Warner Bros. Pictures
Tuesday, March 12, 2013 | 8:11 p.m.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Moviegoers who see the new “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” this weekend and say lead stars Steve Carell (Burt Wonderstone) and Steve Buscemi (Anton Marvelton) are portraying Siegfried & Roy will be wrong. Those who say co-star Jim Carrey is playing Criss Angel also will be wrong.
Yet the story of Las Vegas magic is uncannily real. Two magicians break up because of an injury, and a flashy and loud street magician rises to the top when he gets more fans and publicity than anybody else.
Many scenes were filmed on the Strip, including the suspended, see-through box illusion that stopped traffic when the two partners were hoisted above Las Vegas Boulevard outside Bally’s.
Stan Allen, who publishes Magic Magazine here, made the movie his March cover story. He assigned magician Shawn McMaster to write the story. In Shawn’s interview with script writers John Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, he uncovered real-life truths.
Jonathan told Shawn, “The interesting thing for us was this movement in the world of magic where the arrival of guys like Criss Angel and David Blaine sort of -- I don’t know if they threatened, but they certainly posed a challenge to the more traditional stage magicians. We thought that would make an interesting basis for the film.”
They said that they talked about the politics in magic with the magicians, and “some had a certain amount of resentment toward the new faces.” Johnathan added: “We also learned that there’s a great deal of rivalry among magicians --- even the top guys. It’s not the most “everybody loves one another” type of community, and we tried to portray some of that in the movie.
MGM Grand resident illusionist David Copperfield worked on the set with the actors as a consultant and created the illusion the filmmakers are proudest of all -- The Hangman. Everybody insisted that it be filmed in one continuous shot without edits or cutaways. Shawn reported: “There was to be no proverbial ‘fix it in post.’ It took six takes before it was perfect in less than a day of shooting.” For viewers, it’ll be the most memorable illusion in the film.
David invited the writers and producers to his show at Hollywood Theater and gave them a tour of his Las Vegas museum and warehouse. For his appearances in the film, David wrapped his shows on the Strip and then drove through the night to L.A. studios, then returned in time for his next night of shows.
The producers also met to discuss magic with other Las Vegas magicians: Criss Angel at Luxor, Penn Jillette from The Rio, former and longtime headliner Lance Burton and Nathan Burton from Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops.
Don Scardino (“30 Rock”) directed “Burt Wonderstone.” The one-time kid magician told Shawn: “The script deals with a magician who became so famous, he lost the sense of wonder you acquire when you are introduced to magic. What we wanted to do was rekindle in those people who have lost it, the feeling that magic is an art form that is transporting and transforming. It’s a redemption story. Burt is redeemed by his love of magic. He is transformed back into a good, honest person again.”
Those who have seen previews of the film, which premiered in Hollywood on Monday, say it will be a big boost for the art of illusion and Las Vegas magic shows. David was on the red carpet with Steve and Jim. The filmmakers turned to a legendary genius in the magic and theatrical business, Jim Steinmeyer, who is well known and respected in Las Vegas magic circles, to create illusions for the film.
Jim has worked for many magicians creating hundreds of illusions, including the stunning two-part Osmosis illusion for Las Vegas magician Rick Thomas.
John used to not only have a magic set as a kid, but also came here every year when his mother played piano and sang at The Mirage. John says he bought his first magic kit at The Mirage and visited the store there for more tricks.
Thanks -- and acknowledgements -- to Stan and Shawn. “Burt Wonderstone” opens in theaters Friday.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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