Michael Keaton was born Michael John Douglas, a name he proudly went by until it posed a problem in his acting career, forcing him to adopt a new moniker.

Michael Keaton’s Name Change

When Keaton was starting off and finally landed a gig, he had to register at Actors’ Equity and subsequently found out that both Michael Douglas and Mike Douglas were taken. Keaton once said of the actor and son of Kirk Douglas and esteemed talk show host, “One of them is doing quite well from what I understand; the other is making cheap porn movies like Basic Instinct.

It’s been widely reported that Keaton chose the new surname because he came across Diane Keaton‘s name in the newspaper and liked the sound of it. As it happens, “Diane Keaton” is not Diane Keaton’s given name, as she was born Diane Hall and often called Annie Hall – the name Woody Allen chose for his film about their ill-fated romantic relationship that she starred in alongside the filmmaker. Diane Keaton supposedly chose the surname because of her affinity for comedy legend Buster Keaton. A cat of hers, incidentally, was named Buster.

Michael Keaton downplayed the connection to Diane Keaton a couple of years ago and admitted that if he had his way, he’d go by his given name. “I feel bad! She’s probably badly bugged by that story!” Keaton told Grantland. “The truth is I’m trying to figure out how John Cougar Mellencamp did it, because I like my name, I’m proud of my name. Douglas, you know, it’s my Dad’s name.”

Before Michael Keaton settled on his assumed last name there was another one in the running. “Hand to God, I swear this is true: My middle name is John, and where I come from, people throw around nicknames all the time. So they’d call me John or Johnny. And for a long time my brothers would call me Jackson, and I thought, Oh, that makes sense. I’ll just be Michael Jackson,” he revealed.

Keaton, who is experiencing a career resurgence of sorts, won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in Movie – Musical or Comedy at the 2015 Golden Globe Awards for his performance in the critically-acclaimed Birdman. He’s expected to earn an Oscar nod when the nominations are announced Thursday, Jan. 15.


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