Keaton on form in Venice festival opener 'Birdman'

Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:03pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

VENICE (Reuters) - Former "Batman" star Michael Keaton gave a soaring start to the 71st Venice Film Festival on Wednesday as a crestfallen superhero in "Birdman", a film its Mexican director Alexandro Inarritu called an experiment that could have failed miserably.

The film brings starpower that Venice, the world's oldest film festival, needs to keep itself from being sidelined by the celebrity magnet of Cannes in May and industry powerfest the Toronto Film Festival, which opens next week.

Noted for his art house movies "Babel" and "21 Grams", Inarritu switches gears in this Fox Searchlight production, also starring Emma Stone as Keaton's daughter, who is just out of drug rehab, Naomi Watts as an actress desperate to make it on Broadway and Edward Norton as the foil to Keaton's character, Riggan Thomson.

"Michael was a pioneer of those superhero roles and having some time and perspective I thought his knowledge about it, his experience about it, will get something very powerful for this film," Inarritu said at a post-screening press conference.

"Michael was crucial to make this film, without him I think this film couldn't be made."

"Birdman", Inarritu's fifth feature film, is set mostly at a Broadway theater where the Keaton character hopes to make a comeback in his own theatrical adaptation of a short story by the late American writer Raymond Carver, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love".

Inarritu, who filmed the movie in a faux single-take style so it looks like the camera never stops, said "Birdman" had been an experimental project.

To make this point to the cast, he even sent them photographs of the French high-wire artist Philippe Petit making his famous unauthorized tightrope walk between the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center in 1974.   Continued...

Director Alejandro Inarritu (3rd R) poses with actors Amy Ryan (L), Edward Norton (2nd L), Emma Stone (3rd L), Michael Keaton (2nd R) and Andrea Riseborough (R) during the photo call for the movie "Birdman or (The unexpected virtue of ignorance)" at the 71st Venice Film Festival August 27, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile