With Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)—all part of the title—hitting theatres recently, The Reporter was selected to be involved in a college conference call with the film’s director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, Amores Perros, 21 Grams).
Birdman stars Michael Keaton as a washed-up actor who formerly played a superhero who must now overcome his own issues in order to restore his once proud name. The casting choice was interesting in that Keaton himself once played Batman and perhaps has fallen slightly from the stature he once held in Hollywood.
Iñárritu says that he didn’t exactly base the movie on Keaton, but that his casting did lend some authenticity to the role.
“Well, Keaton obviously adds a lot of…reality to the film, and that was great, but at the same time he had a lot of authority,” Iñárritu said. “He is one of the few persons that has worn that cape and is a pioneer of that superhero thing, but at the same time he has the craft and the range to play in drama and comedy where very few actors in the world can do that…I think he was very bold accepting and trusting me in this role.”
While not a direct critique on Keaton, Iñárritu does intend for the film to analyze the superhero genre.
“There’s a bunch of films that…mean nothing,” he said. “They are just full of explosions and special effects and the superhero, in a way, is an illusion that doesn’t exist; and they are really tied to that and corporations and hedge funds want to…squeeze money by those things that are, in a way, poisoning the cinema.”
One of the most interesting things about this film is that it appears to have been shot in one very-long take. While this wasn’t the case, it is pulled off with camera and editing tricks, the effect was chosen specifically by Iñárritu to lend a certain effect to the story.
“I wanted the long take to make the people really feel the experience of this guy,” he said. “I think it’s important for every director and every film to choose the point of view, and in this case I wanted a radical point of view and the people wear the shoes of the character and experience his emotions.”
Birdman, with a much more comedic element than his usual work, is a change for Iñárritu, who says he was trying to approach similar themes explored in his earlier work in a lighter way.
“I think with a sense of humor…it becomes a much more attractive thing to be explored and observed. After having made so many dramas, I needed a vacation and I wanted to add some sugar to the plate and I really enjoyed it,” he said. “[It is] the first time that I laugh in a set, so that was great.”
Iñárritu is hopeful that audiences will have as much fun watching the movie as he had making it.
“I have been lucky to have…been involved in all my films in a very personal way. I think there’s no other way to make it.”
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is currently in theaters.