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spacer Michael Keaton, New York City, 1982
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Michael Keaton, New York City, 1982

This is before “Beetlejuice,” before “Batman,” just before “Mr. Mom” and right after “Night Shift,” a zany movie in which he and Henry Winkler run a call girl operation out of the New York City morgue. In the film, when questioned if they’re actually doing that, Michael slams his fist on a table and asks, “Is this a great country, or what?” His attitude toward life was quite similar. “I want to make some money and then retire to Montana and trout fish.” Michael was more interested in playing a pick-up game of basketball, which is what he had been doing before I shot this, than in sitting down to talk about his acting. Of his role in the TV miniseries “Studs Lonigan,” he said, “How funny can three weeks of drunken Irish guys feeling sorry for themselves be?” When Michael got out of college he drove a cab in Pittsburgh for a while, and later worked as a Good Humor ice cream man. “Then I got a job on the production crew at the PBS station. They were doing this show on mental illness and I volunteered to play the crazy person.“ Michael was scribbling notes to himself as he talked, trying to get some gags ready for an appearance on the Letterman show. “I get to a point before I work,” he said, “when I just have to be alone. Sometimes it’s hard to be funny.” And with that he wandered off and disappeared into the lobby of his hotel.

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