Perhaps best known for his role as millionaire turned superhero Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman, Michael Keaton was born under the name Michael John Douglas on September 5th, 1951, in the state of Pennsylvania, USA. His father worked as a civil engineer, while his mother stayed at home to look after her children. Michael is the youngest of seven children of a middle-class, catholic family of European ancestry.
Keaton’s first attempts to pursue an acting career were when he dropped out of Kent State University, after being enrolled for only two years. Before acting professionally, Michael had appeared in plays at his university. His television debut came in 1975, when he appeared in the Pittsburgh public TV programs Where the Heart Is and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. As there was already a Michael Douglas in the acting business, he decided to take the stage name “Michael Keaton.” The reason behind his name was that he had simply found the surname in the phonebook and decided on it.
Keaton next starred on the comedy series Working Stiffs, alongside Jim Belushi, which was short but led to co-starring in his breakout role in the comedy Night Shift, by director Ron Howard. It later led to him becoming the lead man in the comedic film Mr. Mom, which was a critical success. Thanks to his comedic skills, Keaton was increasingly getting cast in these types of movies. He tried to transition into more dramatic roles and films by the mid ‘80s but wasn’t as successful.
In 1988, Keaton starred as the lead man in two critically acclaimed, but vastly different roles: first he starred as the titular character in Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, and later portrayed a drug addicted realtor in the drama film Clean and Sober. Both movies helped boost Keaton’s career and landed him amongst the Hollywood elite.
The following year, in 1989, Keaton collaborated again with Tim Burton, another turning point in his career and increasing his popularity, as he was cast as Batman, opposite Jack Nicholson as the Joker. The film and its 1992 sequel were met with widespread acclaim.
Keaton continued to act in films with various degrees of success, such as Live From Baghdad, First Daughter, and Herbie: Fully Loaded, but was unable to achieve the same level of success as Batman. In 2006, he lent his voice to Disney/Pixar’s animated movie Cars (2006), which was well received by the audience, spawning a franchise of its own.
In 2017, he returned to the comic book world, this time portraying a villain in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), a role he reprised in the movie Morbius (2022). He was reunited with his Batman director to play yet another villain in Disney’s live-action adaptation of Dumbo (2019). Keaton later went on to win a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for starring in Hulu’s Dopesick in 2022.