SPOILER WARNING: Just in case you couldn't tell by the headline, this article will be discussing the ending of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman in depth. If you haven't seen Birdman and wish not to be spoiled, please click away to one of our other articles!
Of all the films nominated for Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman has what can certainly be called the most ambiguous ending. After nearly two hours of watching fantastical things happen in what is otherwise an entirely realistic world, it's questionable how to interpret exactly what happens in the movie's final moments. It's a conclusion that has sparked a lot of debate amongst audiences, but what's perhaps even more interesting about it is that it actually wasn't the original idea developed by Inarritu and co-writers Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo. Instead, the original thought was to have a fascinating and awesome-sounding scene starring Johnny Depp.
Alex Dinelaris was recently a guest on the podcast Q&A With Jeff Goldsmith, and it was during his conversation with the host that the screenwriter revealed the original plans for Birdman's ending. Essentially, everything would have been different following the moment in the movie where Michael Keaton's Riggan Thompson uses a real gun to shoot himself on stage. After that, however, the camera would have swung around to see the audience cheering, and then come back to the stage in a time jump. There we would have seen Riggan back on stage and talking with someone akin to James Lipton or Charlie Rose, talking about the show's incredible review (presumably the one by the New York Times' Tabitha Dickinson). But then, Dinelaris explained,
Then the camera prowled like it did the whole film, went back stage through the halls we've seen the whole time and we'd get to the dressing room where literally Johnny Depp would be sitting looking in the mirror and putting on his Riggan Thomson wig and then the poster of Pirates of the Caribbean 5 would be in the back. In Jack Sparrow's voice [the inner monologue would say], 'What the fuck are we doing here, mate?' It was going to be the satire of the endless loop of that.
While I appreciated Birdman's ending for what it was, it's hard to argue that this original ending isn't far superior to what ended up being put in the final cut of the movie. Unfortunately, as Dinelaris would point out, the production could neither get Johnny Depp to agree to cameo nor the permission to get a Pirates of the Caribbean 5 poster.
I assume that Johnny Depp probably wasn't comfortable with doing this both because Pirates 5 is currently in the works and perhaps because he doesn't have that kind of ill-will towards the franchise, but I must admit that I kind of wish that this concept wasn't just abandoned. Depp would certainly be the perfect choice for that kind of commentary, but he is far from the only actor who has gone through the kinds of ups and downs experienced by the fictional Riggan Thompson. Nicolas Cage is the first one that pops into mind, but there are surely many, many others.