Alejandro G. Iñárritu calls "Birdman" a "miracle," downplaying his role in the movie, saying that "if this is considered a great film, it has nothing to do with me."
Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences believed otherwise, giving Iñárritu the Oscar for director Sunday. It's the second consecutive year a Mexican director has taken the honor, with Iñárritu following "Gravity's" Alfonso Cuarón.
In his acceptance speech, Iñárritu thanked his good luck charm.
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"Tonight I am wearing the real Michael Keaton tighty whities," he said to the roar of the crowd, referring to a "Birdman" scene where Keaton parades through Times Square in his underwear. "They worked. I'm here. Thank you, Michael."
Iñárritu won two other Oscars on Sunday: original screenplay and as a producer of "Birdman," which won best picture.
He co-wrote and directed "Birdman," a story of an actor battling and ultimately overcoming self-doubt and stagnation during what he calls a "deep period, a kind of questioning of my priorities."
Iñárritu told The Times that "what I saw over this period is that my ego, which can be a cruel dictator, had been playing me."
Out of that self-examination, he created "Birdman," which follows actor Riggan Thomson (Keaton), a one-time superhero franchise star trying to reinvent his career by staging a Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver story. All the while, he's fighting his inner ego, a badgering critic who takes the tangible form of the costumed Birdman comic-book character.
"Ego loves competition, right, because for someone to win, someone has to lose," the director said on stage. "But the paradox is that, you know, true art, true individual expression — as in all the work of these incredible fellow filmmakers — can't be compared, can't be labeled."
In thanking actors, producers others who collaborated on "Birdman," Iñarritu gave special thanks to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, an Oscar winner earlier in the night, calling him " the genius, the artist of our generation."
"This is a slow-motion moment in my life," he concluded from the stage, ending with: "Un saludo a todos mis compatrios mexicanos."
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Iñárritu won't have much time to savor his Oscar victory. He will leave Los Angeles on Monday, returning to Canada, where he's filming "The Revenant," a revenge western about a fur trapper (Leonardo DiCaprio) mauled by a bear and left to die by his companions.
Obviously, Iñárritu is on a nice roll, and he's quick to credit the process of making "Birdman" for his artistic rebirth.
"My own Birdman went from being a big vulture to a little hummingbird," Iñárritu says.