HitFix

Zach Galifianakis and Amy Ryan talk about playing it straight in ‘Birdman’

Watching funny people perform dramatic roles can always be an interesting experience, especially if other parts of the film are funny.  In Alejandro González Iñárritu's film “Birdman,” Zach Galifianakis and Amy Ryan have two of the more serious roles in what is a dark comedy.

The film itself is centered on Michael Keaton's Riggan Thomson, a movie star who has opted to head to Broadway to write, direct, and star-in a play.  Galifianakis appears as Thomson's friend and manager, Jake, while Ryan is Thomson's ex-wife, Sylvia. 

No small part of both roles is keeping Thomson on the (relatively) straight and narrow.  They act  as a reality check on Thomson's flightier notions, which is what makes their roles somewhat more serious than those of other people in the film.

Do not think though that just because Ryan and Galifianakis are funny people that they had any desire to show that funny while filming.  When we sat down with them last weekend to discuss the movie, they explained their reasons for that.  It wasn't just that they felt it was unneeded either (although that was a part of it).

“I find comedy harder,” Ryan said.  “So, it's easier for me to keep it straight.”

Galifianakis agreed on comedy being more difficult, and added that there were “A couple of times where I felt like I over-improved and I think I got from Alejandro's expression, 'We don't need any of that.'” 

“Birdman,” as co-stars Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough have said, was not an easy film to shoot.  Everything had to come together in the right way to make it work, and it did.

“When I saw the film,” Ryan said, “I was blown away. I had no idea.”  She explained that the movie, “Knocked me sideways.  I had never seen any film like this.”

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