Alejandro González Iñárritu Talks His Single Take Magic Trick in 'Birdman'

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Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman has already been gaining awards-season traction, and press for Michael Keaton’s meta-portrayal of a washed up actor whose most famous role is that of a superhero. The movie is also a technological feat: filmed as though to appear as one single take.

“I knew that that was the best way to serve the character's experience and the audience's experience through [Michael Keaton’s character Riggan],” González Iñárritu tells HitFix of his single take decision. “To put the audience in an extreme, radical mode and point-of-view experience, to feel trapped in that reality. We live that way. I had a discussion with Walter Murch about it, we talked about handheld — we wake up and that's the way we experience life. So I thought it would be great if we could experience the story with Riggan. And I didn't want to distract. I didn't want it to be flashy camera moves and be the director of bullsh**. I wanted it to flow and for the emotional flow to be more pure.”

To achieve this feat, the lighting and camera movements had to be carefully planned. “We designed all the sets, all the bowels of the theaters are on a stage, and there's no single film light. There was only practical light. The blessing was it was meticulously planned, every actor's step, every word was measured with distance and every corridor was predesigned,” the director explains.

And yet, González Iñárritu looked to his love of jazz to bring a necessary sense of spontaneity and humanity to his film. “[The trick was] how to make something that was absolutely meticulously planned with no improvisation at all in any centimeter of the film look natural and real and honest. In a way it was about the technical stuff, but the actors brought that reality,” he explains.

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