Michael Keaton’s Best Role Was Also One Of His Most Exhausting – SlashFilm


The shooting of “Birdman” was a massively complex affair, and Iñárritu carefully choreographed the entire film so that certain actors would come around corners at just the right time, and so the camera shadow wouldn’t appear in the scenes. The camera also drifted outside a few times, exploring the busy streets of New York, making lighting particularly tough. Despite the real-time presentation, “Birdman” had to be filmed out-of-order to accommodate the active schedules of the New York theaters it used as set locations. In a 2014 Hitfix article, Lubezki noted that scenes usually didn’t fall into place until around take 15. 

Film actors, unlike stage actors, aren’t necessarily used to playing single scenes for more than a few minutes. Most scenes are short, filmed from multiple angles, and edited together for maximum clarity and quality. Keaton has spent his entire acting career in front of cameras and his experience on stage was practically nil. Filming “Birdman” was tiring, but exhilarating. Keaton said: 

“But this is how you want to be exhausted. Leaving a lot of movie sets, I’ve gone home and said, ‘How come my hands are clean?’ I should finish something and go home with dirt in my fingernails, because then you really feel that you’ve done something. This was one where I went, ‘Whoa man, I worked.'”

Keaton’s efforts netted him an Academy Award nomination. He lost, however, to Eddie Redmayne for playing Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” The loss must have smarted, as Keaton returned to superhero movies tout de suite, defying the anti-blockbuster message of “Birdman.” In 2017, he appeared in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” as the Vulture, a role he reprised for “Morbius.” He returned to play Batman in the 2023 bomb “The Flash.” 

A pity.

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