Michael Keaton Returns to Blockbusters with Kong: Skull Island

By  · Published on January 8th, 2015

Fox Searchlight

It’s no surprise that Michael Keaton is in demand now more than ever. He’s hot off the acclaimed and award-garnering Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), for which he’s a likely contender for the Oscar for Best Actor (he’s already nominated for a Golden Globe and a SAG Award). Hollywood typically comes calling when actors and actresses receive big honors, not necessarily because of the talent being recognized but because these people are being talked about. Buzz for Keaton is especially heavy because Birdman has been labeled a comeback of sorts. But it’s only really a comeback in terms of prestige, not presence. Last year alone he was also in the RoboCop remake and Need for Speed. Had the former been a big hit, that could have technically been his comeback. Even though so was The Other Guy five yeas ago.

News that Keaton is now joining the cast of Kong: Skull Island, therefore, is partly because of his current buzz but it also doesn’t seem that much different than a part he would have been offered without the plume of Birdman. According to The Wrap’s Linda Ge, the actor has officially closed the deal for the gig, joining Tom Hiddleston and J.K. Simmons for director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. That’s some good company, performers and a filmmaker we love and expect will at least have fun with the material. What could just be a junky big budget B movie spin-off set in King Kong’s hometown is increasingly something worth getting excited about. And Keaton adds to that. It’s just sort of funny for him to be so easily returning to blockbusters after mocking his own and others’ blockbuster actor persona in a successful and fairly artsy endeavor.

Kong: Skull Island won’t be out for another two years (March 10, 2017), so the transition won’t seem too immediate. Before then he’ll be seen in the heavy thriller Spotlight, which is based on the true story of a Catholic Church child molestation cover-up – Keaton plays Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe reporter/editor Walter V. Robinson. That’s a Thomas McCarthy movie, so prestigious enough if the filmmaker doesn’t lose all respect with his upcoming comedy starring Adam Sandler. There’s plenty of room for Keaton to take on other roles, small or large, that are more “legit” than a big monster movie, too. Of course, all we’re really hoping for is that he gets work, because he’s appreciated in even the worst movies (like those two others last year), and that one of those jobs is the Beetlejuice sequel.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.