Michael Keaton has confirmed that he’ll be playing the role of the villain in director Tim Burton’s live-action version of Dumbo. Keaton and Burton, of course, go back a long way in Hollywood, starting in 1988 when the iconic director cast the funnyman in his ghostly comedy classic Beetlejuice. Despite the welcome reception of the film, perhaps the biggest breakthrough for both the director and actor came a year later when Burton went against the grain and cast the comedic actor in the titular role in Batman. The move was not only embraced by fans after an initial outcry, it created the opportunity for dynamic duo to reunite for the sequel Batman Returns in 1991.
While both Burton and Keaton went to highly successful careers in the next two and a half decades, the filmmaker and actor’s creative paths never crossed again until now. More than two months after word surfaced that Keaton was in negotiations to join Burton’s live-action version of the classic animated Disney tale Dumbo, the actor is saying he’s officially on board.
In an interview this week with Good Morning America about Spider-Man: Homecoming, Keaton said of Dumbo, “I am reuniting with Tim Burton.” Cast as a villain once again in the film after playing the Vulture opposite Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Keaton joked, “It’s gettin’ old.” Praising Burton, Keaton added, “You just want to be around that guy. You want to be in his sphere because he’s original and unique and an artist.”
While Keaton didn’t go into any detail about his Dumbo character, he’s reportedly going to play Vandemere — an exploitative circus owner who is looking to obtain a smaller circus operation from Medici (Danny DeVito ) whose attractions include the famed flying elephant. Burton alum Eva Green is also attached to the film to play Collette, a French trapeze artist in Vandermere’s circus; and Colin Farrell is reportedly attached to play the lead role of a widower with two children.
While Dumbo might not be quite the reunion Beetlejuice fans have been pushing for, it’s still very exciting that Burton and Keaton are working together again after a 25-year hiatus. Clearly the two have similar creative sensibilities, and with any luck, once their collaboration begins on-set, perhaps it will quickly lead to another reunion with Beetlejuice 2 a lot sooner than later. The interest is definitely there. Keaton said in 2014 that he and Burton had talked about the potential sequel; and Burton’s Dark Shadows screenwriter has reportedly completed the script.