Michael Keaton Only Needed 19 Days To Win Big Awards

Michael Keaton's Birdman, was filmed in only 19 days and resulted in multiple awards, including Best Actor.

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published

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When Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu (known for The Revenant) decided he wanted to film a comedy with no editing, he had difficulty finding a studio to produce the film since comedies typically require a lot of creative editing to make them funny. In fact, it took him almost two years to find a company to support the project, which was ultimately greenlit by Fox Searchlight Pictures. With the budget that Iñárritu acquired, Birdman, starring Michael Keaton, only had 19 days to film; and despite some challenges in production, Iñárritu’s black-comedy drama went on to win numerous big awards, as Iñárritu describes in an interview with Yahoo Entertainment.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is the story of a washed-up superhero actor, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), who attempts to breathe new life into his career by writing, directing, and starring in an ambitious Broadway production. When a castmate is injured, Riggan must recast him with an actor named Mike (Edward Norton), a talented but explosive and self-absorbed method actor guaranteed to cause trouble. The dark comedy was written and directed by Iñárritu and was a story that the filmmaker had desperately wanted to see made, despite being unable to find a studio to fund the flick. 

In the interview, Iñárritu describes how difficult it was for a studio to approve the concept of a comedy without editing, especially since the director’s leading actor, Michael Keaton, hadn’t been keeping steady work at the time. When Iñárritu finally got Fox Searchlight Pictures to approve the film, the budget was so low that Iñárritu had to find additional investors to help raise the bill. Even with the additional income, the film’s budget was still so minimum that production was required to be completed within two-thirds of a month, an extremely short time since most movies take at least a month (if not several) to shoot.

But, where there is a vision, there is a way, and Iñárritu certainly found a way to bring his story to the screen. The director described how he had to completely transform the way he created movies up to that point, learning new strategies for blocking and filming so that Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, and the rest of the cast and crew could complete the film within their allotted time.

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Michael Keaton in Birdman

In addition to a lower budget, Birdman seemed to be a magnet for challenges. During his interview, Iñárritu explains the challenge the production team had with filming one of the movie’s most iconic scenes. 

In the film, there is a sequence where Michael Keaton runs through Times Square in his underwear. Unfortunately, the film didn’t have the budget for extras, so the director had to figure out a way to film the Beetlejuice star in the busiest neighborhood in New York City without attracting the attention of tourists. He managed to pull it off by distracting sightseers with the marching band you see in the film, and they managed to get the shot within three takes. 

Birdman went on to win numerous awards, including winning an Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. Michael Keaton also won the Critic’s Choice Movie Award for Best Actor.