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It's not a complete secret that Michael Keaton is a stage name and not the popular Spotlight and Spider-Man: Homecoming actor's real name. However, what you may not know is why Michael Keaton actually went to the trouble of changing his name. He recently told Stephen Colbert on an episode of The Late Show that there were just too many people with the same name when he was first getting started. He good-humoredly said:
My real name is Douglas, Michael Douglas. Immediately, it gets a laugh. I got a gig. I was just starting out and I got this job and because of the Union, there was Mike Douglas--who used to have a talk show--and Michael Douglas, the movie star, actor. And somebody said, 'Well, you know, you've got to change your name.' And I said, 'Well, I don't really want to change my name.' I'm very proud of my name... I said, 'Why?' 'Because there are two other guys in the union.' So I changed my name.
Of all the luck in the world, Michael Keaton's birth name happens to be the same name of the actor who has appeared in such gems as Basic Instinct, Romancing the Stone and even the little Marvel hit, Ant-Man. And while Michael Keaton is technically Michael John Douglas and Michael Douglas is Michael Kirk Douglas, the actor's union wasn't having it. Especially since at the time there was a Mike Douglas who was popular during the Big Band era. With limited options, Michael Keaton said on The Late Show Starring Stephen Colbert that Michael Keaton is what he ended up with. He definitely could have chosen something worse.
Apparently, however, in real life Michael Keaton still prefers to go by the name he was given. Although having to change his name for Hollywood may have been annoying, it at least does come with one or two perks--namely confusing the heck out of people in public. Keaton also revealed that when he gets picked up at the airport or whatever, he often inadvertently plays a trick on professional drivers, who either think they are getting the real Michael Douglas or some stranger--definitely NOT Michael Keaton.
What's great is, I use my real name, Michael John Douglas, for everything, except when I'm on a marquee or a gig. So, people get very confused because I'll be going somewhere and they'll be a driver with a sign saying 'Michael Douglas' and then I show up. And they look so confused.
If you've ever wondered if Michael Keaton chose his stage name thanks to the likes of Buster Keaton or Diane Keaton, he also debunked those rumors, noting he was just looking "in the k's" and thought the name was "good enough." Out of those humble beginnings, a star was born.
You can next check out Michael Keaton in Spider-Man: Homecoming on July 7, 2017. And while you shouldn't look for Michael John Douglas in the credits for that movie, there are plenty of other things to look out for.