Michael Keaton on What ‘Dopesick’ Taught Him About the Opioid Crisis, and Why He Wanted to Return as Batman

Variety's Awards Circuit Podcast: Michael Keaton says he's getting some of the best reactions of his career from 'Dopesick.'

Michael Lewis for Variety

Michael Keaton thought he knew the basics of the vast opioid crisis crippling this country — until he signed on to star in the Hulu limited series “Dopesick.” In hindsight, he says, “I didn’t know how it really worked, what really happened or how it was formed. I’m really fortunate I have a job where you have to learn something. I knew about the Sacklers [the family behind OxyContin manufacturer Perdue Pharma]. But I didn’t even know probably an eighth of it.”

Now he does. For “Dopesick,” creator Danny Strong adapted Beth Macy’s 2018 nonfiction book of the same name to create the limited series, which stars Keaton and Kaitlyn Dever. A chronicle of the introduction and marketing of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin, “Dopesick” toggles between timelines to show the rise of Richard Sackler within Purdue Pharma, and the attempt by justice officials to curtail the company’s deceptive marketing practices as the drug infiltrates an Appalachian coal-mining community.

For a bonus edition of Variety’s Awards Circuit Podcast, Keaton discusses the Hulu limited series, and the Sackler family’s recent $4.5 billion settlement [just tossed out by a federal judge], which would have shielded them from any liability. Keaton also talks a bit about what convinced him to wear the Batman suit once more. Listen below!

In “Dopesick,” Keaton plays Samuel Finnix, an old-school doctor from a small mining town in Virginia who begins prescribing his patients OxyContin to relieve pain. But even he’s not eventually immune to addiction.

“The reaction [to ‘Dopesick’] is as strong as about as strong as anything I’ve ever been in,” Keaton says. “In terms of the appreciation for it as a really high quality piece of work, but also how grateful they are that it’s out there.”

Meanwhile, Keaton will also return to the role of Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman in the upcoming “Flash” movie, and now it looks like he’ll also be seen as the Caped Crusader in HBO Max’s “Batgirl” movie. He tells Variety that he had been curious for years what it would be like to once again don the suit — so when the opportunity popped up, he was intrigued.

“‘What would that be like?’ or ‘What if I had to do that again,'” he recalls asking himself. “Just because I was curious didn’t mean I wanted to do it. So it took a long time, frankly… I’m not just gonna say I’ll do it. It has to be good. And there has to be a reason.”

Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast is hosted by Clayton Davis, Michael Schneider, Jazz Tangcay and Jenelle Riley and is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in movies. Michael Schneider is the producer and Drew Griffith edits. Each week, “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every week.