SI: NASCAR and its fans are sensitive about how the sport is portrayed. Will they be happy with Herbie?
Keaton: To NASCAR's credit, they rode us hard on what we could and could not do. They didn't want to be portrayed as hicks and white trash. They are protective of their brand, and I think they come off well.
SI: How closely did you follow NASCAR before the film?
Keaton: I didn't know much about it. But you can rent headsets and listen to the pit crews and get a real education. I loved the crew. Cars are screaming around the track at 170 mph and you expect mayhem. But they are talking calmly like, "Hey, I'm going to Starbucks. Want a latte?"
SI: As a native of Coraopolis, Pa., what's your fondest memory growing up as a Pittsburgh fan?
Keaton: Getting off the school bus and my brother running up the long road from our farmhouse, screaming, "We won! Mazeroski hit a home run!" And being in the end zone when Franco Harris made the Immaculate Reception.
SI: Why, at Sundance last January, were you carrying around a yellow-and-black Steelers Terrible Towel?
Keaton: All my bathrooms are outfitted with Terrible Towels. I don't have regular towels. No, I'm joking.
SI: You've said you didn't see any of the Batman films. Will you check out Batman Begins?
Keaton: Well, I saw the first one [laughs] and most of the second. If there's one I'm interested in, it would be this one. But the other two ... they weren't interesting enough for me to do, so why would I want to go see them?
SI: You and Michael Jordan are pals?
Keaton: I met him at a Warner Brothers dinner. I'll see him maybe once a year, and we'll talk on the phone. I once asked him, "Game is on the line. If it ain't you, who do you want to have the ball?" I didn't even get it out of my mouth and he said, "Larry Bird." --Richard Deitsch
MARK MAINZ/GETTY IMAGES (KEATON)
BUENA VISTA PICTURES (KEATON IN MOVIE)