The Original Ending of 'Birdman' Could Have Featured Johnny Depp

The Original Ending of 'Birdman' Could Have Featured Johnny Depp

Feb 09, 2015

If you haven't seen Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman yet, what are you waiting for? The movie is one of the year's strongest contenders for the Academy Award for Best Picture -- deservedly so -- and it's got a meta narrative that appeals to all kinds of movie fans, whether you prefer the art house variety or the superhero blockbusters of the multiplex.

Also, if you have seen it, you can read ahead without concern for the SPOILERS that are about to drop.

Yes, in case the title of this post doesn't make it obvious enough, we're here to discuss the ending of Birdman. Not that we have to get too into the details of how the movie actually concludes on-screen. We can simply share that the original plan has been revealed and that Johnny Depp was wanted to make a cameo as either himself or a character seemingly based on him, similar to how the protagonist is very loosely modeled on star Michael Keaton's career. Whereas Keaton parodies his portrayal of Batman from decades ago, Depp would have been expected to poke fun of his ongoing Pirates of the Caribbean role, Captain Jack Sparrow.

According to screenwriter Alexander Dinelaris, as a guest on The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith podcast, the alternate ending went as follows (via transcript from The Film Stage):

“So we had one other ending that was satirical,” says Alex Dinelaris. “The other ending was that he shoots himself on the stage. The camera comes around to the audience and their standing ovation — all the way around, like Chivo [Emmanuel Lubezki] and Alejandro did the whole time — and the segue was back on to the stage and on the stage was like James Lipton or Charlie Rose and Michael [Keaton] was sitting across from him and he’s sort of reading the review. He’s saying, ‘Oh my God, you got this tremendous review’ and Michael is like, ‘Yeah.’”

Adding that they would brush past that, he goes on to say, “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 [it would say], ‘What the fuck are we doing here, mate?’ It was going to be the satire of the endless loop of that.” Dinelaris concludes with a laugh, “We couldn’t get Johnny Depp or even the poster.”

It's not surprising that Depp and Disney weren't down with the joke, and part of that may be that the joke isn't quite there at all. Or, it's a different kind of joke. Keaton's role in the movie is seen as a meta comeback, and the premise rests on the fact that both Keaton and his character peaked famewise with a superhero franchise 20-25 years ago. Depp is still on top of the world since doing the first Pirates movie (which, let's not forget, earned him his first Oscar nomination), and he is continuing to play that character. Even in spite of any box office flops with non-Pirates releases of late, he's still a much bigger movie star than Keaton.

Another interesting aspect of this desired cameo is that Keaton's most iconic roles are in features directed by Tim Burton, including those superhero movies, and Depp followed Keaton as Burton's most employed lead. The funnier gag with Depp would have involved a poster parodying the actor's role as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. That way we'd get more of a Burton connection and also a more inverted contrast of continuing this "loop" with an actor who is currently at an opposite sort of place in his career. Again, there's no way Depp and Disney would be down for that, partly because Depp is also returning as the Mad Hatter for an Alice sequel soon. 




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