“Birdman,” the new film by Alejandro González Iñárritu, is a movie unlike so many others. The majority of the film is shot and edited together so that there are very few obvious cuts in it – it seems like one long take.
That style, combined with the fact that it is a movie about a play (or at least a group of actors in a play), might give one the impression that it felt more like a play than a movie on set. It didn't.
It felt like “Dancing with the Stars.” So say Emma Stone and Edward Norton anyway.
“To me, it felt like theater and film and stunts and dancing had a crazy mash-up,” Stone told us when we sat down with the two actors over the weekend. That response followed a discussion from Norton about what “fundamentals of making movies” were present to make it feel like a movie set and not a play.
“'Dancing with the Stars' would be an apt analogy,” Norton piggybacked onto Stone's response. She was amused, but also in agreement.
It wasn't there was a live studio audience when Stone, Norton, Michael Keaton, and the rest of the cast were filming “Birdman,” it was much more that there were so many different things happening; there was a dance between actors and director and camera and scenery and any number of other pieces that were required to fulfill Iñárritu's vision.
Make no mistake, it was Iñárritu's vision, and the director made it known what he wanted to see. Stone and Norton said as much in no uncertain terms.
“Alejandro is no ordinary camera, so there's a lot of feedback,” Stone said. She added, “I've worked on a lot of things where there is little to almost no feedback, which is pretty disconcerting. But Alejandro makes it very clear how he feels.”
Norton then explained that Iñárritu had, “one of these larger than life, auteur, personalities.” He continued, “You have to go with it; you just have to get swept up in it and surrender yourself to it because it's his world and your sort of playing in it.”
The world which Iñárritu created here existed to tell the story of a Hollywood actor, Riggan Thomson (Keaton), going to Broadway to write, direct, and star in a play. The task was not a small one and certainly showed a good deal of ego on Thomson's part.
Norton thought that take on Thomson and those who surround him (both on the acting side and the critical side) was particularly good. “It's wonderfully savage, sometimes, about people and their egos.”
That “savage” take on Hollywood and Broadway along with the camera work, story, and performances place “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” on both HitFix's Best Picture and Best Actor contender lists. With the movie opening this week, you will soon be able to decide if you think it belongs on them.
“Birdman” opens this Friday, October 17th. It also features Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts, and Andrea Riseborough.