Riggan Thomas, once known quite well to movie theater goers as an iconic super hero called "The Birdman" had recently turned down a fourth installment of the franchise. Now washed up, he attempts to reinvent himself as a director by staging a new adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story called "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love". The events leading up to the Saturday night premiere prove to be one disaster after another as the original lead actor is injured while on set and Riggan scrambles to find a replacement, but the replacement proves to be exactly who he needs - a method actor who takes the job way too seriously. But Riggan has a hard time juggling between the set, his replacement actor, his equally washed up daughter, and a host of other disasters that prevent a proper staging of the play. Meanwhile, a New York Times critic who Riggan has to woo threatens to shut down production of the play before it even starts with a scathing review of the opening night performance
Continuity When Sam shows him the viral video of himself in Times Square in his underwear, the video is clearly shot from different perspectives (no one person was seen following him the entire time to film him), yet the final video is somehow edited together and has already gotten thousands of hits right after the performance is over. There is no way there would be time for all of this to happen in such a short time.
Continuity After the flying scene, Riggan enters the theater for the opening night and is followed by an angry man. Then, just before the camera starts to pull back, the angle changes. It's noticeable on the theater placards.
Errors in Geography In the hospital scene, Jake comments on the view over Central Park. It is clearly Bryant Park, with the New York Public Library and Bryant Park Hotel visible through the window.
Factual Mistake It is twice stated that the St. James Theatre seats 800 people. In actuality, its capacity is approximately 1,700.
Factual Mistake When Riggan's girlfriend brings him the newspaper and tells him to look at the review on page 12, there's a full page of ads on the left-hand page and he reads the review on the right hand page. Page 12, an even-numbered page, is always a left-hand page.
Factual Mistake There is a scene where Mike dares Sam to spit on a bald guy walking below them from the rooftop of the theater. However the sidewalk outside the St. James Theater (where this scene was shot) is a covered sidewalk and neither of them (from their vantage point on the roof) would have been able to see the bald man let alone spit on him.
Factual Mistake When Sam is talking with Riggan, she shows a paper, and says that the Earth is 6bi years old, but most scientists say that the Earth is about 4.5bi years old.
Revealing Mistakes The factuality of the final scene is revealed by the impossibility of hospital windows to actually open. If it wasn't already noticeably imagined by the mirage on the toilet, or the daughter's gaze out the window.
There is a brief scene showing a TV news report about movie star Robert Downey Jr. and his appearances in the "Iron Man" movies. Downey Jr. and Birdman (2014) co-star Zach Galifianakis co-starred together in Due Date (2010).
Michael Keaton is the first person since Clint Eastwood in 2004 to be the only best actor Oscar nominee to play a fictitious character. All other nominees for were nominated for playing real people.
The Michael Keaton movie Game 6 (2005) also focused on the New York City theater world and Keaton's character having a midlife crisis.
Emma Stone filmed the movie during a break from filming The Amazing Spider-Man 2, also located in New York.
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". Director Iñarritu is Mexican and a native Spanish-speaker.
The movies' subtitle, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, is revealed to be the title of the review that film critic Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan) writes about the play at the end of the movie.
Michael Keaton's Riggan character tells an anecdote involving George Clooney. Clooney starred as Batman/Bruce Wayne in Batman & Robin (1997), the fourth film in the series initiated by Keaton.
The third consecutive feature length film by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu to begin with the letter 'B'. The other two are Babel (2006) and Biutiful (2010).
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 15 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. Emma Stone made the most mistakes, Zach Galifianakis made the fewest.
Michael Keaton said this movie was the most challenging he has ever done. He also said that the personality of his character Riggan is the most dissimilar to himself of any he has ever played.
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) was released, as well as being the last Batman movie starring Michael Keaton.
Was shot in less than a month
Before shooting began, Alejandro González Iñárritu sent his cast a photo of Philippe Petit walking on the tightrope between the Twin Towers. He told them, "Guys, this is the movie we are doing. If we fall, we fail."
According to Alejandro González Iñárritu, he had dinner with director Mike Nichols in New York two weeks before he began shooting the movie. Iñarritu 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. Inarritu 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.
Similar to how Michael Keaton's character reflects his earlier role as Batman, Edward Norton's character is likewise a parody, since Norton--like his character--has a reputation for being very abrasive and difficult to work with.
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.
Because the movie was so rehearsed and it was all shot on sequence, the editing process only took two weeks.
This film is edited to look like one continuous shot.
Antonio Sanchez's musical score, performed almost entirely by drums, was disqualified by the music branch of the Academy Awards.
The carpet visible within a number of back stage corridor scenes is the same iconic, hexagonal carpet used in Stanley Kubrick's the Shining.
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.
This is the first leading role for Michael Keaton in six years. His previous starring role to this was The Merry Gentleman (2008), which he also directed.
Was the final film the critic team of Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton reviewed in their 28 year run, they both gave it 5 stars.
The late Philip Seymour Hoffman was originally mentioned in the script, as the actor "doing the third Hunger Games". It was later changed to Woody Harrelson, also starring in the Hunger Games franchise.
Alongside Michael Keaton, who played Batman in the Tim Burton films, both Edward Norton and Emma Stone have also played iconic comic book characters, Norton playing Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk (2008) and Stone playing Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) series.
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."
The film was written using the Mexican dramatic device of Magical Realism - Magic realism or magical realism is a genre where magical or unreal elements play a natural part in an otherwise realistic (often mundane) environment. Although it is most commonly used as a literary genre, magic realism also applies to film and the visual arts.
The quote that Riggan has displayed on the bottom right of his mirror is the title of a Wallace Stevens poem: "Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself." The poem fits in a number of ways with several references to birds and the closing sentence: "It was like/A new knowledge of reality."
Sign up and get access to some cool features. Create watchlists, check in at movies, rate them or even write whole reviews! You can also share literally everything on Moviebuff with your friends, enemies, frenemies, family, babysitter or pets. Is that enough incentive for you?