Michael Keaton doesn't sugercoat the truth behind McDonald's founder
Actor Michael Keaton talks about playing Ray Kroc, the man who created the fast-food giant
You probably do not know who Ray Kroc is, and neither did Michael Keaton when he first got the script for The Founder, the story of the man behind the McDonald's fast-food chain.
But once he read it, he was in.
"I admired him for his work ethic, his determination, and his attention to detail and focus," said Keaton, 65.
"And then he turns the corner and he essentially does a deal with the devil. I was not going to back off portraying that part."
He told writer-director John Lee Hancock before signing on: "If your concern is getting more people in the seats by making him lovable, I am absolutely the wrong guy. You cannot sugarcoat this. I would like to stay true to who the guy was and what he did."
Kroc was a milkshake machine salesman, struggling because his achievements had not kept pace with his ambition.
When a small diner ordered a lot of his machines, his attention was piqued, and when he visited it, he found two brothers, Maurice and Richard McDonald, running a very popular and efficient enterprise.
Somehow, he talks the brothers into franchising the store, with a contract giving them quality control.
But when Kroc discovers the new stores were not making money due to the strict quality controls, he does an end run around the brothers, and buys them out for a pittance, getting to sit on a huge empire.
Keaton found the preparation for the role simple.
He said: "All I did was look at a documentary about Kroc. I looked at how he behaved, what he looked like, and what he did. I was also given some material to read and I just got it.
He added: "One of my favourite scenes in this movie has no dialogue.
"It's when the golden arches are glowing at night and everything is quiet. They are closed, the parking lot is empty, everybody is gone.
"But there is Ray intensely sweeping and scrubbing the sidewalks to make them pristine.
"And I thought, 'I love this guy'. I based it on my oldest brother Robert who is a hard, hard worker."
We talked about his McDonald's experiences as a child.
Said Keaton: "I remember going when we were young - it was a destination.
"You got in your car and you drove to it. I had a lot of brothers and sisters, so we could not get much even as cheap as it was then.
"It really changed how we live. Fast food was for a while, only associated with McDonald's, and then fast food became a thing."
He no longer goes to the restaurant, but said he used to take his son there.
Said Keaton: "When Sean was young, I would take him and his friends. I wouldn't take them often, as I thought it was not good for them.
"But yeah, they would pile in the car and I would take them to McDonald's."
Kroc's family was not associated with the movie, said Keaton.
He said: "From what I gathered while we were making it, they were aware of it, and there was no real heat or pressure or friction anywhere.
"I am not sure they are going to be happy with how Ray is portrayed. It is complex, it is not a simple thing.
"But there's parts in this movie that are fun, really light-hearted and entertaining."
Keaton's career is on a roll, following up his Golden Globe-winning turn in Birdman (2014) with the Oscar-winning film Spotlight (2015).
The Founder, while not part of the awards season conversation, is still a really good movie.
I ask him how he has kept the momentum going in his career.
"There's a limited amount of really good stuff," Keaton said.
"I am fortunate how everything worked out.
"Some really good things came along and all coincided, and got me excited to work again."
Did the Oscar nomination for Birdman help his career?
Said Keaton: "Yes, I think probably. That gives you some advantages. Gives you some cachet."