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Keaton Flies as 'Birdman'

Coming out swinging! Michael Keaton is back in the spotlight — and sending up his own superhero legacy — in a black comedy

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When Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman hits theaters on Oct. 17, moviegoers will see Michael Keaton in a role unlike anything he’s done before: an actor named Riggan Thomson who has an emotional breakdown while trying to direct and star in a Broadway play. They’ll also see Keaton in a role eerily like something he’s done before: Birdman, the Batman-esque superhero character that made Thomson famous. ”There was a second of me going, ‘Is this too on-the-head? Me playing a guy who plays this iconic character?”’ says Keaton. (He insists the role wasn’t written specifically for him.) ”I actually related to this character probably less than any other character I’ve played. I’m not that indulgent, I don’t think.” As a director, González Iñárritu (Babel) required intense rehearsals and long, intricately choreographed shots. That process, Keaton says, ”wore me out like no movie I’ve ever done.” In some absurd scenes, like the moment when Thomson dukes it out in an inept fistfight with a nearly naked castmate (Edward Norton), the actor had a less technical challenge: ”I was just trying not to laugh.”