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'Birdman': 5 actors with superhero pasts (other than Michael Keaton)

Michael Keaton's
Michael Keaton's "Birdman" character is a sly reference to the actor's past as Batman. But he's not the only cast member with ties to the world of superheroes.
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Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu's new film, "Birdman," stars Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson, an actor whose career was defined by playing a superhero in a series of studio action movies. (Yes, it's very meta.)

Now, Riggan is trying to legitimize himself as a serious performer by mounting a play on Broadway. The film is shot in and around the theater as if it's one long continuous take. It's a feat of cinematic, acting and directing orchestration that Iñarritu demanded of his actors and his director of photography — the Oscar-winner Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki

We talked to Iñárritu at the Telluride Film Festival about the challenges of making "Birdman" and the decision to cast Keaton in the lead role. You can hear our full interview with Iñárritu here.

We all know that Michael Keaton played "Batman." But did you know that the rest of the main cast has their own superhero pasts? From Marvel movies to "Tom Cruise Saves the World" to "Bored To Death," here are five "Birdman" stars in previous roles related to the wacky world of superheroes and science fiction.

Edward Norton

Norton plays a serious Broadway actor with the ego to prove it in "Birdman," but in real life — like Keaton — he too once put on the superhero suit. "The Incredible Hulk" (2008) starred Norton as the iconic green hero. Norton's Hulk (no innuendo intended) was well-regarded, but he was eventually replaced by Mark Ruffalo, who's run away with the character in the wake of "The Avengers." Still, Norton got pretty into the part while it was his — watch him act out a transformation from nerdy scientist into muscle monster.


Emma Stone

With her performance in "Zombieland" proving that she was more than capable of entering the world of effects-driven action movies, Stone was a logical choice to play Gwen Stacy in "The Amazing Spider-Man" re-boots. And while the movies are still trying to find their identity in the wake of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies, Stone's portrayal of Peter Parker's genius, badass girlfriend has received overwhelming praise.


Naomi Watts

For the most part, Watts has shied away from involving herself in superhero movies, generally focusing on dramas instead. And there's a good chance that it's because her first superhero movie was the 1995 adaptation of "Tank Girl." Based on the comic by Jamie Hewlett (the artist behind Damon Albarn's virtual band, Gorillaz), "Tank Girl" featured Watts as Jet Girl, an introverted mechanic who must help the titular character escape the clutches of the vicious Water & Power company that's taken over the world. Oh, and Ice-T plays a mutant dog-man. Rotten Tomatoes rating: 38%.


Andrea Riseborough

A longtime stage actress in Britain who eventually found her way to the silver screen, Riseborough came into America's general consciousness with her role as Victoria in "Oblivion," a futuristic sci-fi thriller in which, surprisingly, Tom Cruise must save the world. But this time he must save the world from an army of clones...OF HIMSELF! The movie didn't win much praise for its plot, but Riseborough gave a rousing performance as Cruise's cloned partner.


Zach Galifianakis

You probably don't know that Galifianakis was in the 2009 Disney movie "G-Force," as the human director of a team of genetically-enhanced guinea pigs. And you probably shouldn't. But Galifianakis has played arguably more interesting characters in the comics world — he was Ray Hueston on HBO's "Bored to Death," a comic book artist whose character, Super Ray, defeats enemies with his super brain, his super breath, and his super penis. Here he is showing his girlfriend a new character design.

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