Isn't it nice to have Michael Keaton back in our lives? Now, he may point out that he hadn't actually gone anywhere. But it has been three years since we've seen Keaton in theaters. Keaton's a charming guy, which was always a signature of a Michael Keaton Movie -- Mr. Mom, Gung Ho and, yes, even Batman.

Keaton is back in theaters this Friday with what could be, arguably, described as the first true Michael Keaton movie, considering he's making his directorial debut -- as well as starring -- in The Merry Gentleman. A story that follows a woman (Kelly MacDonald) who moves to Chicago after an abusive relationship and forms a friendship with Keaton, who's a suicidal hitman.

We sat down with Michael Keaton and asked him about his decision to direct after original director, Ron Lazzeretti, dropped out with appendicitis.

Mike: When it was determined Ron Lazzeretti couldn't direct: How much time did you put into your decision? Were you immediately, "Oh, I want to do this," or did you think, "I'm not quite sure what I might be getting myself into"?

Michael Keaton: (Laughs) Kinda both! No. I don't really recall, it's been awhile. Let me think back... I don't remember how much time was in between. I had been talking to [Lazzeretti] strictly as a writer, you know, he wrote it. So, I wasn't committed to anything except I thought it was pretty well written and I was having a conversation about what he thought, very generally. And then I actually flew to Chicago, just out of the blue, and asked if any of the people involved in this were going to be around, you know, on Friday, or something like that... I'm rehashing in my head right now... They got two or three of them together, Ron and one of the producers I think, and I sat down and asked them a bunch of questions because I re-read it and thought there was something intriguing about it. I think they probably thought, "I don't know why he flew here and asked these questions," -- some were really in depth, some not so in depth (laughs).

Then, I got to the airport in Chicago, on my way back to L.A., and I said, "I think I would like to direct this thing." And I said, "I will be in L.A. in a few hours, let me know what you think." And it proceeded from there. And that's what's gone black (laughs); I think, maybe, I blocked it out because it was really fast. There was almost no pre-production on this ... it was fast. In a way I think there were somethings that weren't too bad about that. We were kind of forced to make real quick decisions you couldn't hem and haw about; you put your head down and just go. So there may have been some advantages to that, in that regard.

Mike: Not looking at you career as a whole, but looking at right now: Are you enjoying directing more or acting more? What did you get more satisfaction out of with this movie?

Michael Keaton: Well, in this case, since I did both, directing was much more... look, just for practical terms you don't just sit around. You know (laughs)? You guys know how movies work: A lot of the time it's just boring. You're looking for that sweet spot that might pop up every now and then when you're in a scene and you're in the moment with a good actor. And man, I've been so fortunate to work with so many good actors -- men and women -- that I had my share of moments when I go, "Ohhh, this is gooood. This is why I do this, this really feels good. I really like this."

And I like it. I love it, actually. When it's good, I love it. But, you know, for the actor it's a lot of sitting around. You can be really, really prepared but you can't prepare all day. So [with directing] there's no sitting around. You are working all the time ... and thinking and problem solving -- I just really like it. And I really like telling the stories, helping to tell the stories; that's what I really like. But, you know, that said: I'm really looking forward to seeing some theater while I'm here [in New York]. You see a really good performance and you get all jazzed up again.

"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at
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