Journalists started arriving at 7 a.m. Saturday morning for the 10 a.m. press conference for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance,” starring Michael Keaton as an over-the-hill movie star. By 8:30 a.m. the line snaked around the AMC Lincoln Square Theater, journalists getting drenched in the rain yet no one complaining.
Besides all the Oscar buzz the movie is getting, the big draw was the press conference following the screening with Keaton, the director, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough and Amy Ryan.
The group did not disappoint.
During the press conference, Edward Norton joked that the previous night when they attended Comic-Con for a panel, before it began in the dark he told Keaton, “Do you think this is the ultimate bait and switch that’s ever been pulled on a Comic-Con audience? Can you imagine if you go to this actually thinking it’s a superhero movie?”
READ ALSO: NYFF Premiere of “Birdman”
Here are a few tidbits from the press event:
To Keaton: What do you think about this character you’re playing – actor, writer, director – is he crazy? Is he depressed? Did you keep a Birdman outfit?
“How does it feel? Feels good. The second question? What do I think about the character? The character is Alejandro, so you should ask him. (Laughs) No, the character is really one of the most difficult things I’ve done, not in terms of the character necessarily, but in terms of how the film was made … sometimes 30 or 49 seconds you have to surf a lot of different emotions and be part of this genre picture, fit into this genre picture, and because this picture is always shifting and moving, it’s got so many levels, so therefore, it was really, really difficult, but I like that. I like difficult most of time … And no, to the third question. Did I keep an outfit and what a great idea! How stupid am I not to keep one of those? Now I’m thinking how to get one of those.”
On critics and getting negative reviews:
Zach Galifananakis: “I’ve never had a bad review so I’m not quite sure what you’re talking about. It sounds familiar. I’ve heard people talk about it, but I’ve never had a bad review. It’s great.”
Almost all the movie takes place in the theater. They actors were asked to talk about their theater experience and how they drew on this for the film:
Naomi Watts: “ A lot of my nightmares revolved around being on the stage and forgetting my lines or having the wrong clothes on or no clothes at all. It is that classic recurring nightmare … with this speed and high stakes and the technicalities and the dependency on each other and the also the effects, the prop things, the cameras, the lighting and the moving of the tables and moving them back …. That created this high level of intensity and pressure that felt emblematic of how it feels on the stage.”
Keaton: “I have that dream too, about Naomi being naked… it’s not a nightmare.”
Emma Stone who will be starring in “Cabaret” in Broadway”:
“I did write the character of and I am directing the production (laughs) … of course this movie brings up a lot of horrible fears of coming into the Broadway community and Tabitha, our reviewer … It feels very different, it feels very different, but I will say making this movie, what we had to contend with as actors in making something like this, all the pieces …. (we had) to rely on each other the way that a company does is incredibly helpful … You operate very much like a unit …. (as for going into “Cabaret”) I’m terrified.”
On fame and celebrity and how being a movie star blurs with being an actor:
Galifanakis: “Can you define your terms please? Can you use it in a sentence … Being a celebrity is shit. It’s dumb and I’m not interested in it. I like to be an actor and that’s that.”
Keaton: “I think everybody is a celebrity now … Because of YouTube. Most people are walking around in heir own movie … this is not a big deal anymore … I think everybody is kind of a celebrity in their own head and they are.”
To the director: Broadway has had a lot of film actors on stage to sell tickets. Why did you decide to tell a story through the stage? And why did you choose a play as the center of the story?
“I think that was an essential part of the development of the story … I think this short story of Raymond Carter was for me a very, very important part of the story. It could have been a play we made up … (Carter) one of my favorite writers that has the capacity of really going to the human heart … and the limitations of human beings with love, the characters, they question what love is about and they are looking for love …
“That particular Raymond Carter short story became the essential quest of the character in the film and what we humans are looking, what Riggan Thomson is looking for — validation, love, affection.”
To Edward Norton: In playing the egotistical actor, did he get inspiration of any real-life actor for his character portrayal?
“I basically just looked four feet to my left at Alejandro … I’m wearing his scarf in the movie. I’m wearing his jacket. Everything I say in the movie I’ve heard him say or I know he wants to say.”
Check out the entire press conference, which was hilarious and enlightening…