The Birdman Cometh

25 years after Burton’s Batman, Michael Keaton takes on a mirrorverse role

Tim Burton’s Batman opened 25 summers ago and, for better or worse, launched a new wave of superhero movies that’s still going strong today. “It was groundbreaking, frankly,” Michael Keaton said at the recent Venice Film Festival. “Tim changed a lot, and I was part of that— proudly so.”

Keaton, now 63, was recently in Italy to promote Birdman, in which he plays a fading actor who once enjoyed the fame of an iconic superhero role but is struggling to make a comeback on Broadway. The film has already won a great deal of acclaim for director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who choreographed the camera and actors (including fellow superhero alums Edward Norton and Emma Stone) to make the drama unfold in an apparent single take. Keaton’s performance has also given rise to speculation that he may win his first Oscar more than 30 years into his career.

Keaton admitted that playing Batman had a huge effect on his career by making him internationally famous, but that the role has not “followed him around” throughout his career. Not so for his own screen character, though: “Birdman is not going anywhere,” Keaton said. “And you all got a Birdman. He is your negative ego who wants control. And you either have to make peace with him or kick his ass.”