He plays the lead in the six-times Oscar nominated Spotlight, a film which tells true story of The Boston Globe uncovering the massive scandal of child molestation and the Catholic Church in the city in 2001, and Michael Keaton says he was deeply affected by the storyline.
Former altar boy Keaton, who was raised Catholic but has since lapsed, plays investigative journalist Walter “Robby” Robinson.
Speaking at Spotlight’s UK press day in London’s Claridge’s Hotel, Keaton admitted that although the harrowing subject matter of the story could have made him turn his back completely on the church, he hasn’t.
“It is something that will stay with me for many reasons,” he said.
“Religion? I haven’t been a proper Catholic since I’ve been an altar boy to be honest. I’m not out to beat up the Catholic church. I still drop in to light a candle for my mom.
“I’m not going to go out there and beat up the institution, and hey, I still think that the Pope is pretty cool.”
The 64-year-old, who was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe for Birdman last year, puts in a stellar performance as Pulitzer-prize winner Robinson.
Catholic-educated journalist Robinson led the Spotlight team at The Boston Globe who unearthed the sensational story that the higher echelons of the Catholic Church were aware of over 80 cases of priests involved in child abuse in Boston over a number of years.
In July 2001, Globe editor Marty Baron (played by Ray Donovan’s Liev Schreiber) had insisted on further pursuing a column written by Eileen McNamara, which reported on lawsuits pertaining to a priest allegedly involved in sexual abuse.
The Spotlight team discovered that the church had paid for the silence of victim’s and knowingly placed offending priests back in new parishes.
Spotlight has won critical acclaim on both sides of the water with six Academy Award nominations, three Golden Globe nominations and two Screen Actors Guild Awards nods.
“This movie may inspire other people to make movies that really matter like this one”
For Keaton, it was a role that grabbed him from the off.
The actor had “pretty much signed up” once he knew that director Tom McCarthy (Up, Million Dollar Arm) and Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Foxcatcher) were onboard.
“I feel blessed to be able to tell a story like this.That sounds odd to say because of the subject matter, but you do feel honoured to be in this position and I’m convinced that revisiting this story will change and help people’s lives,” Keaton said.
“It was a really great and really satisfying business. This movie may inspire other people to make movies that really matter like this one.”
And Keaton stressed it’s important to remember that the real heroes were the original Globe journalists who subsequently went on to report on over 600 abuse victims following the publication of the initial story.
“Actors can often try to speak from on high and say ‘Aren’t we fabulous for making this movie?’ when the reality is that the fabulous people and the real heroes are the journalists from The Boston Globe who do stuff out there in the world,” he said.
“Me? I’m an actor. I try to do my little thing but you read extraordinary stories everywhere. For us to move the needle even a tiny little bit is incredible.”
Keaton missed out on getting a Best Actor nod for his performance in Spotlight, but co-stars Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams have both been nominated for their supporting roles the movie.
Spotlight is released in UK cinemas on January 29.
Loaded’s entertainment editor Jennifer O’Brien is an award-winning journalist who has written extensively about popular culture as a national newspaper columnist and author. Follow her on Twitter at @Jen_OBrien1