The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
Stars of the '80s
Michael Keaton
Keaton in Mr. Mom (1983)

Born 9 September 1951 in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, Keaton -- whose real name is Michael John Douglas -- studied speech at Kent State University for a couple of years before moving on to a variety of jobs, including driving a taxi and working at Pittsburgh's PBS affiliate as part of the floor crew for the series Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Success as a nightclub comedian led to a role in the short-lived 1979 TV sitcom, Working Stiffs, in which he and James Belushi played brothers who aspire to much greater things than their current employment as janitors. But Working Stiffs lasted only a few weeks, and Keaton went back to the comedy circuit until getting his feature film break in 1982's hit, Night Shift. In his role as Bill Blazejowski, a manic morgue assistant who is always on the make. Keaton even upstaged his costar, Henry Winkler. With his next film, Mr. Mom (1983), Keaton established himself as a Hollywood commodity.

Unfortunately, Keaton's career was stalled in the years to come by a succession of mediocre films, including Johnny Dangerously (1984) and Gung Ho (1986). He earned a reprieve with a zany performance as an exorcist-ghost in the 1988 hit Beetlejuice. His next project surprised everyone. In Clean and Sober (1988), Keaton tackled a challenging dramatic role as Daryl Poynter, a man who allows cocaine to destroy his life. Critical acclaim resulted, and Keaton seemed to be on his way again. An even greater challenge lay just over the horizon.

When Tim Burton announced that Keaton would star as the Dark Knight in his upcoming big-budget film Batman, eyebrows were raised. Some people thought Keaton was miscast as the comic book Caped Crusader in what Burton touted as a grim action flick far removed from the camp of the Batman TV series. But Burton remained convinced that Keaton was perfect to play the obsessed crimefighter that he envisioned. Batman (1989) was a blockbuster hit -- one of the biggest of the Eighties -- and while Jack Nicholson stole the show with his off-the-wall performance as The Joker, nearly everyone agreed that Keaton had done a good job in the title role. Keaton would follow up this success with solid performances in a succession of films during the Nineties, including Pacific Heights (1990), One Good Cop (1991), Multiplicity (1996) and Jack Frost (1998).

When Keaton launched his career he realized that he couldn't use his own name -- after all, another Michael Douglas was already a Hollywood star. Reportedly, he chose an alternative after reading an article about Diane Keaton. (For you trivia buffs, Keaton isn't Diane's real name, either.) The rest, as they say, is history.
-- JM

1980s Filmography
Night Shift (1982)
Mr. Mom (1983)
Johnny Dangerously (1984)
Touch and Go (1986)
Gung Ho (1986)
The Squeeze (1987)
Beetlejuice (1988)
Clean and Sober (1988)
Batman (1989)
The Dream Team (1989)



Critics' Comments
Night Shift (1982)
"The newcomer, Michael Keaton . . . is consistently pleasing as the wacked-out hustler who talks [Henry] Winkler into running a call-girl service out of the morgue."
 -- People Weekly

Mr. Mom (1983)
"Keaton, close to perfection as the husband and father depressed by unemployment but always a sport with his family, especially shines here in some more dramatic moments with his children." -- Variety

Johnny Dangerously (1984)
"Keaton, who has the personality of soggy Frosted Flakes, is much too bland to parody actos like Cagney or Bogart."
 -- People Weekly

Gung Ho (1986)
"Keaton seems to be the only one who knows the movie is even supposed to be funny."
-- People Weekly

Clean and Sober (1988)
"Daryl Poynter . . . is played by Michael Keaton with a kind of wound-up, edgy tension that is just right for the character. One of the strengths Keaton brings to Clean and Sober is his wild, tumultous energy."
-- Roger Ebert

Batman (1989)
"Keaton's Batman and Bruce Wayne characters are so monsyllabic and impenetrable that we have to remind ourselves to cheer for them."
-- Roger Ebert

Awards
1988 -- Best Actor, Clean and Sober & Beetlejuice, National Society of Film Critics