In the late ’80s, when “Batman Returns” was filmed, CGI wasn’t nearly so en vogue as it’s become now. Practical sets and effects were still very much the standard, which didn’t leave Burton with many options. Luckily, Pfeiffer was about as dedicated as they come, as Burton recalled to THR:
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so impressed. She had a live bird in her mouth while the camera was rolling. It was four or five seconds, and then she let it fly out. It was before CG, it was before digital. It was so quick, it seems like it was an effect.”
The scene was completed in one perfect take. Like Burton said, it was over in a flash — but Pfeiffer definitely thought about the consequences after the fact. “I look back and say, ‘What was I thinking? I could’ve gotten a disease or something from having a live bird in my mouth,'” Pfeiffer recalled. “I think Tim likes to torture me a bit, it’s like a little brother [or] brat kind of thing.”
Fortunately, no birds — or actors — were harmed in the making of that scene. Pfeiffer’s no stranger to suffering for her art, but at least the end result made for a moment we still talk about today.