He returns to the cinema with ‘Protected’, an action movie, and will soon wear the Batman suit again in ‘Batgirl’
Michael Keaton (Pennsylvania, 70 years old) has been a movie star since the 1980s, to the point of being considered one of the most versatile actors in the industry. ‘Batman’, ‘Bitelchús’, ‘Birdman’ or the doctor addicted to pills in his latest series, ‘Dopesick’, Keaton returns to the big screen with ‘La protege’, a different film where he gets into the Rembrandt skin. The film tells the story of Anna (Maggie Q) and Rembrandt, two of the world’s leading assassins who share a shady past in Vietnam. When Anna’s mentor Moody (Samuel L. Jackson) is assassinated, she and Rembrandt must reluctantly form an alliance and return to Vietnam to track down his killer. In the movie, the actor stretches his action muscles with really amazing scenes. Awarded this year with the Critics’ Choice Award for his work in ‘Dopesick’, Keaton acknowledges that he is ready to play Batman again in the next installment of ‘Batgirl’, which will arrive on HBO in the summer.
-His career is a long intermittent road and when he returns, he does it in a big way.
-I have been lucky to read well-written and entertaining scripts. When I’m offered the opportunity to work, I try to pick a story that’s interesting enough to get me out of the house. It scares me to get involved in a project and feel like I’m wasting my time. I am very lucky to be able to choose and get my work to have an impact on the public.
-After a drama like ‘Dopesick’, why did you decide to play ‘The Protégé’?
Rembrandt is one of those larger than life characters. A tough guy without fear of anything. That’s a lot of fun for any actor because you don’t have to do anything, just pretend to be brave that you don’t have. I had a great time shooting this movie because instead of sitting around tormented, he was pretending to punch some guys who are huge.
-Are you capable of shooting action scenes at 70?
I don’t know whether to be flattered or offended by the question, but it was great to be able to shoot intense action scenes without feeling weak. It is true that it is not the same now as it was 20 years ago, however, it did not cost me much. I think this movie serves as a warm-up for me to play Batman again in the next installment. It was not clear to me that my physique could endure and, look at me, I’m a kid.
-How does it feel to wear the bat hero costume again?
-As if I had never left it. He is a character that I know and to which I feel I belong. I’m glad to have the opportunity to return to the character.
-‘Batman’, ‘Birdman’, ‘Dopesick’… have you stopped to think about your personal growth as an artist?
-I am trying. I’ve played very interesting roles in my career, but none like the character in ‘Dopesick’ because it took me so much to build it. I learn with each project, with each filmmaker, with each actor. I learn from both 10-year-olds and 90-year-olds. Life would be so boring if I thought I knew everything. I maintain the innocent spirit of childhood and remain open to the possibility of learning. Sometimes my job is just to pretend not to be an idiot or to put a little energy into the character I’m playing, like in ‘The Protégé’. I don’t know how not to be curious, that’s my curse.
-He does not seem to lose his enthusiasm despite the ostracism to which he was subjected for a time by his own colleagues.
-Absolutely not. I recognize that I have become a more sophisticated artist, especially after those years in which I was semi-retired, or rather in the years that I was retired because they did not count on me. I was supporting myself with small roles to stay in shape, what I call going to the professional gym, and when my opportunity came I was ready. What happened to me, happens all the time in Hollywood. It was a mental battle because I was trying not to think about it and I am proud that I got through it. Other than that, I still have the same energy.
-His career seems to have skyrocketed in the last five years.
-I feel very good (he laughs), but one never knows what can happen in the future. This profession is very volatile. The acting career is a constant struggle, it comes and goes. I live prepared not to miss the train I am currently on because the offers may disappear or not be as good.
-Each award you have won for ‘Dopesick’, a fiction about the opiate epidemic in the US, has been dedicated to your sister and your nephew.
-It is a subject that I knew and that worried me because I lost my nephew due to this drug. I am lucky to choose projects that can help people open their eyes. With ‘Dopesick’ we have tried to show the working-class society of the northern states and the feeling of guilt they have to live with because of Oxycontin. We have also tried to expose the cruelty of Purdue Pharma and that the series is the trial that the Sackler family never had. I still can’t believe what this company did and how they were able to keep their drug on the market for years, no matter the consequences, no matter how they were exposed. Lies, manipulation, influence peddling. It’s such a shocking story that it’s hard to get it out of your head.
-Can interpretation become a political weapon?
We can show injustice, of course. Middle-class urban communities have been devastated by opiates. Patients became common addicts and then drug mules, forced to make perilous journeys to smuggle narcotics from other cities into their rural communities. If we look at the damage this white-collar cartel has done, all of its members should be in jail.
-Do you have any advice for a family that has a member with an addiction problem?
-I don’t want to generalize, but there are certain things that are part of the common denominator of many people who become addicted and one of them is being charming and always lying. My nephew had an enormous ability to lie. I witnessed first hand. But let us not forget that we are talking about an addiction created by greed. It’s a tragedy.
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