Carnegie Mellon University
January 15, 2015

Visiting Scholar Soars With Oscar Nod

Michael Keaton in Birdman

Michael Keaton, one of the latest people to join the faculty at CMU's Entertainment Technology Center, was nominated for Best Actor. He's just one of the university ties to watch at the 2015 Academy Awards.

Keaton was nominated for Best Actor for his role as Riggan Thomson in "Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)." The movie received nine nominations.

"The character Riggan I play in Birdman was a huge challenge," Keaton said. "I related less to him than almost every other character I've played, in terms of the desperation."

Keaton is originally from Pittsburgh, and his late wife, Caroline McWilliams (A'66), was a graduate of CMU's School of Drama. He previously has been a guest speaker in Ralph Vituccio's Visual Story class.

"I really enjoyed seeing how these students are using new technologies in creative ways to entertain and educate," Keaton said. "These students are working on video games to improve learning in the classroom and using interactive technologies that will change the way the entertainment industry tells stories and delivers them to an audience."

Keaton joins a cast of other visiting scholars that includes Anthony Daniels, who plays C-3PO in the Star Wars movie franchise; Dave Bossert, the producer, creative director and head of Special Projects at Walt Disney Animation Studios; and former CNN Bureau Chief Chip Walter to name a few.

"Visiting scholars are industry experts who come once a semester or so to provide our students with critique, input and advice based on their expertise and experience," said Drew Davidson, director for the Entertainment Technology Center, which is part of CMU's IDeATe network.

Also on the list for Oscar nominations is Rob Marshall's movie, "Into the Woods," which features a star-laden cast including Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp and translates an iconic musical from stage to screen. The film received three nominations for Streep for an Actress in a Supporting Role, Costume Design and Production Design.

Marshall (A'82) is a four-time Emmy winner, a six-time Tony nominee and his movies have won nine Academy Awards. His films have garnered 26 Academy Award nominations and his wins include three for "Memoirs of a Geisha" and Best Picture for "Chicago." His film, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," grossed more than $1 billion.

Marshall has credited CMU for giving him a solid base on which to build his career.

"Carnegie gave me everything, it was the foundation for my work today," Marshall said. "It really laid out the nuts and bolts [of the business] in a very professional way."

As of 2013, CMU alumni have received seven Academy Awards.

This year's Academy Award nominations include "Big Hero 6," which is up for animated feature film. One of its main characters, Baymax, an inflatable robot that cares for humans, was inspired by a robotic arm made of balloons at CMU's Robotics Institute. The action-packed, comedy-adventure includes CMU alumnus James Cromwell (A'64) among its cast.

The 87th Academy Awards will air live on ABC on Sunday, Feb. 22. Award-winning star of stage and screen Neil Patrick Harris will host the event. The production team for the event also includes Robert Dickinson, who received an honorary degree from CMU in 2005.


Actor Michael Keaton Discusses His New Role at the ETC

Ready for the Journey

Inspired Robotics

Academy Awards won by CMU alumni

Shedding Light Behind-the-Scenes