Birdman Information

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a 2014 American black comedy film co-written, produced, and directed by Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu. The film stars Michael Keaton as the title character with Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts.

The film had its world premiere as the opening film of 2014 Venice Film Festival and was released theatrically on October 17, 2014 in the United States.


Riggan Thomson (Keaton) is a washed-up Hollywood actor who once played the superhero Birdman in three blockbuster movies, before leaving the multi-billion-dollar franchise. More than 20 years after Birdman, Riggan wants to reinvent his career by writing, directing, and starring in a play, an adaptation of Raymond Carver's short story "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love". The play is produced by Riggan's best friend/lawyer Jake (Galifianakis), and stars Riggan's girlfriend Laura (Riseborough), first-time-Broadway-actress Lesley (Watts), and Mike (Norton). Riggan's daughter Sam (Stone), a recovering drug addict, serves as his spunky, bedraggled assistant. In order to afford Mike as a replacement actor (after Riggan rigs a spotlight to fall on the original actor during a rehearsal), Riggan refinances a house that should belong to his daughter, Sam, rendering him flat broke. Throughout all of this, Riggan from time to time hears his voice as Birdman either mocking or bolstering him; he also performs small feats of telekinesis and levitation when he is alone.

During a preview, Riggan, Mike, and Lesley perform a scene where Riggan's character catches Lesley and Mike having sex in a motel, after which Riggan's character laments about not existing, and then commits suicide. After the preview, Mike advises Riggan to find a more realistic prop gun.

Riggan reads early reviews and is incensed that Mike, the replacement, has stolen the spotlight. Mike has even told the press that Raymond Carver was his inspiration to become an actor, which is Riggan's origin story. Riggan desperately wants to be relevant, but the initial reviews do nothing to improve his ego/self-esteem, and those fears of being irrelevant have deepened after an emotional confrontation with his daughter Sam, where she tells him that he, like the rest of the world, does not matter, and should get used to it.

In the middle of a subsequent preview, Riggan accidentally locks himself out of the theater and has to speed-walk in his underwear through Times Square in order to get back into the theater, where he finishes the preview to a confused and perhaps delighted audience. (He becomes a viral sensation for that speed-walk, which is ironic considering he had no social-media presence at all up until that time, and that he did not believe social media made people relevant.) After the performance, Riggan runs into Tabitha, an influential theater critic. She reveals that she hates Hollywood celebrities who attempt to pass themselves off as legitimate actors, and that she will destroy his play by writing a terrible review. Frustrated, Riggan gets drunk, and the following day hallucinates about communing with Birdman and possessing ever greater superpowers, including flight.

On opening night, the performances are better than ever. Riggan uses a real gun for the final scene, shooting himself in the head in front of the audience, and earns a standing ovation from all but Tabitha, who walks out during the applause. He survives the shot and is taken to the hospital, having only managed to shoot off his nose during the play. Jake is ecstatic about a very unexpected rave review from Tabitha, lauding Riggan's development of a new acting style she dubs "Super-Realism", and the fact that his best friend is still alive. While alone in his hospital room, after a poignant father-daughter moment with Sam, Riggan spots birds flying outside his hospital room and climbs out onto the ledge. When Sam returns, Riggan is gone. Sam hurries to the window, looks down at the street, expecting to see his body. An ambulance siren is heard, along with calls for help from a crowd which will continue over the closing credits. Sam, with a puzzled expression, then slowly looks skyward, and smiles brightly.


  • Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson / Birdman
  • Edward Norton as Mike Shiner: a successful and popular actor
  • Emma Stone as Sam Thomson: Riggan's adult daughter just out of rehab
  • Naomi Watts as Lesley: an actress and girlfriend of Mike Shiner
  • Andrea Riseborough as Laura: an actress and Riggan's girlfriend
  • Zach Galifianakis as Jake: Riggan's lawyer and friend
  • Amy Ryan as Sylvia: Riggan's ex-wife and Sam's mother
  • Lindsay Duncan as Tabitha Dickinson: a top theatre critic
  • Jeremy Shamos as Ralph: the actor who is injured and replaced with Mike
  • Merritt Wever as Annie: the stage manager
  • Benjamin Kanes as Birdman (in costume)



Principal photography commenced in March 2013 in New York City, with principal shooting of the theatre scenes taking place over 30 days in April and May, 2013. Most of the film was shot on location in and around the St. James Theatre on 44th Street, New York City. The sequences inside a nearby bar were filmed at the Rum House on 48th Street; digital trickery was used to create the illusion that it is located around the corner from the St. James.

According to the film's cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, the camerawork and editing of Birdman were manipulated to give the appearance that most of the film is one continuous long take. The screenwriters have said that the long take approach was part of Irritu's initial idea behind the film although "huge" and "important" people warned them not to write it and shoot it that way.


On January 7, 2014, Antonio Snchez was set to compose the music for the film. The soundtrack album was released on October 14, 2014.

Excerpts from the following classical pieces appear in the soundtrack:

  • Ravel, Pavane for a Dead Princess
  • Rachmaninoff, Symphony No. 2, second movement
  • Mahler, "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" (from Rckert-Lieder)
  • Mahler, Symphony No. 9, first movement
  • Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 4, second movement
  • Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 5, second movement


On July 10, 2014, it was announced that Birdman had been selected as the opening film of the 71st Venice International Film Festival. The film was released on October 17, 2014 in the United States.


Critical response

Birdman has been met with universal acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 94%, based on 162 reviews, with an average rating of 8.6/10. The site's critical consensus states: "A thrilling leap forward for director Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu, Birdman is an ambitious technical showcase powered by a layered story and outstanding performances from Michael Keaton and Edward Norton." Metacritic gave the film a score of 89 out of 100, based on reviews from 46 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Praise was directed to virtually every aspect of the film, in particular the direction, screenplay, story, cinematography, concept, music, and acting. The camerawork, which depicts most of the film as one continuous take, was met with unanimous acclaim for its execution and usage. And the acting was widely praised, with particular praise reserved for Galifianakis, Watts, Stone, Norton, and Keaton. Michael Keaton's performance in particular has been hailed by many critics, with Peter Debruge of Variety magazine calling the performance the "comeback of the century." Many have cited Keaton as the "man to beat" for the Oscar.

Peter Debruge of Variety magazine praised the film, describing it as "a self aware showbiz satire" and calling it "a triumph on every creative level". Robbie Collin of The Telegraph gave the film 5/5. Collin had particular praise for the use of long takes by Emmanuel Lubezki, director of photography. Richard Roeper gave the film an "A", and wrote that Keaton makes a serious case for a Best Actor nomination.

Noting the thematic pull between Riggan's insanity or actual superpowers, Travis LaCouter of First Things writes that "the importance of these powers"?real or imagined"?is apparent: They are for Riggan the thing beyond the labels, the kernel of his genius and, because he sees drawing upon them as selling out, the source of his great angst." LaCouter concludes that "the quirky profundity of this film is in how it dares the viewer to consider the everyday magic that we tend to ignore, repress, or resent."


List of Accolades
Award / Film Festival Category Recipient(s) Result
24th Gotham Independent Film Awards Best Feature Birdman
Best Actor Michael Keaton
71st Venice International Film Festival Golden Lion Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu
Little Golden Lion
P. Nazareno Taddei Award
Future Film Festival Digital Award
Soundtrack Stars for Best Score Award Antonio Snchez
30th Independent Spirit Awards Best Film Birdman
Best Director Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu
Best Male Lead Michael Keaton
Best Supporting Male Edward Norton
Best Supporting Female Emma Stone
Best Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki
19th Satellite Awards Best Motion Picture Birdman
Best Director - Motion Picture Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu
Best Actor - Motion Picture Michael Keaton
Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture Edward Norton
Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture Emma Stone
Best Art Direction and Production Design George DeTitta, Jr., Kevin Thompson, Stephen H. Carter
Best Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki
Best Film Editing Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione
Best Original Score Antonio Snchez
Best Original Screenplay Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu, Nicols Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo
86th National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Awards Top Ten Film
Best Actor Michael Keaton
Best Supporting Actor Edward Norton
13th Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards Best Film Birdman
Best Director Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu
Best Actor Michael Keaton
Best Supporting Actor Edward Norton
Best Supporting Actress Emma Stone
Best Original Screenplay Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu, Nicols Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo
Best Acting Ensemble The Cast of Birdman
Best Art Direction Production Designer: Kevin Thompson; Set Decorator: George DeTitta, Jr.
Best Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki
Best Editing Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione
Best Original Score Antonio Snchez

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