So anyone who read my review of Birdman (here) knows that I wasn’t a great fan of the film overall. There were elements I liked as well as many which I didn’t, but due to the fact that I try to avoid spoilers in my review I didn’t say much about how the film ends. In short I thought it was weak and poorly thought through, but just before I go on I should (in case it isn’t already apparent) warn that there will be big spoilers discussed in this post.
So in the film we see Keaton’s character breakdown, go on stage with a loaded gun and then shoot himself in the face. The bullet misses his head but instead manages to blow his nose off. He wakes up in hospital and then, after learning of how rapturously the audience received his work, decides to jump out of the window, perhaps believing he can fly like his alter-ego. His daughter then walks to the window and looks up smiling at the sky/her father flying off. Is this ending what Keaton’s character imagines will happen after he shoots himself? Is his daughter even crazier than him? Do we really care? It’s the sort of pseudo-intelligent ending which generates a lot of interesting discussion but which ultimately fails to develop the film and characters in any meaningful way at all.
Which is why the news of this alternate ending is so interesting. Alex Dinelaris was one of the writers on Birdman and he recently made an appearance on the ‘Q&A With Jeff Goldsmith’ podcast. Whilst he was on the show he revealed how there had been an original ending planned that was completely different in tone and meaning to what we saw in cinemas. He explained that the plan always was for Keaton to shoot himself on stage but then instead of the hospital scene we would see him on stage talking to an interviewer about his new-found success. Then the camera would move away, back down the corridors of the theatre all the way to the dressing room where Depp would be sitting there. Dinelaris says that 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 (inner monologue), ‘What the fuck are we doing here, mate?’ It was going to be the satire of the endless loop of that’.
Now I don’t know that I particularly like that ending, it feels very obvious to me. However, I much prefer it to the paper thin ending which we ended up with, and it would be more in keeping with the themes of the fickleness of fame and showbiz which run through the film. Now I assume we didn’t get this ending because Depp was reluctant to have gone ahead with this seeing as he really is making a fifth Pirates film. Not to mention that Disney would have almost certainly objected. However it is an interesting alternative ending to contemplate.
So what do you think of this other ending? Were you a fan of the one we actually ended up with? Whatever you think let me know in the comment box below!