Michael Keaton has been in the Hollywood spotlight for nearly 50 years. Miraculously, he managed to keep his personal life very private despite his fame. Keaton was married once, to the late actress Caroline McWilliams. The two share a son, Sean Douglas.
Michael Keaton was born on September 5, 1951, in Kennedy Township, Pennsylvania. The youngest of 7 children in a very Catholic family, his birth name was Michael Douglas. He wisely changed his stage name to Keaton when he became a professional actor. After all, there was already another Michael Douglas.
Keaton started landing roles on film and TV in 1975 and eventually became one of the world’s most prolific actors. He was Bruce Wayne in the original Batman movies, the star of Beetlejuice, and has three up-and-coming films. Two of those films are Batman movies where he will return as Bruce Wayne.
Caroline McWilliams Was a Successful Actress Before She Was Keaton’s Wife
Keaton married actress Caroline McWilliams in 1982.
Caroline was born in Seattle, Washington but, like Keaton, was raised in New England. McWilliams was born on April 4, 1945, making her 6 years older than her husband. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University in 1966. Before getting into on-screen acting, Caroline was a seasoned theatre actor, performing in Shakespeare productions as well as on and off-Broadway shows like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Rothschilds.
Caroline began her TV acting career as Janet Mason Norris in the show Guiding Light from 1969-1975. She was a veteran actress long before her more famous husband hit the silver screen. But McWilliams’ acting career was almost exclusively on the small screen. She was in dozens of TV series including Beverly Hills 90210, Home Improvement, Suddenly Susan, and Switched at Birth. McWilliams played Carrie in the 1990 film Mermaids and Virginia Block in White Water Summer. Her final role was as Helene Steele in the TV series Judging Amy, from 2002 to 2003.
McWilliams was also a director. She directed The Smoke and Ice Follies and Divorcons. Her sister Kelly-Jo Dvareckas told the LA Times that directing made McWilliams feel as though she “hit her stride.”
Michael Keaton and Caroline McWilliams Kept Their Family Life Very Private
The details of how Michael Keaton and Caroline McWilliams met are not well known. While they managed to stay out of tabloid stories over their relationship, there were plenty of photos of the two actors at Hollywood events. The couple had one son, Sean Douglas, on May 27, 1983.
Sean, who kept his father’s real last name, didn’t become an actor like his parents. Instead, he became a successful songwriter. He’s written hit songs for stars like Madonna, Demi Lovato, Lizzo, Selena Gomez, Nick Jonas, Snoop Dogg, and Backstreet Boys. Keaton told Parade that he was “very grateful” that Sean chose an alternative path to acting.
For Caroline, having a child and being a mother was the most important thing in her life. In an interview with ELLE Magazine, Michael Keaton quoted his late ex-wife as saying she wished she’d become a mother sooner (or dated later).
“When our son, Sean, was in his teens, one of the greatest things she ever said was, ‘I really wish I would have had a son before I ever dated anybody,’” Keaton told ELLE.
Keaton Divorced His Wife After 8 Years of Marriage
The couple stayed married for 8 years until Keaton filed for divorce in January 1990. Although details of the divorce are not well known, Keaton once admitted to Parade that his choice to divorce Caroline was “a failure.”
While it’s not clear why Keaton and McWilliams divorced, there were signs that Keaton’s affections were waning prior to their separation.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Batman producer Jon Peters admitted that he had an affair with Kim Basinger while she was still married to her husband. She was married to makeup artist Ron Snyder, who Peters described as “abusive.” Although this hasn’t been corroborated, Peters also claimed that “Michael Keaton had the eye for Kim Basinger” while filming Batman. Keaton was still married to Caroline at the time. This was in 1989.
“I remember he got mad at me when she and I hooked up,” Peters told THR. “He felt rejected ’cause he was the star.”
Shortly afterward, Keaton and McWilliams were no longer together. The same year that they divorced, Keaton started dating Friends star, Courtney Cox. Keaton and Cox dated for 5 years and the actress once told People (via InStyle) that theirs was “the most important relationship I’ve ever had.” She said that the two of them were “totally in sync” and their first date involved talking about dream homes for 5 hours at her house.
Despite dating Courtney Cox for 5 years, the two never married. Caroline McWilliams likewise never remarried and, to this day, neither has Michael Keaton.
Caroline McWilliams Died in 2010 From Multiple Myeloma
The death was hard for Keaton to deal with. He’d already witnessed two of his siblings lose their ex-partners and was told it would be “harder” than he thought.
“My sister and my brother both lost ex-spouses, and both said, ‘This is going to be harder than you think.’ And the feelings that came up were odd, but not in a bad way, necessarily, because we had remained close,” Keaton told ELLE.
He also praised Caroline for her mothering skills.
“She was a remarkable mom,” he said. “Sean is the great guy he is because of her—we’ve always been tight, but now the bond’s even tighter. We’re the family now.”