It’s been some time since ABC’s LOST was a matter of regular discussion, but one of the more famous points of trivia saw Michael Keaton earmarked for the role of Jack Shephard, with a caveat that his character be killed off as a pilot twist. That obviously never came to pass, though Keaton finally explains why the change came about, as well as his decision to decline the role.

As legend has it, Keaton was first approached by J.J Abrams for the central role of LOST, which was then-conceived as an un-serialized drama that killed off Jack in the closing minutes. Producers realized that audiences would grow attached to the character, and Keaton wasn’t willing to commit to a series, hence the change to Matthew Fox.

A wide-ranging Hollywood Reporter interview with Keaton gave The Founder star a chance to share his side, in which the one-episode appearance intrigued him (likening it to playing the same character for Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh in different movies), though the offer clearly changed before he could really consider anything:

Yeah, you know, I started to feel badly about this – I think that got – because it sounds like … it didn’t exactly play out like that, and I always think, ‘Jeez, you know maybe has been misinterpreted, or that I mischaracterized that.’ J.J. and I had a conversation – and I like what he does – I thought ‘Well, this guy’s worth talking to, he’s real smart.’ I had read some things he had written, and he told me about this idea … it’s no news now, I’m not revealing anything.

He said, ‘Here’s what happens: the guy that you think is the lead dies in the last ten minutes,’ and I immediately – when I hear things like that – like Soderbergh calling and going, ‘Hey, I want Ray Nicolette to pop up in this movie,’ … those type of things intrigue me. And I thought, ‘Yeah!’ The idea of doing an hour television show … I’m just too lazy. So I thought, ‘Wow, this is pretty good! Then I don’t have to be in the series!’ […]

I think what happened was – and I’ve never really talked to him about this – I guess maybe we had a brief conversation where … he thought better of [the twist],  or the studio said ‘That ain’t gonna happen.’ And then there was kind of a half a conversation like ‘Well, do you have any more interest?’ So … it’s not like they offered it to me, and ‘Oh, I turned that down.’

THR: The offer changed.

Yes, and that didn’t interest me. And I know [Jack’s death] was what was going to happen, and that I probably would have done. Even though people would say, ‘Why would you ever do that, where you’re the big lead guy, and then you die?’ And I thought ‘Oh, that’s pretty interesting to me.’ And [J.J.]’s so good, you know you want to hang out with a guy like that.

It’s difficult to say if a one-off LOST appearance would somehow have altered the current trajectory of Keaton’s film resurgence, but might the ABC drama have turned out drastically different without Jack Shepherd? Or would the same twists have played out with a bit less heavy breathing?

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