Before his big comeback as cinema’s most unkempt superhero Birdman, Michael Keaton briefly flirted with the idea of doing TV.
The star of “The Founder” (which The Weinstein’s seem to have really frigged up in terms of the roll-out) confirmed to this week a long-standing rumour that he was offered Matthew Fox’s role on noughties hit “Lost”.
The plan was to have Keaton play Jack Shepard – but kill the character off at the end of the pilot.
Here’s what Keaton tells THR, all these years later, about dropping out of the ABC smash.
“J.J. and I had a conversation – and I like what he does – I thought ‘Well, this guy’s worth talking to, he’s real smart.’ I had read some things he had written, and he told me about this idea … it’s no news now, I’m not revealing anything.
He said, ‘Here’s what happens: the guy that you think is the lead dies in the last ten minutes,’ and I immediately – when I hear things like that – like Soderbergh calling and going, ‘Hey, I want Ray Nicolette to pop up in this movie,’ … those type of things intrigue me. And I thought, ‘Yeah!’ The idea of doing an hour television show … I’m just too lazy. So I thought, ‘Wow, this is pretty good! Then I don’t have to be in the series!’
I think what happened was – and I’ve never really talked to him about this – I guess maybe we had a brief conversation where … he thought better of [the twist], or the studio said ‘That ain’t gonna happen.’ And then there was kind of a half a conversation like ‘Well, do you have any more interest?’ So … it’s not like they offered it to me, and ‘Oh, I turned that down.’
I know [Jack’s death] was what was going to happen, and that I probably would have done. Even though people would say, ‘Why would you ever do that, where you’re the big lead guy, and then you die?’ And I thought ‘Oh, that’s pretty interesting to me.’ And [J.J.]’s so good, you know you want to hang out with a guy like that.”
Another project Keaton dropped out of was “Batman Forever” (1995) – which would’ve been his third stab at playing the Caped Crusader but his first Batman film with new director Joel Schumacher.
And, according to Keaton, it was Schumacher (those damn Bat-nipples!) who totally scared him off the project.
“It sucked”, Keaton says – in the THR interview – of the script for the film. “I knew it was in trouble when he [Schumacher] said, ‘Why does everything have to be so dark?’”.
For those who’ve lost the zeal for Google searches, that third “Batman” film was originally going to be directed by Burton – but he fell off pretty quickly.
After the grim reception to Burton’s legendary and amazing (though at the time it didn’t go down so well) “Batman Returns” (1992), which Warner Bros ultimately decided was way too dark, the studio decided to reboot the series and do something… with more bat-nipples. And colour. And comedy. ‘Camp’ is probably the word that was thrown about most at the time in those studio meetings regarding ideas for the next film.
Even after his buddy and regular collaborator Burton left, Keaton remained attached to play Batman. Even his “Batman Returns” beauty Michelle Pfeiffer was in talks to reprise her Catwoman. So as much as the third film in that series was expected to be light and fluffier, it was still going to be part of the franchise that had been. It wasn’t “Amazing Spider-Man” to “Spider-Man : Homecoming”.
When Keaton decided he didn’t want to be a part of the film (aside from a script that “sucked”, he also didn’t appreciate that Batman was going to be dreadfully overshadowed by a whole bunch of villains in the movie), Warner Bros went about telling folks it was because he wanted a huge payday for it – something like $15 million and a bunch of the merchandise points. That could be true, but more likely the studio just used that as an excuse to deflect from the real reason Keaton left – skidmarks on a script.
Val Kilmer stepped in to play Batman.
(Williams wasn’t the only once-attached cast member to leave the film. Robin Williams, who was attached to play The Riddler, jumped ship, Rene Russo was axed as Batman’s love interest because the suits deemed her ‘too old’ (wankers), and Marlon Wayans – who had been contracted since the Burton days to play Robin – was dumped in favour of Chris O’Donnell. Pfft!).
If Keaton and Burton had stayed on “Batman 3”, what would the film have been? By all reports, something closer to Christopher Nolan’s movies, with the former regularly declaring his love for “The Dark Knight” trilogy and confessing that he would’ve liked to have done something similar.
It’s never too late for Keaton to come back as Batman though – particularly since there’s plenty of stories out there fixing on the senior citizen years of the superhero. In fact, a couple of years ago “Batman” (1989) producer Michael Uslan said he’d like to bring Frank Miller’s most iconic tale to the big screen… with his original dynamic duo.
“I have to say, not speaking as a producer. Understand that? I’m just wearing my fanboy hat right now. One day it dawned on me there are two actors out there who are the absolute right age right now to do The Dark Knight Returns in live action, Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.
Of course, Warner Bros would probably tell Uslan to “get lost” if he ever pitched the idea because, obviously, they have their own, new – though not especially captivating – take on Batman at the moment, with the Ben Affleck stuff.
Still, wouldn’t it be nice if studios started giving movie fans what they want instead of fast-food restaurant partners?