Michael Keaton on Going Off the Grid, His Favorite Pastime, and Why ‘Mr. Mom’ Was Such a Colossal Hit

Michael Keaton
 MJ Kim/HFA2014/Getty Images

You sound like you’re driving. Where are you going?

Up to Santa Barbara. I was supposed to see [Eric] Clapton tonight, but he’s got bronchitis. He’s a fishing buddy of mine. For years I was obsessed with fishing. I also used to ride cutting horses, but that really puts a dent in your pocketbook.

“Cutting Horses”?

It’s a competitive form of riding quarter horses. Goes way back to the old giant California and Texas land-grant ranches. They had essentially no fences, so cowboys would have to cut cattle off from a herd on horseback. So they’d have contests. It’s addictive. I was doing so much of it that I finally said, “I gotta go back and make a living.”

Do you go off the grid on these trips?

Oh, yeah, we go way off. There’s almost nowhere you can’t get cell phone coverage these days, but we go places where there’s just no such thing. And the most interesting thing occurs. You become peaceful. Now, I don’t want to sound like we’re out there skinning bears, but it’s nice to have days when you’re not even thinking about your phone.

Can acting scratch the same itch as fishing or riding?

Sometimes. When I’m in the zone riding a cutting horse, that’s the closest feeling to when I’m really in the moment as an actor. You have to let go of everything, but at the same time be dead fucking center and locked in. In acting, you hit those moments in a scene when you go, “I am dead on this fucker. I am right in the truth. I’m in the marrow…” and that’s fun. But you’re not often in that zone. You want it to happen all the time, but it doesn’t.

Sounds as if you have a pretty good work-life balance.

I’m fortunate in that I‘ve gotten to do ’em both. I’m not as career-minded as a lot of people. I go to work and try to do the best I can. But I also drop out here and there and go live my life. I like life. I like doing fun stuff. When I was a kid, I’d watch grown men go to their jobs and come home at the same time every day. It wasn’t a bad thing, I just knew there was no way on earth I was ever going to do that. You gotta live, man. You gotta have a life. But it doesn’t just happen. You have to create it.

Why was Mr. Mom such a hit?

Mr. Mom was a really funny comedy that came out at a time when the economy wasn’t good and explored a man’s feelings of insecurity when his wife gets a job instead of him. That scene where all the guys waiting for an interview start exchanging recipes—that said a lot in a really cool way. That’s why, in these crazy times, too, comedy is king, man. In crazy times, people go to the truth-tellers, and the truth-tellers are the funny people—John Oliver, Samantha Bee. They’re just telling the truth.

Spider-Man: Homecoming premieres Friday, July 7.