Michael Keaton flies high as has-been actor in 'Birdman'

Wed Oct 15, 2014 4:10pm EDT
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Michael Keaton hung up his "Batman" cape more than two decades ago, but the versatile actor soared to new heights with a high-octane performance as a has-been trying to revive his career in comedy-drama and early Oscar favorite "Birdman."

In the film by Mexican director and Academy Award-nominee Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu ("21 Grams," "Babel"), which opens in U.S. theaters on Friday, Keaton plays actor Riggan Thomson, who like himself found fame playing the superhero in an action franchise he left years ago.

But Riggan is haunted by his Birdman super ego and a sense of failure and mediocrity, and makes a desperate attempt to regain his professional credibility and sense of self by mounting a play on Broadway based on the Raymond Carver short story, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love."

"He's a really complicated character, which always makes the job harder, but more interesting, too," Keaton, 63, said in an interview.

"Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)," is a film about a play that Iñarritu ingeniously shot at Broadway's famed St. James Theater in what seems like one long, seamless, continuous take.

It was new territory for both the director and his cast. Each scene flows into the next as the camera follows Riggan down narrow theater hallways, into a dressing room, onto the stage and out of the theater into a bustling Times Square with drum rhythms setting a pounding pace.

Keaton said he had never seen a movie like it and admitted there were times when he wondered why they were doing it that way, which required plenty of rehearsals, no room for mistakes and total commitment from the actors.

"The truth is, it doesn't work if you don't make it like this because you don't go on the trip. You couldn't get as deep inside," Keaton explained.   Continued...

U.S. actor Michael Keaton poses during the red carpet for the movie "Birdman or (The unexpected virtue of ignorance)" at the 71st Venice Film Festival August 27, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile