The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - NEALA JOHN­SON

Af­ter storm­ing back into the spot­light with Bird­man in late 2014 and com­ing within a spar­row’s beak of win­ning an Os­car the fol­low­ing Fe­bru­ary, Michael Keaton didn’t change any­thing about the way he ap­proaches the movie busi­ness.

“Nope, just do­ing what I’ve al­ways done,” says the 65-yearold. “Bird­man just hap­pened to come along when it came along, but I’m still do­ing what I do. My ap­proach is es­sen­tially al­ways the same.”

That ap­proach has led him into the Os­car race once more with the true story drama, The Founder, in which he plays Ray Kroc, a trav­el­ling sales­man who in the 1950s stum­bled on the fast-food idea that would be­come the global gi­ant, McDon­ald’s.

Upon first hear­ing he was be­ing asked to play Kroc and that a script was on its way, Keaton’s re­ac­tion was: “OK, but I’m not sure why any­one wants to make a movie about this.” Af­ter read­ing the script, he spun 180 de­grees: “I’m sur­prised no one’s made a movie about this!”

While Keaton and most other Amer­i­cans would credit Kroc as be­ing “the McDon­ald’s guy”, The Founder re­veals how the am­bi­tious en­trepreneur pulled the com­pany out from be­neath broth­ers Dick and Mac McDon­ald, who were run­ning a small burger joint in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

“It’s an en­tire part of the story I didn’t even know ex­isted, frankly,” says Keaton. “I didn’t know there were McDon­ald broth­ers.”

While view­ers may find them­selves ini­tially cheer­ing Kroc’s per­sis­tence, the mood turns as it be­comes clear he’s will­ing to crush any­one who stands in his way. Be­fore agree­ing to take the role, Keaton told di­rec­tor John Lee Han­cock ( The Blind Side) that Kroc’s more un­like­able traits should not be played down.

“One of the first things I said to John is, ‘I’ll do the job, but I’m not go­ing to back off of his darker side – if you want to do that, you should hire some­one else’.”

Robert Siegel, who scripted the film, de­scribes Keaton as a “charm­ing” guy who can be “oily” when he needs to be. In or­der to pin­point where that well of oil lives, Keaton laughs: “I would have to be ly­ing on a couch and pay­ing you a thou­sand dol­lars an hour.”

Though filmed well over a year ago, The Founder’s re­lease now – into Trump’s Amer­ica – gives its themes of sim­pler times, small busi­ness in­ge­nu­ity and chas­ing the “Amer­i­can dream” ex­tra lay­ers.

“In terms of what’s go­ing on in Amer­ica, what’s been brought to the fore (dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign), it’s very timely,” says Keaton.

“The movie is re­ally the story of Amer­i­can cap­i­tal­ism and the free en­ter­prise sys­tem.

“If you re­ally think about it, Kroc, with­out know­ing it, was the first per­son to brand a name – McDon­ald’s.”

Some of the cur­rent ran­cour in US so­ci­ety, Keaton adds, may come down to the fact that the “Amer­i­can dream” seems out of reach for many.

“The cor­po­rate struc­ture of the en­tire world has changed – it’s a global econ­omy, it’s not chopped up into in­di­vid­ual economies any more. If you have to go work for a gi­ant cor­po­ra­tion, you prob­a­bly think that it feels like the Amer­i­can dream is im­pos­si­ble, be­cause you’re re­ally work­ing for a gi­ant cor­po­ra­tion which is owned by an­other cor­po­ra­tion which is owned by an­other cor­po­ra­tion. Peo­ple have to ac­cept that that’s the way it is.”

At one point in The Founder, Laura Dern, as Kroc’s wife, Ethel, asks her hus­band: “When is enough go­ing to be enough for you?”

Kroc’s re­sponse comes: “Hon­estly, prob­a­bly never.”

Keaton’s re­sponse to the same ques­tion about his act­ing ca­reer is “not never ... but not for a while”. He laughs: “I’ll let you know.”

He’s still li­able to take an­other “big break”, he adds.

“Big breaks in my busi­ness can be quite risky, but I’m will­ing to take the risk.”

It seems a long­shot this year, but The Founder has been po­si­tioned by its US dis­trib­u­tor as an Os­car con­tender — no sur­prise, given Keaton-star­ring films Spot­light and Bird­man have been crowned best pic­ture at the past two Academy Awards.

Keaton is cur­rently in the UK film­ing Amer­i­can As­sas­sin, a project he went straight on to af­ter wrap­ping Sony/Mar­vel’s Spi­der-Man: Home­com­ing.

“The Mar­vel peo­ple run a gi­ant, re­ally tight ship. That’s a well-oiled ma­chine.”

The Founder is in cin­e­mas now

Michael Keaton doesn’t back off from his char­ac­ter’s less palat­able qual­i­ties in The Founder

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