April 27, 2009 / 7:02 PM / in 9 years

Michael Keaton to debut as feature film director

NEW YORK (Reuters) - After more than 30 years working as an actor, Michael Keaton makes his debut this week as a feature film director with the dark, independent drama “The Merry Gentleman.”

<p>American actor Michael Keaton waves to the public as he poses for photographers during red carpet arrivals for American director Alexander Payne's film "About Schmidt" in Cannes in this file photo from May 22, 2002. EUTERS/Vincent Kessler VK/</p>

Keaton, 57, best known for his roles in films such as “Batman” and “Beetlejuice,” said despite many offers to direct over the years he hadn’t felt ready to helm a movie or to take on the workload required.

“It’s such an enormous amount of work. But I like the work, I enjoy the work,” Keaton told Reuters in a recent interview. “The Merry Gentleman” opens in U.S. theaters on Friday.

“Next time I would probably give myself the luxury of a little more time and hopefully a little more money. I would like to do it again,” he said.

Once Keaton agreed to direct and star in “The Merry Gentleman,” in which he plays a suicidal hit man who befriends a woman running from a troubled marriage, there was no turning back.

“That ended up possibly being a blessing in disguise,” said Keaton. “We didn’t have the luxury of ‘umming and ahhhing’ over anything or thinking about things. You just had to go.”

The film was shot in 25 days and had scarcely any pre-production time, said Keaton, who previously directed a small documentary and short film.

“As odd and quirky as the movie is, it’s also really spare and simple,” he said. “I just wanted it to be unpretentious, about real people in this really unusual chapter in their lives.”

The film premiered at Sundance, the top U.S. independent film festival, in January 2008 and was acquired by Samuel Goldwyn Films in November.

Reviews of the film at Sundance were positive.

“Bottom Line: A quirky and complex thriller, directed superbly by Michael Keaton,” The Hollywood Reporter said, while Variety described Keaton’s debut as exhibiting “genuine promise behind the camera.” The film is “a fine calling card for the veteran actor’s new career aspirations,” Variety said.

Keaton says his next acting role is in an untitled drama, but added that he would really like to find a good comedy role.

“I have been handed a few in the last two years, but they’re just not anything that makes me get excited about,” he said. “I miss it. It’s so fun.”

Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Eric Beech

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