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Birdman: Or, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, collected nine Oscar nominations this year and tied for most among contenders. The Michael Keaton film is an energetic, funny, crafty comedy/drama, with wonderfully sublime performances all around.
The film, edited and framed to look like one continuous shot over the course of a few days, follows has-been superhero star Riggan Thomson (Keaton), who is producing, directing, and starring in his own Broadway play. The stress of life and play, and the disaster surrounding Thomson’s life, has put him on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Here are 13 things to know about Birdman…
1. Michael Keaton has stated this was the most demanding, challenging role he has ever undertaken. He also says the character of Riggan Thomson is the character most dissimilar to his own personality than any character he has played.
2. The entire film was shot in under a month.
3. Similar to how Michael Keaton’s character reflects his own earlier role as Batman, Edward Norton’s character is likewise a parody, since Norton–like his character–has a reputation for being very abrasive and difficult to work with.
4. Edward Norton and Zach Galifianakis said they were fans of Michael Keaton and were excited to work with him on this movie. Norton listed Night Shift, Mr. Mom, and Beetlejuice as three of his favorite Keaton films he grew up on.
5. The film was written using the Mexican dramatic device of Magical Realism – Magic realism or magical realism is a genre where magical or unreal elements play a natural part in an otherwise realistic (often mundane) environment.
6. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman was originally mentioned in the script, as the actor “doing the third Hunger Games“. It was later changed to Woody Harrelson, who was also starring in the Hunger Games franchise.
7. Because the movie was so rehearsed and it was all shot on sequence, the editing process only took two weeks, a process that typically takes several weeks or even months.
8. The carpet visible within a number of backstage corridor scenes is the same iconic, hexagonal carpet used in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
9. According to director Alejandro González Iñárritu, he had dinner with late director Mike Nichols in New York two weeks before he began shooting the movie. Iñarritu told Nichols of his plan for how he was going to shoot the movie as one long take. Nichols predicted it would be a disaster because not having the ability to use cuts in editing would inhibit the opportunities for comedy. Inarritu said the meeting didn’t deter him, but was instead helpful in raising his awareness level of the difficulty of what he was about to do.
10. The scene of Riggan running through Times Square in his underwear was filmed after midnight so that the amount of real bystanders caught on camera in the shot would be limited, and that the majority of people in frame are hired extras or crew members.
11. Given the unusual style of filming long takes, Edward Norton and Michael Keaton kept a running tally of flubs made by the actors. Emma Stone made the most mistakes and Zach Galifianakis made the fewest.
12. During the press conference in Riggan’s dressing room, he says that he hasn’t played Birdman since 1992. That was when Keaton last played Batman, in Batman Returns.
13. The movies’ subtitle, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, is revealed to be the title of the review that film critic Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan) writes about the play at the end of the movie.