Original 'Birdman' Ending Took Aim At Another Big Film Franchise

Birdman, directed byAlejandro González Iñárritu from a script by Alexander Dinelaris, is pretty cynical about Hollywood product. But if things had gone the way the film was originally scripted, it would have ended with an even more pointed jab at the studio franchise machine.

In the film, Michael Keaton plays an actor whose most popular role, Birdman, haunts him as he attempts to mount a stage play. The parallels between Birdman and Batman are impossible to miss. But the original script ended with a scene that took the film's structure forward to another actor/character pair: Johnny Depp and his Pirates of the Caribbean alter-ego Jack Sparrow. 

Dinelaris explained the concept during Jeff Goldsmith's annual discussion with Oscar-nominated screenwriters. (via The Film Stage)

Note that spoilers for the existing ending of Birdman follow.

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.

So what happened? As one might suspect, no one on Depp or Disney's end was willing to play along.

We couldn't get Johnny Depp or even the poster.

That end is even more pointed than Birdman as it is now. While Michael Keaton wasn't shackled by the Batman role, many arguments have been made that Jack Sparrow represented an unfortunate turning point for Johnny Depp. It's the role that turned him into a star, but it has also defined less appealing aspects of his persona as an actor. But that ending also takes momentum away from Riggan, which might have changed the ultimate effect of the film.