From Broadway to Feature Film: A Conversation with Alexander Dinelaris for the release of Birdman: (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
BIRDMAN (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) – famous for portraying an iconic superhero – as he struggles to mount a Broadway play.
In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself.
The Fan Carpet’s Marc Jason Ali had the chance to talk to co writer Alexander Dinelaris for the home entertainment release of Birdman: (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), he tells us how he got involved with Birdman, his influences, casting Michael Keaton and his reaction to the Oscar buzz...
How did you first get involved with Birdman?
I had met Alejandro, he was in one of my favourite plays called Still Life and I helped him work on the draft of his film Beautiful. The idea of Birdman came up and he said that he’d love for me to join and that’s how I got involved with Birdman.
The score plays a big part in the film. How did you arrive at the decision to almost make it a character in itself?
That was Alejandro’s idea, I felt it influenced the writing process. Alejandro is a very musical person, it’s very much a part of what he does. The drum track added that sense of claustrophobia and momentum alongside the writing.
Who were your inspirations whilst crafting the film?
I sort of leant back on my theatre background and I knew the language would have to be something that had a rhythm to it. I knew the dialogue would fall on my shoulders and I felt they would be like rhythmic fills that had a sense of music and life on its own.
How did you first get involved in this career?
I started in theatre, but I started writing plays in 1999 and I felt that was going better for me and was what I was getting paid for. I started working on two plays, one of them being Still Life after my father died and then the beginning of Beautiful. Still Life changed my life, it got me my production in New York, and an agent and it brought me to work with Alejandro and from there on I had work with TV, Broadway etc.
You’ve got a phenomenal cast in Birdman lead by Michael Keaton, how was it for you when you found out those actors said yes to being cast?
It was a dream cast and they all got along really well. A lot of people thought that we had actively written the role for Michael Keaton which we hadn’t and I guess that’s the ultimate compliment, that he was so perfect for the role. The whole cast was absolutely a blessing, Emma stone is just a genius, Zack Galafianakis, Amy Ryan, it was one after another. That the thing when you work with Alejandro, actors know they’re going to be part of something special and he managed to get those actors on board with not a lot of money. We were blessed and the film wouldn’t be the same without them.
Speaking of Michael, the film has been seen as art imitating life in a way, do you think that was true to an extent?
No, we didn’t think of it, it didn’t come up. When you first start writing, names come up. I remember we had just finished a draft and we were talking and it came up at the table and someone said , hey, you know who this is? This is Michael Keaton. After hearing that, he just seemed obvious for the role, but really what it was for Michael was a combination of three things. One, you needed a character that’s sympathetic to an audience because of all the narcissistic things he would do, you would still want them to love him, and Michael is that person. Two, he needed to be able to handle comedy and Michael is extremely gifted at that. And three, he needed to be able to act his ass off and he’s a real actor. So that’s why it ended up being Michael.
BIRDMAN: (OR THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) IS OUT NOW ON BLU-RAY AND DVD