Because the movie was carefully rehearsed and shot in sequence, the editing process only took two weeks.
The movie was largely shot inside Broadway's St. James Theatre. Michael Keaton and the rest of the cast had to adapt to Alejandro González Iñárritu's rigorous shooting style, which required them to perform up to fifteen pages of dialogue at a time while hitting precisely choreographed marks.
Given the unusual style of filming long takes, Edward Norton and Michael Keaton kept a running tally of flubs made by the actors & actresses. Emma Stone made the most mistakes; Zach Galifianakis made the fewest. He actually did mess up a few lines during the filming, but played his mistakes off well enough that the shots were included in the film.
During the press conference in Riggan's dressing room, he says that he hasn't played Birdman since 1992. That's the same year Batman Returns (1992), the last Batman movie starring Michael Keaton, was released.
Similar to how Michael Keaton's Birdman reflects on his earlier role as Batman, Edward Norton's character is a parody of Norton's own reputation for being very abrasive and difficult to work with.
According to Alejandro González Iñárritu, he had dinner with director Mike Nichols in New York two weeks before he began shooting the movie. Iñárritu told Nichols of his plan for how he was going to shoot the movie as one long take. Nichols predicted it would be a disaster because not having the ability to use cuts in editing would inhibit the opportunities for comedy. Iñárritu said the meeting didn't deter him, but was instead helpful in raising his awareness level of the difficulty of what he was about to do.
The scene of Riggan running through Times Square in his underwear was filmed after midnight so that the amount of real bystanders caught on camera in the shot would be limited, and that the majority of people in frame are hired extras or crew members.
Alejandro González Iñárritu said of the scene where Riggan and Mike are rehearsing the script for the first time, that Edward Norton was looking over the script and commenting about it. The director then reminded him that he was doing the same thing his character is doing in the film. Norton's character is a satirical version of the actor's behavior on set in real-life.
The meticulous timing for the scenes meant that takes were cancelled because of the slightest mishaps. Emma Stone, in an interview with Jimmy Fallon, recalled how a 6-minute take of the scene where Riggan first meets Mike was ruined after she walked around a corner too quickly. Because of this, the number of takes for a given scene was high, usually twenty for the shorter scenes, the takes running smoothly around the 15th. Camera operator Chris Haarhoff described it as "a type of dance where everyone would hopefully try to peak all at the same moment." (Source: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: Emma Stone/Logan Lerman/Sam Smith (2014).)
Antonio Sanchez's celebrated musical score, performed almost entirely by drums, was disqualified by the music branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) because it didn't fit their criteria.
Because the film is designed to look like one long uninterrupted shot, no scene could be cut or discarded in post-production. This led to the script taking an unusually long time to finish as the writers had to make sure that they were happy with every single scene.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was originally mentioned in the script as the actor currently doing The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014). After his accidental death from drug use, it later changed to Woody Harrelson, who also stars in that movie.
The first winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture to have been shot entirely digitally. Prior to its win every past winner had been shot entirely or partially on film.
The words seen in the opening credits are the words written on Raymond Carver's tombstone in real life: "And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? I did. And what did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth."
The carpet visible within a number of back stage corridor scenes is the same iconic, hexagonal carpet used in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980).
The exact lines spoken from the crazy man outside the liquor store when Riggan is drunk are from the William Shakespeare play "Macbeth," after Lady Macbeth dies. The lines are "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."
Edward Norton and Zach Galifianakis said they were fans of Michael Keaton and were excited to work with him on this movie. Norton listed Night Shift (1982), Mr. Mom (1983), and Beetlejuice (1988) as three of his favorite Keaton films he grew up on.
Emma Stone filmed the movie during a break from filming The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), also shot in New York.
First leading role for Michael Keaton since The Merry Gentleman (2008), which he also directed.
The constant references to the St. James Theatre being "crummy" are an inside joke. In fact, it is one of the most prestigious venues on Broadway - among the many legendary shows that opened there are "Oklahoma!", "The King and I," "The Pajama Game," "Becket," "Hello, Dolly!" and "The Producers."
During the presentation of the Academy Award for Best Picture presenter Sean Penn said, "And the Oscar goes to... Who gave this son of a bitch his green card? Birdman!" He was making a reference to the director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who is from Mexico. Several media outlets found Penn's comment offensive but Iñárritu said he took it as a joke, as he and Penn have been good friends since working together on 21 Grams (2003).
According to 'Variety' Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) was shot in 23 days with a budget of $16.5 million.
The Birdman suit that Michael Keaton wears was made on a mannequin of his own body from Batman (1989).
Both this and another Edward Norton film, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), led the 2015 Oscar nominations with 9 each.
In the 119-minute run time of the film there are sixteen visible edits. In the 107-second premiere trailer, there are over thirty edits.
In his own words, the ending of the movie "came in a dream" to Alejandro González Iñárritu.
This film was originally going to be the next project for Alejandro González Iñárritu and his production team after The Revenant (2015). However, production for that film was delayed by one year due to Leonardo DiCaprio's participation in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). During that time, Inarritu and his team wanted to be working, rather than waiting for DiCaprio to be available, they decided to work on this film which was put aside for sometime.
The concept of shooting a feature-length film in one, continuous take was actually accomplished twelve years before Birdman's release in the film Russian Ark (2002), which was shot in a single 96-minute Steadicam sequence.
The voice of Riggan's alter ego Birdman, is a parody of Christian Bale's Batman voice in Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight Trilogy", about the Caped Crusader formerly played by Michael Keaton himself.
The titles of the movie are homage to Jean-Luc Godard. They appear in similar manner and use the same font as a number of Godard's 1960s films, such as Made in U.S.A (1966) and Pierrot le Fou (1965). Godard is also known for his uses of jump cuts in his movies, whereas this movie has virtually none.
In the original script, during their confrontation in The Rum House, Tabitha brings home her point - that Riggan is "a celebrity, not an actor" - by casually requesting some William Shakespeare from a waiter named Eddie, who then performs a brilliant rendition of the monologue from act V of Macbeth on the spot. In the finished film a madman in the street bellows out the monologue, then asks Riggan if it was over the top.
Was the final film the critic team of Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton reviewed in their 28 year run; they both gave it 5/5 stars.
The first movie in 34 years to win a Best Picture Oscar without a coinciding Best Editing nomination. The last film to do this was Ordinary People (1980). Both films also received the same number of wins, with four, including Best Director and Best Screenplay.
Fittingly, given this movie's setting and subject matter, many of the secondary roles or bit parts are played by people who in their real lives have accomplished Broadway careers. Jeremy Shamos (Ralph, who Riggan thinks is a terrible actor) was in seven Broadway shows between 2004 and 2016, and was nominated for a Tony in 2012. William Youmans (Bartender [Tommy]) was in the Broadway casts of Wicked, Big River, Finian's Rainbow, and Bright Star, among many other shows (and he is also a relative of the great Broadway composer Vincent Youmans, who was name-checked in Cole Porter's classic song "You're the Top"). Lindsay Duncan (Tabitha, the jaded critic) has been in four Broadway plays including the production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses that first introduced Alan Rickman to American audiences. Donna Lynne Champlin (Broadway Lady) has performed in such Broadway musicals as Sweeney Todd, Billy Elliot, and By Jeeves. Roberta Colindrez (Broadway Woman on Street) played Joan in the original Broadway cast of Fun Home. Jackie Hoffman (Lady on Balcony [Mary]) has appeared in such Broadway musicals as On the Town, The Addams Family, Xanadu, and Hairspray. Bill Camp (Crazy Man) has been in seven Broadway plays between 1993 and 2016. Michael Siberry (Larry) has appeared in eight Broadway plays and musicals from 1986 on, including leads in productions of The Sound of Music, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, and Spamalot. Stephen Adly Guirgis (Good Neighbor) is an accomplished playwright whose plays include Jesus Hopped the A Train, Our Lady of 121st Street, The Motherfucker with the Hat, and Between Riverside and Crazy (winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama).
The television episodes Charlie Work (2015) of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Let's Find Out (2015) of Bojack Horseman were thought to have parodied the long-take style of shooting and the drum score that the film is famously known for. However, the episodes were written and made months before the film's release.
The movie is about a washed up comic book movie actor, and its main stars have been in comic book movies themselves. Michael Keaton played Bruce Wayne in Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992), Edward Norton played Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk (2008), Emma Stone played Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), and Naomi Watts played Jet Girl in Tank Girl (1995).
Margot Robbie turned down the role of Sam to film Focus (2015). Lily James, Emilia Clarke, and Blake Lively auditioned for the role before Emma Stone was cast.
When Riggan forgets to pay the cab driver, the man first speaks and swears in Gujarati, and while he is coming out of the theater he speaks Spanish.
On the night of the play's first preview, Mike Shiner, in the midst of his hissy fit, eats a chicken leg and says, "That's some good bird, man," a pun on the film's title.
The book Mike Shiner is reading in the tanning bed when he is confronted by Riggan Thomson is the story collection "Labyrinths" by the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges.
The last word formed by the red letters at the beginning of the film is "amor", Spanish for "love", and the play within the movie (and the renowned short story on which it is based) is "What We Talk about When We Talk about Love" by Raymond Carver. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu is Mexican and a native Spanish-speaker.
Edward Norton and Naomi Watts previously played another troubled couple in The Painted Veil (2006).
Searchlight and New Regency had previously worked together to finance 12 Years a Slave (2013), and they decided to join together for Birdman, financing a budget of $16.5 million.
In a scene where Riggan is in his dressing room talking to his ex wife, he mentions being on an airplane with George Clooney, who happened to be two rows in front of him. Clooney was the second actor to play Batman after Keaton. The first was Val Kilmer in Batman Forever (1995), then Clooney in Batman & Robin (1997).
The Michael Keaton movie Game 6 (2005) also focused on the New York City theater world and Keaton's character having a midlife crisis.
Alejandro González Iñárritu received the 2015 Oscar for Best Feature from Sean Penn, who worked for Iñárritu in 21 Grams (2003) alongside Naomi Watts, another 'Birdman' star. Iñárritu revealed during a promotional interview in 2003, that he received a phone call from Penn (before filming "21 Grams") asking for the project, & strongly interested about working for Iñárritu.
In the scenes where Sam and Mike are on the roof of the St. James Theatre, there's a poster on the side of the Broadhurst Theatre across the street that shows what looks like a silhouette of a man attempting to catch a UFO and the caption "the must see show of the season", but no title. This was a visual effect used to cover the real poster - Tom Hanks in the play "Lucky Guy" which ran at the Broadhurst from April 1 to July 3, 2013.
Michael Keaton would later go on to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Adrien Toomes/Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017). Emma Stone portrayed the character of Gwen Stacy in the previous Spider-Man films The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2014) and Edward Norton previously portrayed Bruce Banner/Hulk in The Incredible Hulk (2008), the first of which also takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Best Picture winner with the second most number of words in the title, with seven. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) is the Best Picture winner with the longest title, with 10 words.
Included in the 2015 edition of "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
The third consecutive feature length film by Alejandro González Iñárritu to begin with the letter B. The other two are Babel (2006) and Biutiful (2010).
When Riggan first walks out into Times Square, a billboard for American Eagle Outfitters appears over his shoulder. The company's headquarters are located in Pittsburgh, PA, Michael Keaton's hometown.
At one point, Mike wonders aloud if he'll be replaced by Ryan Gosling. Mike later becomes romantically involved with Sam (Emma Stone). In Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011), Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling's characters become involved.
Like Roy Scheider's character Joe Gideon in the 1979 film All that Jazz, Riggan lives in his dressing room on the second floor above the theater.
A TV news report talks about Robert Downey Jr.'s Marvel Comics movies. Downey Jr. and "Birdman" co-star Zach Galifianakis starred together in Due Date (2010). In 2017, Downey Jr. and Keaton starred in Spiderman : Homecoming.
Alejandro González Iñárritu: [[Mexico]] Iñárritu includes paraphernalia from his native land at several points. When Riggan enters the liquor store, the walls are covered in Christmas lights, which are in the form of Mexican chili peppers. When Riggan is walking in his underwear on Broadway, the sound of the famous tamales Oaxaqueños that are sold in Mexico can be heard. In the final sequence, the sound of the car that sells camotes is also clearly heard.