‘Birdman’ director says it’s important to stay busy during ego-stroking awards season

Alejandro González Iñárritu and his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have done something outrageous. They've made a film like “Birdman” and then gone off to Calgary to shoot a film in the middle of the awards season. Anyone trying to get Lubezki on the phone in particular, it's impossible. I've come *this* close to hopping in the car and driving into Alberta myself for a “Searching for Chivo” piece or what have you. But it's also recommended, I think, to stay busy when you have a film in the thick of the Oscar race, as these two do.

“Honestly, it's the first time that happened to me, because I always take three years in between films,” González Iñárritu says to me by phone, driving to a mountain set north of the border with Lubezki in the passenger seat – so close it's driving me crazy. They're shooting “The Revenant” through April, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, weathering temperatures of 20 degrees below zero and various storms amid the beautiful Canadian landscape.

“And you are right,” he continues. “It's insane to be in the middle of the storm, because in a way, it's exactly what the ego needs, to be reading about how stupid you were or how great you are, and that's useless. In a way it's dangerous. So being away and not having time or energy to be involved or even read some things, it's absolutely marvelous. Because the film is already what it is. It can never be better or not. I can do nothing anymore. So whatever comes – I'm not saying that I don't care, it's just these kinds of gifts of nominations or recognition or even a friend or colleague saying, “Oh, I think it's beautiful,” that can be a little bit of ego masturbation, and I'm happy that I'm away from that, because that's what the film is about!”

Thursday “Birdman” picked up a field-leading seven Golden Globe nominations, including Best Director and Best Screenplay nominations for González Iñárritu himself. And indeed, for a movie about ego and stardom and the desperation of leaving an indelible mark, both out of nobility and out of vane self-regard, it's another level of “meta” at play with the film finding itself in the awards discussion.

“For Michael and all of us, it would be funny [to win awards], because it's part of the reality of the film,” he says. “Like [the film's fictional theater critic] Tabitha Dickenson says, that we are handing awards to cartoons and pornography! I think that would be a very funny thing.”

Nevertheless, not at all something expected. No one – certainly not someone like González Iñárritu – makes films with awards in mind, but the “Birdman” auteur says he was mostly concerned with whether the whole thing would make a lick of sense at the end of the day, let alone shiny trophies.

“First of all, it was a laboratory experiment and I didn't have any precedent to follow because there was no film made like this, a comedy with all these elements,” he says. “I didn't know if it would work or not. And I was trying to push, a little bit, the way a conventional filmmaker can be. And every director tries to do that. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. In this case it was extreme and I didn't know if it would work. So the fact that people respond to it and we're being nominated for certain awards, I think it's amazing. The fact that it's had some emotional resonance for some people, that's what makes the film a film and I love that.”

And what about the elusive “maestro,” as González Iñárritu calls him, Mr. Lubezki? Can I get this guy on the phone already??

“Let me tell you, cabrón, even his wife tracked him and he did not appear,” the director says with a laugh. “That's the kind of man he is.” An enigma!

“Birdman” is now playing in theaters.