Look behind the curtain of 'Birdman's 'play within the play'
“I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable; I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.” —Walt Whitman
Michael Keaton isn’t mid-sneeze in the photo above from Birdman. Actually, he’s executing the fierce war cry of Birdman, the iconic movie superhero who his character, Riggan Thomson, was famous for—before walking away from the role after Birdman III 20 years ago. In the new film, directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Riggan has bet everything he has on adapting, directing, and starring in a Broadway play based on Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. He too wants to make one final barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world, to prove his worth, not only to critics and his daughter, but himself.
Unfortunately, everything is going wrong. His brilliant co-star, played by Edward Norton, has his own agenda, Riggan’s current girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough) might be pregnant with his child, his producer (Zach Galifianakis) is warning that the money is almost gone, and his recently rehabbed daughter (Emma Stone) is making the least out of being her dad’s personal assistant. Making matters worse, Riggan can’t get Birdman out of his head, and the hero seems to be taunting the actor for his current predicament.
The film is a solid Oscar contender, especially for Keaton, who himself once walked away from the fame and riches of playing Batman—though he insists his own story hardly parallels his character’s. Birdman opened up to huge per-screen averages last month, and it’s played to packed movie houses for three weeks. It expands again tomorrow, and could crack the weekend Top 10 at the box office.
Iñárritu walks viewers through the labyrinth that is both Manhattan’s St. James Theatre and Riggan’s mind in an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of Birdman.