Michael Keaton gave a touching tribute to his late nephew Michael Scichilone, who died of a fentanyl overdose, at the Screen Actors Guild Awards last night.
The Hulu miniseries Dopesick, which tells the frightening story of America’s opioid crisis, earned Keaton, 70, the Oscar for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor. “Given the subject, this is for my nephew Michael and my sister Pam,” he explained.
Michael Scichilone of Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, died of an accidental opiate overdose while he was only 34 years old. He’d spent years ‘trying’ to kick his habit. Michael Douglas was the 72-year-old son of Keaton’s older sister, Pamela Douglas.
His death made Keaton’s role in the television series Dopesick more heartbreaking. He plays a rural doctor who is fooled by Purdue Pharma’s deceptive marketing and business techniques before succumbing to his OxyContin addiction.
According to Keaton, there were times when he read the script and thought, “Jeez, this is Michael’s narrative,” and he chose to play the character as a method to battle the opioid issue and hold those accountable, particularly the Sackler family, who controls Purdue Pharmaceuticals.
Scichilone’s family and friends paid moving tributes to him on social media, describing him as a cherished son, brother, and uncle who was “fiercely missed” and had a prominent personality. Scichilone succumbed to addiction only a few weeks after attending rehab to try to quit using drugs.
“Last year on this day, Michael was in rehab attempting to “get better,” said his younger sister Emily in an Instagram post in October 2017. He deserves better from us. Let us be compassionate. Let us help people who are in need before they turn to drugs.
Scichilone went and graduated from a Mount Lebanon high school, but it is uncertain how long he struggled with addiction. He is also not thought to have completed a college degree.
He was “a fiercely loyal friend, an amazing son, and an avid sports lover,” according to his obituary.
Scichilone, like his well-known uncle, began as a stand-up comedian and is known for his “sense of humor” and ability to make “any kid that had the privilege of being around him” smile.
Through the film Dopesick, Keaton develops another, even more, sad connection to his nephew. Like millions of other Americans, the actor’s nephew struggled with substance abuse for an extended period until it ended his life. As a result, his family and the actor are now motivated to combat opiate abuse in the United States, both on and off-screen.
Keaton said he was driven to work on the project because he finds “pleasure in holding those people accountable for the victims of this opioid catastrophe,” specifically the Sackler family, who own Purdue Pharma. Keaton also served as an executive producer for the show.
“You become eaten by the addiction,” he claims. “It depletes your soul. It destroys extremely remarkable people.”
Scichilone’s family formed the “KICK IT For Mike” charity in his memory to raise awareness via education.
The organization is run by his mother, Pamela, who still lives in Pittsburgh (not far from where she, Keaton, and the rest of the Douglas family grew up), as well as his two sisters Meghan, a real estate agent in Mount Lebanon, and Emily, a cosmetics artist who now lives in Chicago.
Scichilone is depicted in numerous photographs on their social media pages as a happy child who enjoys dressing up, playing in the mud, swimming in the pool, and laughing with his well-known uncle. Scichilone is seen later in his life attending his older sister Meghan’s wedding, going to prom, and posing with his “buddies.”
Scichilone’s nephew can be heard chatting while watching sports in a video on the “KICK IT For Mike” charity page. According to the sweet message, I miss Michael for various reasons, but nothing makes me miss him more than when Cash speaks sports. Wished he could research the draft with this new sports lover.
Scichilone’s addiction is unknown, however, remarks on the ‘KICK IT For Mike’ Facebook group condemn the Sackler family, Purdue Pharma’s owners, and the firm that manufactures the popular drug OxyContin.
One caption linked to a New Yorker article titled “The Sackler Family’s Plan to Keep Their Billions,” which noted, “This is awful.”
Another repost of a Washington Post article on Walgreens handing out “one out of every five oxycodone and hydrocodone pills” during the ongoing opioid crisis has the word “disgusting” written over it.
Another Instagram video, “Five Important Safety Tips Every Parent Should Know,” warns parents about the dangers of prescription and over-the-counter medications.
Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, OxyContin, oxycodone, and heroin are currently the leading cause of death in America, accounting for over 79,000 deaths in that age range between 2020 and 2021.
Dopesick examines the opioid problem from the perspectives of patients, doctors, and law enforcement authorities who are attempting to hold Purdue Pharma accountable for sending an army of salespeople around the country to encourage doctors to prescribe OxyContin over other treatments. As a result of the strategy, the Sackler family would become one of the wealthiest in America.
Users of the highly addictive prescription painkiller are shown smashing the tablets into a powder before graduating to stronger substances like heroin and fentanyl to satisfy their cravings in the Hulu series.
It was critical for Michael Keaton to be able to evaluate and say, “At least I achieved something that maybe meant something to someone,” he says.
On many levels, Dopesick is profoundly personal to him. His home state of Pennsylvania has been hard struck by the opioid epidemic, and he tragically lost his nephew to addiction. Every day in 2017, at least ten people died from an overdose.
I don’t believe I have an obligation, but you wouldn’t want to leave the world thinking, “I could have been a mensch,” he reflected on why he selected this position. I might have swayed someone’s opinion.