Michael Keaton capped a glorious late-career return from the wilderness Thursday when he finally received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, almost four decades after his first movie.
The 64-year-old actor gave a crowdpleasing but political speech, mixing self-effacing jokes with a show of support for efforts to improve relations between black communities and police in the United States.
Dressed in a green sports jacket and open-neck shirt in the steamy California sunshine, Keaton described his up-and-down career in acting as “a never-ending quest” for self-improvement.
“To say this is a dream is kind of incorrect because I really never thought about being famous,” he told friends, family and a large crowd of well-wishers on Hollywood Boulevard.
“It sure is fun, but that’s not the thing I really thought of. I always wanted to be good, that’s all I really ever wanted to be.
“And honestly, to tell you the truth, I think sometimes I am and sometimes I think I’m pretty damn good.”
Keaton used his speech to praise his friend, basketball legend Michael Jordan, who said this week he could “no longer stay silent” over the rash of police shootings and troubled race relations in the US.
The 53-year-old athlete, who has long been criticized for his reluctance to speak out on social issues, announced he was donating $2 million to groups working to improve relations between black Americans and law enforcement.
“I gotta tell you I’m going to thank (Jordan) myself,” Keaton said.
“And I don’t care if people say it took him too long to do it — the fact is, he did it.”
The actor also thanked the Los Angeles police, “especially in a time when things are really, really tough right now.”
– Almost forgotten –
In the last two years, Keaton has won a Golden Globe for “Birdman” — about a washed-up former superhero film star battling to resurrect his career — and received rave reviews for his work in the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight.”
The parallels between the “Birdman” role and the real-life actor — whose real name is Michael Douglas, but who uses Keaton to avoid confusion with the “Fatal Attraction” star — are striking.
Keaton played Bruce Wayne and his alter ego in 1989’s “Batman,” made by Tim Burton, with whom he also collaborated on “Beetlejuice” at the start of his career.
Like his “Birdman” character, the actor was then almost forgotten.
By the late 1990s, he found himself relegated to B-movies, minor TV roles and voiceover work — until the role of Riggan Thompson in “Birdman” offered him a stunning return to the big time.
He has since won a string of awards for his portrayal of investigative journalist Walter “Robby” Robinson in “Spotlight,” which chronicles The Boston Globe’s investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
“You can be a good parent, you can be a good friend, a good husband, a good pal, a good actor — that’s what you’re supposed to do. You don’t get extra credit for being those things, that’s the job,” Keaton said.
“That’s what you’re supposed to do and I’m never going to see it any other way than that.”
With the back end of his career going from strength to strength, Keaton has just finished filming “The Founder,” a biopic on Ray Kroc, who built McDonald’s into the world’s most successful fast food chain.