As more and more veteran A-listers jump into the superhero universe, for Michael Keaton, playing The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming is not his first rodeo.
Debuting his Vulture, aka Adrian Toomes, the “homecoming” in the title could just as easily refer to Keaton’s own personal homecoming to the comic book world; his Batman performances – in Tim Burton’s 1989 and 1992 movies – landing him on many lists as the ultimate Caped Crusader.
As Batman’s LEGO incarnation, Will Arnett cited Keaton’s performance as being the best of all the Bat-dudes, outperforming both Christian Bale and Ben Affleck’s later incarnations.
In the three decades since Keaton last suited up as a superhero, the actor marvels at the changes in technology when STACK meets with him between takes on the Atlanta set of Spider-Man: Homecoming, but adds that the work itself isn’t really different.
“I just show up and do my work and they explain how it works and what we are doing,” he says. “That aspect is no different than when I first started doing this for a living. I just talk to the director and say ‘this is what I am thinking.’
“Of course I want to know The Vulture’s background and I ask my questions and give the director my opinion, but I’m naive about what happens after that,” says Keaton, 65, who earned a 2015 Oscar nod for his performance as a troubled former superhero in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman.
Known for his intense approach to characters, Keaton enjoys understanding his character’s backstory, even if he does confess to not studying the original Marvel comics. “I’ve got a lot of other things to do in my life,” he says with a sly smile
“The Vulture is a working class guy who has built up a great business. He’s not who I would call a classic villain – he’s more of an ‘interesting’ villain.
“But I think it’s an interesting and coincidentally timely approach. He’s a guy who’s working hard but struggling to just get by. He feels like he’s one of the have-nots and deserves a bigger piece of the pie.”
Keaton has nothing but praise for Tom Holland, 21, who first debuted his Peter Parker in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, and is now headlining his own movie. “Tom is fantastic. He’s a really good kid and he’s really good in this, a good actor.”
He laughs when STACK asks about his stunts, after we witness a fiery showdown between him and Parker on a beach. “I don’t do as many stunts as Tom, that’s for sure, although I’m not in it as much as Tom. I actually brought in the guy who did some stuntwork for me in Birdman because he’s so skilled, so I recommended him. This is certainly nothing like Batman for me.”
Fascinated by changing technology, he points to his smartphone. “I never thought I would own one of these. I just thought I’d carry on with my little flip phone. But then I became fascinated with computerisation and now I attend a university clinic twice a year to see how computerisation and robotics is applied in entertainment,” says the actor, who lives like a cowboy on his Montana ranch half the year.
“But in terms of what my friend calls fakebook, I have no interest in letting people know where I am or what I’m doing.”
Try being Spidey yourself in the Spiderman: Homecoming VR Experience
Spider-Man: Homecoming is in cinemas July 6