I loved Birdman. I loved the directing, and the editing, and the incredible tracking shots, and the themes coursing throughout, and the performances of Michael Keaton and Ed Norton and Emma Stone and even Zach Galifianakis.
But I didn’t love the ending. This is actually something I’ve heard from several people who have loved the movie in spite of the ending. The magical realism aspects of Birdman are the least favorite aspect of the movie for many viewers, and while they work to some degree earlier in the film, using them in the end diminished the movie slightly for me. It’s why I prefer Boyhood in the Oscar race, but I still think that Keaton should get best actor and Alejandro González Iñárritu deserves best director.
Of course, if they’d used their planned original ending with a Johnny Depp cameo, I think it would’ve pushed it over the edge for me because it would’ve been the perfect way to end the film. According to screenwriter Alex Dinelaris in Jeff Goldsmith’s annual podcast with Oscar nominated screenwriters (via Consequences of Sound), this was the originally written ending (spoilers, although if you haven’t seen the film, none of this will make sense to you, anyway):
“So we had one other ending that was satirical….The other ending was that he shoots himself on the stage. The camera comes around to the audience and their standing ovation…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.’”
Dinelaris continued, “Then the camera…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 [he would say], ‘What the fuck are we doing here, mate?’ It was going to be the satire of the endless loop of that.”
Sadly, neither Disney nor Johnny Depp were willing to participate, although it would’ve been Johnny Depp’s best role in years.
Source: The full podcast can be found at The Film Stage