“Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance” is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) – famous for portraying an iconic superhero – as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself. On Oct. 11, 2014 we were on the red carpet for the New York Film Festival’s closing night gala presentation of the film which Fox Searchlight will release on this Friday, Oct. 17. Read our exclusive interviews below:
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Tell me about your love of the play and theater.
Alejandro: I studied theater in Mexico with Ludwik Margules who I will say was my big mentor. I have never put on a play in my life because I would be terrified. But I think I learned from that discipline, so I loved it.
Speak about collaborating with Michael Keaton.
Alejandro: Michael was the only guy that I think could survive this experience of being so precise and playing a prick, which is adorable because the guy has this ability to play drama, comedy, make you feel things are very complex in one continuous take. The craft that he possesses is very, very, very rare.
What do you hope people take from the film?
Alejandro: Well, to be honest, be ware of the ego and how he dominates on us.
Tell us about your character.
Michael Keaton: He is an actor who decides to go mount a play as a director and an actor. It kind of falls apart and he has a breakdown.
What do you admire about Alejandro?
Michael Keaton: He is great. He is a great, great director. He is the kind of guy that you want to work with.
Naomi Watts wore a Gucci Première pale grey lace and silk tulle long sleeve gown featuring a sheer neckline, covered button detail along the back and a delicate train to the premiere. Read what she told us exclusively:
In the film there was a moment when your character says I have made it. Was there a moment like that in your career?
Naomi Watts: No, you never think that. I don’t think I have ever … except for when an amazing expensive handbag comes through the door and it’s free. But no, I don’t know, I worked so hard for such a long time, it’s not like suddenly I can sit back and rest, I am always connected to that feeling of you’ve got to prove yourself, you’ve got to keep working for it!
In the film, the cast is starring in a production of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About, When We Talk About Love.” We spoke with Carver’s widow poet Tess Gallagher about his work being incorporated into the film.
How did you first hear that they wanted to use Mr. Carver’s work in the film?
Tess Gallagher: Well usually these things come through your agent and in this case it was through my agent. I read the script first and I loved the film script. I knew all the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu and I loved them. And so I met with him here in New York and watched some of the filming – it was already in process and I went to Hollywood and I saw the cuts that had been made then, kind of preview cuts, and it was very, very good and very impressive. I loved his treatment of Raymond Carver’s work and the use of the poem at the beginning, the poem called “Late Fragment” from Ray’s book All Of Us. I just loved the film, it’s very, very strong and we all, as Alessandro says, have a “Birdman” inside us, somebody who is looking to make life right and not just be pulled along by mad horses into whatever is taking you. It’s a film about changing your life and it is very, very hard to do but we all have to do it at some point.
Would you say that this is one of the most unique ways his work has been used?
Tess Gallagher: Ray’s work, nine of the stories were used in Robert Altman’s film Shortcuts and I worked a bit on that with Altman and there were more stories used there. But this is really a tribute to Ray. It’s about a man trying to turn his life around and that Raymond Carver was an inspiration to him. Ray really is that for a lot of people, not just writers but to people in the world.