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Michael Keaton remembers Harold Ramis, a strange Ben Stiller encounter and making Andie McDowell laugh hysterically

In a recent career retrospective, Michael Keaton reminiced about making Multiplicity, fondly recalling Harold Ramis and Andie McDowell.

multiplicity michael Keaton

In a recent sit-down with GQ, while promoting his new film Knox Goes Away, the great Michael Keaton took some time to look back at his favorite roles. One of them, of course, was Batman, which we wrote about here, but another was the 1996 comedy Multiplicity, which was directed by Harold Ramis. In that film, he plays a busy family man who has himself cloned. 

Multiplicity – to make it today it would take about seventeen minutes. It’s 96, right? You don’t have all the toys.” 

He said the initial idea was that to play the multiple characters, he would wear make-up and fat suits, but to him, that was the wrong approach. “If you cloned yourself, you’d still have you, but what is the thing that’s not you in that?  That was the premise. What’s the little thing?”

“I loved doing Multiplicity,” he says, remembering how fun it was working with Harold Ramis and the challenge of playing so many different versions of the same character.  “I think two was the testosterone-driven version; the third was really sensitive. The nicest man.” 

Playing the third version raised an interesting conundrum, as Keaton wondered if, perhaps, he should play the character as gay. When he asked Ramis if he thought the character was gay, the director’s response stuck with him. “Harold (Ramis) wisely said, ‘I dunno’. And I said, ‘No, it’ll help me as an actor because I’m good with it.’ And he’d say, ‘I dunno.’ And I went (pause), ‘That’s right – that’s exactly right. It doesn’t matter. He’s just REALLY sensitive! One of my favorite characters of all time, by the way.”

Keaton also said that they used a lot of stand-in actors to help film the movie, and despite the complicated FX work, Ramis encouraged a lot of improvisation. “There was a lot of improvising because Harold comes from a real improv background,” Keaton said. He noted that was a challenge because if he improvised as one character, he’d have to set up the next character to be able to feed off it. 

He also related a weird Ben Stiller story. As Keaton remembers it, he was working on the set and Stiller, whom he had never met before, came by to visit. He asked Keaton what he was working on. Keaton brought him to his trailer to show him a chart he had come up with tracking the various characters he was playing, and as he remembers it, Stiller simply looked at the chart and, without a word, walked out of his trailer, not saying goodbye or anything. “And I’ve never talked to him since! I have no f*cking idea if he went, ‘oh f*ck, I don’t even want to know about that…”

While he loved working with Ramis, Keaton has especially fond memories of working with co-star Andie McDowell, taking special delight in making her laugh. In fact, she told him one day, that he actually made her pee her pants in laughter at one point. “To influence a person’s bladder is such a sense of power!” 

For more from Michael Keaton, check out our exclusive interview with him here!

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