The ‘Birdman’ Alternate Ending Featured Johnny Depp and Was Way More Strange
The ending of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘Birdman’ is already pretty dark and a bit surreal—the entire film, including and especially the ending, have a righteously pessimistic view of Hollywood and stardom as Michael Keaton’s character completes his arc in exceedingly cynical fashion…well, maybe. It depends on how you interpret the ending. But apparently that wild ending could have been even more strange, and it would have included Johnny Depp.
As you’re well aware, Keaton plays Riggan Thompson, an actor whose role in the popular Birdman franchise has been hanging over him his entire adult life, so he attempts to revive and reinvent his career by directing and starring in a stage play. Obviously the film has some meta qualities, as Keaton played Batman in two Tim Burton films in real life, although his role as Batman never quite screwed with him the way Birdman screws with Riggan.
According to screenwriter Alexander Dinelaris, another prominent Tim Burton star almost figured into the film: Johnny Depp. During Jeff Goldsmith’s Q&A with Oscar-nominated screenwriters (via The Film Stage), Dinelaris explains the alternate ending, which would have included Depp, and would have been very much in line with the meta theatrics (spoilers for ‘Birdman’ below):
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 — 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.’
…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.
If you’ve seen ‘Birdman,’ you know that the film has a particularly dark sense of humor, though whether it succeeds at its more satirical and thoughtful elements has been a topic of debate. This alternate ending, which would still have Riggan shooting himself on stage, but would be followed by that particular cameo from Depp, seems a bit more on the nose than the ending that was used.
Dinelaris goes on to explain that they ultimately weren’t able to get Depp for the film, and Disney refused to even let them use the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ poster—which might have been for the best, as this alternate ending reads a bit more silly in concept than the surrealistic ending of ‘Birdman,’ which is one of the film’s highlights.
Depp would be the perfect choice for that alternate ending, though, as it’s been widely thought that since landing the role of Jack Sparrow in the ‘Pirates’ franchise, it’s been all downhill for Depp as an actor. Jack Sparrow is his biggest, most recognizable role to date, and it was the role that essentially gave him the major career he has now. But many believe it’s also poisoned his career, inspiring him to persistently take roles with quirky affectations that have gone from endearing to grating.