After spending two years on the meticulous production of "Gravity," Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki ASC, AMC was looking forward to his first feature collaboration with director Alejandro González Iñárritu. The script for "Birdman" initially was not what the DP wanted in his next film. “When I read `Birdman,` I was a bit in shock because it had all of the elements of a movie that I did not want to do at all. It was mostly in studio, and I didn’t want to work in studio. It was a comedy, and I did not want to do comedy. It was a movie that he wanted to do in very long takes -- probably in one shot. After `Gravity,` I did not want to get into that at all -- probably never again! So on one hand I had a movie that I didn’t want to do, and on the other hand it was working with Alejandro. Once he talked to me about all the other layers that he wanted to portray that were not in the script, I really got excited.”
This is not the first time you have worked with Iñárritu, correct?
I worked with him many years ago on one of his first commercials. We worked 42 hours non-stop, not even with coffee. I realized then that he was the director who had the most drive. He was learning, but he had a tremendous appetite for exploration and trying things. It was very exciting. He called me back to do his first short film, but I was working in the States then. Our paths kind of parted and he started working with a couple of my friends in Mexico. Then he met Rodrigo Prieto -- probably one of the best cinematographers in the world. I think Alejandro has done all of his features with Rodrigo. When he called for "Birdman," the first thing I wanted to be sure of was that it was a decision that both of them were OK with. Once Rodrigo gave us his blessing, I went into pre-production. But it was working with Alejandro that was the most exciting thing.
What did you find exciting?
The whole movie was thought-out to be shot, the way it is shot. It’s not something that happened posteriorly, it was how Alejandro wrote the movie. His other movies are very cutty, sometimes he uses multiple cameras. His movies are wonderful and beautiful, but he wanted to do something different with "Birdman."
From the very beginning, he wanted to do the movie in one shot or in very long takes -- practically impossible things. Alejandro said, ‘Well you know when I wake up in the morning and I start my day, it doesn’t feel like a bunch of cuts. It feels like a constant move. I go from the bed to the bathroom, etc. ’ There is something about the one shot deal; all these long takes are related to that. Life is continuing, and maybe not having cuts was going to help immerse the audience in that kind of emotional rhythm.
Since they started writing the script, he thought about this character stuck in this environment. They wrote it so you could feel that you were walking with him in the corridors. His life starts imploding in this environment and they are all connected. It’s a beautiful exercise in writing.