Michael Keaton has been somewhat out of the public eye for a little while.
Originally he rose to Hollywood fame in the 80's catching attention in films
like NIGHT SHIFT and MR. MOM. After huge success with the
first two BATMAN films, he continued to play a leading man in films
like THE PAPER and MULTIPLICITY, and saw quiet but fun
supporting roles in movies like MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and Quentin
Tarantino's JACKIE BROWN. In these last few years he's stayed
away from big budget flicks it seems, even showing up in a made-for-cable film
called LIVE FROM BAGHDAD. Now he's back on the marquee, playing
the lead again, and in what may be one of the creepiest concepts for a film in
quite some time. Personally I'm glad to see him return to the big
screen. Keaton has always impressed me as a leading man, even if he's
playing a bad guy. Though he began his career with comedy, Michael has
worked in a wide variety of genres. He's handled drama with terrific
results in films like CLEAN AND SOBER, and even shown an imposing dark
side with movies like PACIFIC HEIGHTS and DESPERATE MEASURES.
I had a chance to talk with him about his newest outing WHITE NOISE.
Producer Paul Brooks, who previously gave us MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING,
was also in attendance. Here is what they had to say:
Paul Brooks talks
about bringing on Michael Keaton, and the concept of E.V.P. (Electronic Voice
PAUL BROOKS: The studio
thought "Where's Michael been?", and I thought well he's the guy for it.
Well (A) I just thought he'd be great in the movie, which he is. And (B)
he's one of these guys who is iconic, and so many people have such a good
feeling towards him. I think he is one of the American iconic
actors, and I just wanted to work with him for ages. And then finally
found something... and he said "Finally after all of the shit scripts you've
been handing me I get this one... maybe I'll do it." The thing that's
interesting about the movie is that it's based on something which is actually
happening. It's almost like it's been under the carpet for 20 years, and
now suddenly people are lifting the carpet and saying "What is this?!"
The beautiful thing about it is there's no agenda. There's no kind of
psychic who you have to pay. You go home and just try it yourself.
What are we talking about?
MARK: Well I guess
let's start with what was your attraction to this particular role?
Coming from a comedic background where you got started, do you enjoy doing
more dark films like this? Is it more of a chance to challenge you as an
Well always that. That certainly is the driving force. I'm
actually dying to do a comedy. I can't seem to find anything that I find
funny. That script was offered to me, and I get offered a lot of things.
Some get close, but... so I wasn't like going "Oh I don't want to do a comedy,
I wanna do something serious, and I wanna be dark." No, I don't really
think much like that. Except that I am in the mood to do a comedy, and I
always am in the mood to do that. It's just that for whatever reason...
it's whatever comes along at the time that makes me feel like I want to do it,
and most of the time that's nothing. This was a genre in which I'd never
been involved. Never end a sentence with a preposition.
I'll allow it this time.
And don't reach in front of your brother to get some butter.
KEATON: Nah, I used to
say that. Unless your brother is blind and he can't see, then reach in
front of him anyway.
So this was just really intriguing in that I've never done this genre, and
also I've been involved in... and there I go. I'm gonna do it, you know
I'm gonna end another sentence with a preposition before the day is over.
So anyway, I also just thought it was really well written and really
interesting. And then a really interesting thing happened. Well,
it never happened to me. You say "This is really interesting material if
you get the right director" and that's very rarely often the case. And
then they'll say "Well here's a really good script, and here's a really good
director" and then you do it, and then the movie is not good. And you
don't understand it. What Paul and I were saying is just because he's
really good, it's gotta be the right guy. It's gotta match up and make
sense. Then a lot of times they'll say "Well that's a good director, but
he doesn't want to do it." And I was ready for them to say we gotta find
the right guy to do it, and that knows how to do this thing, and that's gonna
take a long time, and it may never come together. And then he said "I
got the guy" and I thought this won't work, because it's the first guy.
But he did this version of OTHELLO for the BBC.
And it was really good. Not only was he good and talented, but he was
the right guy to do this kind of material, we all thought. Because in
this OTHELLO, there's constant tension in it. In his version of
it, when this cop starts to go down, he's spiraling down... you're really
tense and uncomfortable, but also it's really tense and emotional. He
managed to make you think, you think you know what your life is, but a couple
wrong turns... something goes wrong, and you run into the wrong person at the
wrong time, all of a sudden you're saying "I'm not that guy." But all of
sudden you are that guy. I never realized how really great that play is.
Actually, to be honest, that's the only version of that play I've really seen.
And you really feel that, and it's spooky and creepy. Cause he made you
get into his shoes. That's what had to happen in WHITE NOISE.
I believe in a lot of films, that's what has to happen, and that's what I try
to do. I think actors, once you sign on, you say "Okay, here's my job,
I'm taking the burden, I want the burden." Otherwise it's wimpy.
Cause he's the guy at risk, the actor has the biggest risk. You say
"Let's go, drop it on my shoulders. I'm going down."
PAUL BROOKS: The
other thing that's interesting about his version of OTHELLO and WHITE NOISE is
that there is kind of a Kafka-esque aspect to both of them, in what happens to
the main character.
He's talking about Larry Kafka by the way. Excellent sausage maker.
Almost no fat in it. No, the other thing is, we set it up right, and
then you go "Oh man, what if?" What if that happened to me, or what if
this really is true. Now you're in the guy's shoes. Now hopefully,
if it works, you go down the road with him. That's what you try to do, I
think in all movies. But certainly in this, that's what we wanted to do,
and that's what I wanted to do. It's set up pretty well I think.
People keep mentioning things in this, probably more so than in other film
I've done, everybody keeps noticing something differently. Dr. Phil
McGraw kept saying "This is really thought-provoking." Cause you know in
two hours you've got to tell the story and you also have to have the scare
points and all the things that are practical, and then you've got to edit it.
So all the things we talk about, you hope they stay in there, or that people
get it on some kind of subconscious level. It's really hard to have
all these levels be really apparent. But apparently it's getting through to
some people. This one journalist said "You know women are your aids in
this movie." I remember thinking during filming, the girl that shows up
as his ex-wife, she tried to help him... actually a lot of that got cut down,
but she was trying to be sympathetic and really help him. There was a
really nice scene where she comes to help him and was really worried about him.
He goes to a woman psychic. The Deborah Kara Unger character is kind of
his guide. Women are really taking him through this experience, which is
kind of interesting. There's a lot of that stuff in here. I don't
know how much of it comes up, but people are mentioning it.
On playing an
everyman type of character
He's an architect, so it's a specific career. But not like if you worked
for the county or township, where you work an administration job and there's a
certain kind of line to it. When things are just a little more specific,
it starts to remove a little more from the "everyman". I wanted to make
him approachable, but it was already in the script actually. Because you
want to relate. This is the point in his life where he's really happy,
he kind of found it. He's got the marriage he wants, he's deeply in love
with his wife, he deeply loves his son. Now he's going to have another
child. His business is going. It's great. He's like "I got
it, it's all set." And then it gets totally taken away from him.
So that's a really nice setup. I think that shot at the beginning is a
really nice shot. You don't know exactly why you're uncomfortable, but
at the beginning, it's kind of perfect, but there's something just a little
weird about it. It's not so on the head, like nobody is a caricature.
He's really smart, this director of photography, and this director. They
set it up so you didn't quite know why, but it looked just a little odd.
Like there's something under it, and you don't know what it is. And it's
gonna come. It does, and it takes his life away. Then you spiral
down with him, or spiral up, whatever your point of view is. He becomes
obsessed. In the beginning he starts out doing something essentially
for him, to make him feel better, and then kind of ends up taking the high
road and doing something for somebody else. Becomes like a mystery
Almost seems like he becomes kind of a supernatural hero.
Yeah, somebody else mentioned that before. That's exactly what it was.
I don't know if at the time I really thought that. But that's the second
time that's been mentioned.
Has this movie
affected his views about E.V.P.?
Sometimes people don't understand or agree with me. They think it's one
or the other. I think there's very, very, very, very few things in life
that are one way or the other. I'm a total defender of people's faith.
I mean if you're Baptist, or you're Buddhist, or you're a Jew or a Catholic,
I'm envious actually of deep faith. And I'm a total defender of
organized Religion in that regard. Churches should have respect paid.
I was in a nightclub one time in New York years ago, that was known for it's
decadence, and it was in a former church. And it totally pissed me off.
I just thought it was disrespectful. And I'm not a churchgoing guy, I
just didn't like the fact that someone thought it was hip to take a place that
was designed for faith and worship, and then say "Hey let's go do a bunch of
blow in the bathroom", and act like we're cool, and you know practice
KEATON: You know, it's
a uh, joke. But you know, like "We're hip and decadent." You know
fuck that, it's bullshit. A church is designed for something specific.
On the other hand, there's no logic to organized Religion to me. None.
Zero. Once you become a member of one organized Religion, you say all
other Religions are wrong. It's absolutely 100% impossible. It's
illogical on every level. But if someone said "Man, this is my faith",
I'd be right there to say you have a right to do that. So for me to say
"Ah bullshit, this can't happen", I don't even know enough about E.V.P. to say
it, so I'm not qualified to say whether it's bullshit or not. There
apparently is tons of evidence, just like I don't think you could argue that
certain people have certain psychic abilities. Now, in the world, they
help police solve cases... there just is. There's a kind a logic to it,
to me though, truthfully. I saw this movie WHAT THE #$*! DO WE KNOW!?,
and it's a really interesting movie. And when you see it, there's a part
of it that's just so out there that I'm just not bright enough to be even
close to understanding it. But some of it is just logical to me.
It's not even that far out there, it's just logical the way things work... or
don't work. Or why you could never understand how things work. You
know what I mean? How the mystery is larger than all of us. So I'm
wide open to stuff, so if people say that this stuff works and we have proof,
to them it does and that stuff's real, and that's their reality. And
we've all decided to take a stand and not even try it, cause you don't want to
be in a situation where you did it and it doesn't work, and then say "Ah, it's
a bunch of bullshit." or "Yes it works, and this is my experience." I
don't want to know, and as the character I didn't want to know. We were
halfway through the movie, and someone mentioned the website, and I was like
"What website?" I just thought the guy made it up. We were talking
to a woman today, and she was very quiet during the interview. After it
was over she came up and said "I loved this movie. I've been into this
for about 20 years."
What will really be fascinating is a year from now to see what the cultural
impact of E.V.P. is. I think it's possible we could see something
extraordinary. BBC just did a huge and deeply researched documentary,
and one of the most respected journalists in the country, whose name eludes
me, has just written an extraordinary piece in The Guardian about how she
contacted a dead relative through E.V.P., and this is not like some wacko
living in a tee-pee in outer Mongolia... not that there's something wrong with
having a tee-pee.
KEATON: I wasn't going
to say anything.
We had an extraordinary occurrence in some of the pre-marketing of this where
in a room full of journalists the E.V.P. folks asked if anyone wanted to try
an experiment. And a producer on this TV show, really a kind of cynical
journalist said sure. They put the tape in, and geared up the radio
recorder to the white noise, and she asked to speak to Uncle Paul. The
played it back and a voice came through and said "Beck, it's Paul." The
whole room freaked out, and she's like "You have to be kidding me."
KEATON: He's the only
guy who called her Beck. That was his name for her.
What's interesting about this is there's no agenda. It's not like
somebody trying to make money out of it. You plug it in, you turn it on,
and the voice comes back or it doesn't.
KEATON: Well there is
the radio that I am selling. It's kind of like a version the George
There's these E.V.P. groups all over the world. There's an extraordinary
group in Brazil led by this woman. The real beneficiaries of this have
been mothers whose children have passed away, and how they have really
achieved real comfort by connecting with their dead. What's fascinating
about this in this kind of radio wave led world we live in is what if there is
something to this? It's just possible there may be. You know
there's 280 billion people in America. If 10% of them tried it, and 10%
of them find something, that's pretty radical.
KEATON: Here's the
other thing when you think about it... the world has advanced technologically,
I don't know, 1000 times faster than we have emotionally or psychologically...
or maybe a million. I don't know. It's kind of the basis of what
we tell in this movie, when people get in the discussion of possibility or
potential, and also what the human can comprehend and can't comprehend.
When people get into parallel universes and all that, there's theories that
there's way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way more out there than we
could ever comprehend or we can see or know. And it's right there in
front of you, but your perception is only our perception. So when you
start thinking about it like that it's wide open, now it's wide open, you know
what I mean? Look what's around me, all these satellites. I was
working on this movie, talking to Katie Holmes' bodyguard or security guy, and
he started talking about advances in how you track people and GPS and stuff
like that. He had a case of some strange guy, not with her but with
another person. And he started telling me things. He said "Start
paying attention to how many places have cameras and satellites, and cel
phones", cause what you can do is track people, that's how a lot of
celebrities get followed, they scan you or something. And you have to
get a thing on your mobile phone that de-scans it so they can't pick it up.
And then you start to think about all of this... Jesus. I just barely
understand what computers do, barely, so I'm probably perfect for these guys,
they're just gonna come and get me. In fact I'm too stupid! They
just look at me like I'm Bill and Ted. "If we capture him and take him
to out planet, he's too stupid to give us anything!"
They're gonna break into your house and program your VCR.
His first impression
after seeing the completed movie.
KEATON: I liked it, I
thought it was all... I'm the worst person to ask about all this, because I'll
sit here and go "Well you know I wish we could've gone back and get that
thing, and do that." You know if it were up to me I'd remake almost
every movie I was in... and I would probably take myself out of a few of them.
You know, get another guy, this is a big mistake! That's not true, some
things I go "Hey you know what, that's it, it's fine, I'm cool with it."
But I'm a little perfectionistic, and it's not necessarily a good thing, I
Was there anything
he expected to be different than it actually turned out?
KEATON: I thought I was
This is an interview based on a serious movie.
I think he wanted to make it a comedy!
KEATON: No, no... no.
If you look at the first BATMAN though, this is an interesting thing to
look at... there's a shot, and even then, to show you how far we've come
technologically, even then we looked at and went "Aw man" but he had to do it.
It's a shot where, I can't remember, I look down over a building, and you see
somebody has to get out of a car or building or something like that, it's so
bad it's unbelievable. That movie was so gorgeous, especially at the
time, and visually different than anything... and then all of sudden there's a
picture of this bogus little like cartoon guy. Just weird. Tim
hated that, it drove him crazy. But once again, couldn't fix it.
No time, no more money, gotta go with what you gotta go with. And that
was a big budget.
His thoughts on the
next Batman movie.
KEATON: My prediction,
I don't know anything about it, but I feel this way about it. It's gonna be
good, because he's a really good actor, and that's a really good director.
And they've had years and years and years, and hundreds of millions of
dollars, or at least tens of millions of dollars to figure it out. I say
it's gonna be good. I picture it's gonna be good. And also, I
swear to God it's not an "I told you so", it's maybe an interesting thing,
that when I didn't like the third script... I just said "I really don't like
this, and I don't want to do it" cause what I wanted to do, is what I'm told
and I don't know if this is true yet so don't hold me to this until I see it,
but I'm told it's more a prequel. And that was what I thought would've
been a hip way to go the third time. This guy is so endlessly
fascinating potentially, why not go and see how he got there.
His best Batman
KEATON: This is a
two-fold story, it's a Jack Nicholson story and a Batman story. He the
greatest, and he's my friend. He's unbelievably professional. Part of his deal I think either on that movie or maybe on all movies,
and don't hold me to this, but I think he just doesn't work until a certain
time. It's not like 3 in the afternoon, but it's not like 6 (am). I
think part of his deal was like 9 or something like that, you know reasonable,
but don't expect him to show up before 9. But he's unbelievable when he
gets to work, and he's the best, and smart... hard worker, on his lines,
everything, just a consummate pro. But he'd come in and we'd be in the
make-up room. And he's such a sports fan, such a knowledgeable sports
fan, and that was back when there wasn't as much good TV in London.
(sarcastically touchy) You ready?
KEATON: Touchy those
Brits! There wasn't, but there was just like endless stuff, like so much
KEATON: And we're like
basketball fans, and football fans, and baseball fans, and we're starved.
We'd get the tapes to watch Laker games, and nobody could tell us what
happened. So we'd watch the tapes of the Laker games, but we were a day
or two behind. So we'd do that, but there's nothing else, and we'd talk
about what we did the night before or what we watched. Something like
that. And this is true... I love this story. He comes in, and this
is the way he comes to work every morning. I'd be sitting there in the
make-up chair. (gets up, walks in like Jack, acts out sitting down in
the make-up chair) "Mornin' Keats." He'd sit down, "Ahhhh"
and he'd just sit there and they'd just put make-up on him. Sometimes he'd
fall asleep while they did it. On these mornings we talked, I would be like "Hey
Jack, what did you do last night? Where did ya eat? Sorry I
couldn't make dinner" stuff like that. "Did you see that soccer game?"
cause we'd watch anything. Then you get to know like the
billiards player, and you're like "Oh this guy is awesome!" So this is
how is goes:
(as Jack) "Mornin' Keats."
"Hey Jack, how ya doin?"
(as Jack) "Ahhh. Damn good darts tournament last night."
I almost fell out of my chair, and I thought he was kidding! Then he
starts snoring. I fell in love with him.
(after we all stop laughing) You think you might work with Tim Burton
KEATON: Man I sure hope
so. He's great. He's just one of those guys that you just wanna be
around that stuff. It's true art.
Have you guys discussed some ideas on possible films?
KEATON: Well the thing
I always wanted to remake, or the thing I always wanted to do, and still do...
not remake. I wanna do another BEETLEJUICE. I think there's room
to do it, cause there's nothing like it, and there never will be anything like
it. But you kind of don't want to mess it up, and the only way to do it
is with Tim involved. He doesn't want to direct it. So I talked to
him and said "Where do you have time in your life to produce it, and let's
find a guy to direct it and write it." I don't how he's gonna do that,
or how I'm gonna do it. I'd just make the time to do it. But I'd
like to do it. He's original and an artist, and you really can't say
that about too many people.
KEATON: Oh man.
Miles Davis. Thelonious Monk.
You played a villain in PACIFIC HEIGHTS and DESPERATE MEASURES. Have you ever had any
thoughts of returning to that type of role?
KEATON: I thought you
were gonna ask "Did you ever have any thoughts about killing anybody?"
Thomas Jane had actually suggested that you would great as the villain in THE
PUNISHER sequel. I don't know if you've heard anything about that, or if
anyone has talked to you about that. But have you had any aspirations to
return to that sort of role?
KEATON: That guy is
great in... you see that Australian movie or something like that.
KEATON: He's great in
that. That's kind of a cool movie too isn't it?
Yeah it really is. Tom actually said that he thought you would be the perfect
person to play the villain in the sequel.
KEATON: I didn't know
they were making a sequel to THE PUNISHER. You know I just kind
of go by what the thing is. I wasn't thinking "I'd like to do a
genre..." like whatever this movie is, I just thought it was interesting and
the script was good. Every once in a while I'll get general themes, like
something I want to do, or an environment I want to be in, or a world I'm
interested in. I'm fascinated by faith actually, I just like it as a
general topic, I think it's endlessly fascinating. In it's broadest
terms, cause this movie is kind of about faith. I just did a movie called
GAME 6 which is weirdly about faith. I'll do things like that.
I'd just like to do something real funny. There's
different kinds of funny I get intrigued by. I saw a clip of Bill Murray
the other day do something in the Wes Anderson movie, which was so funny and
so small and tiny, and really funny and really good. That would be fun to
experiment, you know like with a small brush. But then other times I
just want to do what I call "kick down the door, grab you by the throat, drag
you down the street and just kick your ass" comedy. You know, like
almost illegal comedy.
Do you think you'll work with Quentin Tarantino anymore?
KEATON: Yeah, I hope
not. I just saw a
little bit of KILL BILL Vol. 2, I saw a little clip. Oh man!
I mean how good is that. Even if you don't love all of it, the guy
solidified himself as an original.
you'll think "Yeah, well maybe." No doubt now. Guys like that I
think, they could be done now, but that's the real deal. Even if
everything sucks from now on, you couldn't take away from now, you know what I
mean? Like I was looking at Johnny Depp the other day, and I loved him
in FINDING NEVERLAND. I think it's the best thing he's ever done
actually. I think he's really good in that movie. So now you can
look at him and say he's not just a handsome guy. He's gutsy. Now
you put it together and you can say "There ya go, now we're talking about a
lot of stuff." I like that about him alot.
Amazing where he came from too, starting out on a TV show.
KEATON: Handsome guy,
that's it. Handsome teenager... and not really very interesting.
Now he's really interesting. Right? Now you just want to
watch the guy.
WHITE NOISE opens January 7,
2005 from Universal Pictures
Visit the official website at
For more on EVP, visit Tom and Lisa
Butler's comprehensive website
Mark Walters, and Paul Brooks
The photos on this page may not be
reproduced without the consent of BIGFANBOY.com
TAKE ME HOME