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Writer Max Borenstein Reveals What It Was Really Like Working With Michael Keaton On Worth - Exclusive

In the midst of writing the Godzilla and Kong films in the blockbuster MonsterVerse over the past seven years, screenwriter Max Borenstein has been toiling away on a high-profile film project featuring another movie icon. The major difference is that this film, "Worth," is on the serious end of the cinematic spectrum, and it deals with one of the biggest tragedies in American history.

Based on famed attorney Kenneth Feinberg's best-selling book "What is Life Worth?: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Fund and its Effort To Compensate the Victims of September 11th," the new Netflix original film "Worth" chronicles the devastating aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America. Michael Keaton stars as Feinberg who, as special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, must find a way with his law partner, Camille Biros (Amy Ryan), to adequately compensate victims and surviving family members in the wake of the attacks.

Tasked by the federal government to find a fair and respectful way to administer funds to the families of the victims, Feinberg and Biros worked pro bono for nearly three years on the project. It turned out to be a gut-wrenching process for the duo, as they encountered — among other things — government bureaucracies, politics, and pushback from high-powered representatives arguing for the relative value of certain lives.

Max Borenstein says Michael Keaton was intimidated at first by the role

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Borenstein said getting Keaton to commit to playing Feinberg wasn't an easy task. After all, the tragedy of 9/11 was seared in everybody's minds throughout the project, and playing the person at the center of the story required a great deal of reverence and responsibility. As such, Borenstein and his fellow filmmakers couldn't see anybody else in the role but Keaton.

"God, he's just one of the great actors of his era of our country. He is amazing and I've always been an enormous fan. Michael was the guy that we had in mind to play Ken. I talked to him about the project years ago, before he'd kind of settled on the idea that he wanted to do it," Borenstein said. "He was anxious about it, and I think because he was very intrigued by it, by the character, by the story. At the same time, he was intimidated, I think, by the demands of telling the story and doing justice to it. He wanted to be respectful to the two and also sensitive to the facts, while creating something that was dramatic and compelling. We had a long conversation early on, and then it stuck with him, and then eventually he agreed to do it."

On top of getting right the ideals that Feinberg represented, Borenstein said that Keaton was just as concerned about properly representing his character as he truly was during this crucial period in his life.

"I thought what Michael brought to the role was gorgeous because it wasn't a caricature of Ken," Borenstein observed. "Ken's a very specific guy with a very larger-than-life personality in real life. And I think Michael was able to bring something to him that was nuanced and specific without feeling like a caricature. I marveled at what he did every day."

In lighter moments, Max Borenstein says he asked Michael Keaton about Batman

Naturally, you can't work on a project with Michael Keaton without brining up one of his biggest roles — Batman, aka Bruce Wayne, in director Tim Burton's classic superhero films "Batman" and "Batman Returns."

"We mentioned it once or twice," Borenstein said, laughing as he talked about his chats about the Bat with Keaton. "He will always be my favorite Batman, and now he's doing it again, which is exciting."

Borenstein, of course, is alluding to Keaton's upcoming appearance in the hotly anticipated feature film version of "The Flash," where he and Ben Affleck are set to reprise their iterations of Batman via the wonders of DC's multiverse. But as one who understands the burden of keeping proprietary information secret from his MonsterVerse movies, Borenstein said he didn't ask for any intel about Keaton's involvement in "The Flash."

"I don't know anything specific," Borenstein said, laughing. "I just know it's happening."

Meanwhile, Keaton admirers can see him in "Worth," which is streaming exclusively on Netflix.