Ben Affleck, who plays the Caped Crusader in the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And Keaton famously bowed out of the third Batman movie when producers started asking for bigger (and broader) approach. “I hadn’t been stupid about it,” the actor told EW. “I always knew it was a big machine with a big studio and a corporation behind it. But the simple answer was, [that approach] wasn’t any good…I tried to make them understand. But when somebody says to you, ‘Does it have to be so dark?’… I thought, ‘Are we talking about the same character?’”
For Keaton, the character’s appeal lies in his dual personalities: Vigilante superhero Batman and wealthy dilettante Bruce Wayne. “Now I can say this, because for many reasons, I never allowed myself to say it at the time: It was never about Batman for me. It was always about Bruce Wayne,” Keaton tells EW. “He’s funny! He’s screwed-up! The guy is the coolest motherf—-er in the world, and he’s messed-up!”
Despite (or perhaps because of) his personal investment in the character, Keaton hasn’t seen a single one of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies, and has no notes or advice for Ben Affleck. But he does feel strongly that Tim Burton still “gets” the genre better than anyone else. “Tim, in movies, really invented the whole dark-superhero thing,” Keaton says. “He started everything, and some of the guys who have done these movies since then don’t say that, and they’re wrong.”