A behind the scenes gallery and collection of filmmaker quotes from Birdman (2014)
“My father always used to say to me, ‘When you have success, just taste it and spit it out, because it’s really poisonous.” – Alejandro Inarritu in The New York Times
Alejandro Inarritu earned his reputation – and a pair of Oscar nominations – with a series of sprawling, solemn dramas featuring interconnected stories and disjointed timelines. His latest, Birdman, is an inversion of that formula – a dark comedy that follows (largely) one character in one location in a single shot. Inarritu’s musings on fame, self-doubt and ego expand from major cities into the hinterlands this weekend. Here’s a Birdman primer to prepare you (or skip ahead to the bottom of the page for a behind the scenes photo gallery).
Birdman tells the story of a washed-up former movie star (Michael Keaton) – best known for playing the titular superhero – who tries to reclaim a bit of integrity by mounting a Broadway production of Raymond Carver’s short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
“Every one of us in our daily lives deals with the struggle between who we think we are and who we really are, and how every time a mirror gives us a truer picture of ourselves, it can be hard to deal with.” – screenwriter Nicolas Giacobone in the LA Times
The movie was shot in 30 days for roughly $18 million and is constructed to appear as if it’s one continuous take. Birdman is actually a series of shots (though no one involved with the film will say how many) digitally stitched together to create the illusion of one seamless take.
“(Birdman isn’t actually one long take) but it’s going to be experienced in one take. It doesn’t matter how I (did) it. The experience of the film is one take; the people see it in one take. That’s what is important — not how I did it.” – director Alejandro Inarritu in indieWire
Inarritu on the choice of Carver’s short story:
“Carver is one of my favorite writers. I thought that an attempt to do a play based on Raymond Carver’s story would be stupid. That an ignorant guy that doesn’t belong to theater chooses to do this, is a bad great idea that Carver would like. The theme flows into what Carver wrote about. What is love? The elements of that story allow us to project and reflect itself through Michael’s character’s own quest. He became the same guy they talk about in that story, so desperate to be loved. It was terrifying with Carver, though. I knew that Tess Gallagher, the poet and widow of Carver, she was very tough with Robert Altman, and it took two years to get the rights for Short Cuts. I sent her the script, with a letter, and we knew that if she said no, we would be fucked. We could have another play, but it wouldn’t have been the same.” – via Deadline.com
Inarritu on cinema’s current obsession with superheroes:
“I think there’s nothing wrong with being fixated on superheroes when you are 7 years old, but I think there’s a disease in not growing up. The corporations and the hedge funds have a hold on Hollywood and they all want to make money…When you put $100 million (into a movie) and you get $800 million or $1 billion (in return), it is very hard to convince people (to not make those types of films). You tell them, you (can) put in $20 million and you will get $80 million (back). Now, that is a fucking amazing business, but they say, “$80 million? I want $800 million.” Basically, the room to exhibit good nice films is over…I sometimes enjoy (superhero movies) because they are basic and simple and go well with popcorn. The problem is that sometimes they purport to be profound, based on some Greek mythological kind of thing. And they are honestly very right wing. I always see them as killing people because they do not believe in what you believe…” – via Deadline.com
Birdman cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, The Tree of Life) shot the film using Alexas – the M version for handheld shots and the XT for Steadicam shots – and Leica and Arri/Zeiss Master Prime lenses. Here’s Lubezki on how he approached the film’s lighting:
I wanted the movie to look as naturalistic as possible. We did not use movie lights. It’s all light bulbs. All the lights that you see in the set are the lights that are lighting the scene. (The Alexas) allow us to do that because the dynamic range of the camera was able to capture the light bulb and the face of the actor without clipping (the highlights). There is one scene where we used probably a 20K (movie light). It was outside a window in the stage to create the impression of daylight, but all the other lights are just lamps and practicals. – from Arri.com