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Michael Keaton’s artistic contributions were in the spotlight Monday evening, as he received the French Order of Arts and Letters at a ceremony in Paris. The medal was presented by culture minister Fleur Pellerin, with U.S. Ambassador Jane Hartley looking on.
Keaton, in town to do press for his Oscar-nominated film Spotlight, was traveling with Walter Robinson, whom he portrays in the film, and Mike Rezendes.
Pellerin called Keaton “a mystery,” citing contradictory profiles throughout his career and his last-name change early on.
Keaton said he was “extremely grateful and honored” for the tribute, especially in a country such as France which holds the arts in high esteem.
“I have to say yours is a culture that has such respect for beauty and art that if I have ever in the smallest way made a tiny contribution to beauty or art in this culture, I’m honored and grateful and proud. I hope that I have,” he said, adding that it is “one of the biggest days of my life.”
Speaking to reporters afterward, he remarked on his career comeback with last year’s best actor Oscar nomination for Birdman and this year’s SAG and Oscar nominations for Spotlight.
“I play the long game,” he said. “So all this is fun and great, and what’s great about having things happen as you get older is that you really appreciate it more.”
Keaton added that someone recently called his late-in-life recognition “unfathomable.”
“I’m assuming that’s a good thing,” he joked.
Citing his personal history of social activism, he said the most meaningful thing about appearing in Spotlight is that the film can have a greater impact. “It’s unbelievably good fortune, for me anyway, to be in something that will change lives, that will make a difference.”
He misses the lighter side, however, and says he does not rule out a return to comedy soon. “I miss it so much I can’t tell you,” he said.
As for Spotlight’s awards chances following last night’s Critics’ Choice win for best picture, he added: “I think we’ve got a good shot. I think it’s a strong shot. To act like, ‘Oh I don’t care,’ yes, it would be fun, it would be great, but it doesn’t define me.”
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