Michael Keaton on returning to his ‘Batman’ roots: ‘I get this on a whole other level now’

Michael Keaton helped kick off the trend of movies based on comic books when he played the title role in the 1989 fever dream Batman, but he admits that he doesn’t totally get the phenomenon.

“After the first Batman, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an entire [comic book] movie,” Keaton told the Hollywood Reporter in an interview published Wednesday. “I just never got around to it. So you’re talking to a guy who wasn’t in the zeitgeist of that whole world.” 

Michael Keaton is reprising his role of “Batman.” (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

He gives all the credit for the smashing success of the genre to Batman‘s director, Tim Burton. As for his own performance in both that movie and its Burton-directed sequel, 1992’s Batman Returns, Keaton seemed to think he could have done better, and he said he’s thankful that he has another shot at the role in next year’s highly anticipated The Flash.

“Frankly, in the back of my head, I always thought, ‘I bet I could go back and nail that motherf***er,'” Keaton said. “And so I thought, ‘Well, now that they’re asking me, let me see if I can pull that off.”

The Oscar-nominated actor explained that it took him awhile to comprehend that the flick takes place in parallel universes, so both his and Ben Affleck’s versions of the Dark Knight will exist. But something else really clicked.

“What’s really interesting is how much more I got [Batman] when I went back and did him. I get this on a whole other level now. I totally respect it. I respect what people are trying to make,” Keaton said. “I never looked at it like, ‘Oh, this is just a silly thing.’ It was not a silly thing when I did Batman. But it has become a giant thing, culturally. It’s iconic. So I have even more respect for it because what do I know? This is a big deal in the world to people. You’ve got to honor that and be respectful of that. Even I go, ‘Jesus, this is huge.'”

Keaton — who also has the dramatic miniseries Dopesick, the thriller The Protege and Marvel’s Morbius, in which he plays the villainous Vulture from the Spider-Man series, lined up for this year — also spoke about politics. While Keaton has campaigned on behalf of Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden when each of them was running for president, he’s hesitant to get involved. But it’s not that he’s uninterested.

“I learned a long time ago, you do more damage because you’re famous,” Keaton said. “I’ve told people, you don’t want me there. They’ll go, ‘Well of course he brought his Hollywood friend.’ You know what people forget? We all were just some person somewhere in Cincinnati or f***ing Ottawa or f***ing Cleveland.”

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