The Incredible Burt Wonderstone screenwriters Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley thought the world of Las Vegas magicians was ripe for a comedy. In fact, they could not believe it hadn’t been done before. “It was always a world we felt was right for a comedy that hadn’t been exploited yet,” Goldstein said.
The two met Movie Fanatic for an exclusive interview and took us inside the magical world of Burt Wonderstone. When they put pen to paper, the duo realized that they didn’t have to do much to create the humor from the world of professional magic.
“You don’t need to do that much to exaggerate the comedy in the world of magicians. It’s already so big and broad. It’s fun playing with costumes and the tricks have to be unique in their own way, and because of that, they kind of go out there with some of the things they do,” Goldstein said.
Both admitted that they went through a magic phase as a kid, as most boys do, and were delighted to revisit that world for their next project. “We found most boys go through a magic period at some point in their lives -- somewhere between the dinosaur and astronaut period -- and John and I were big magic geeks,” Goldstein said.
“We’d get the magic kit and try to learn these tricks. I think when you’re not athletic, you turn to magic. Magic is a sport to geeks. We were always excited about and interested in it. If I had not gone on to writing, I probably would have considered being a magician -- a very unsuccessful one.”
The duo have a knack for creating comic gold with their work penning the script for Horrible Bosses and are now busy at work on the Vacation reboot. Their latest work can be seen teased in the new Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 trailer!
Screenwriters, oftentimes, picture certain performers when penning a script. But, Goldstein and Daley both admitted they never dreamed their The Incredible Burt Wonderstone comic dream team would be filled by Jim Carrey and Steve Carell.
“We were outraged,” Daley joked about the casting.
“It wasn’t at all what we had in mind,” Goldstein added and they both laughed.
They’re kidding, of course, as they could not have been more thrilled at the prospect of Carrey and Carell bringing to life their Burt Wonderstone world.
“Every time you write a movie you have people you imagine, people in a perfect scenario playing these roles. We couldn’t have done better than the two guys we got,” Daley said.
“I think this will be one of Jim’s finest roles of all-time. He tapped into it and made it his own. We collaborated with him a lot in honing the character and the dialogue of this crazy persona that he became.”
Goldstein is thrilled for audiences to witness Carrey returning to his outrageous comic roots. “People will love to see Jim in another role like this which is big and physical, and also the villain,” he said. In fact, both characters aren’t the most amicable. “It’s nice to see both these guys take on roles that are less likable.”
The cast is also filled by traditionally dramatic actors who seem to relish in the chance to flex their comedic muscles. “We were so taken by the other cast members; there are great dramatic actors from James Gandolfini to Alan Arkin and Steve Buscemi,” Daley said.
“Buscemi wasn’t necessarily the first guy you think of when you’re casting the sidekick to Burt Wonderstone. But, once we saw him do it -- we thought it's perfect.”
Goldstein added that he has always treasured Buscemi’s comedic work in some of Adam Sandler’s films, such as Mr. Deeds and The Wedding Singer.
“We’ve been huge fans of Buscemi. What was great was to see these dramatic actors take on such comedic roles. It’s refreshing,” he said. “I think it’s refreshing for them too. They all have it in them. They are all so talented in both drama and comedies. It’s nice to see them change it up a bit.”
Being fanboys of magic, Daley and Goldstein got to make up some tricks for the movie, a thrill to say the least -- even if it was a huge challenge.
“It was extremely difficult to come up with the magic tricks. Magicians do it for a living. It was by far the hardest part of writing the script. It was almost like we were writing a movie about chefs and had to come up with actual recipes that you could cook. We don’t know how to do that,” Daley said.
“Part of it had to be funny. It had to be original and it had to be practical -- something you could shoot. We came up with one illusion which David Copperfield helped execute, the hangman switcheroo illusion. That was done practically in one shot. It was great fun. I mean, who gets to do that? We met with a lot of magicians and spent a lot of time perfecting the tricks.”
Among the magicians who most helped the duo in crafting their script is a superstar in the world who actually makes a cameo in the film, seen in this The Incredible Burt Wonderstone trailer.
“He was one of the inspirations for Burt in the sense that he is at the top of his game and has been for decades. We’re not suggesting that Copperfield is quite as flamboyant as Burt. As far as his level of fame and the fact that he’s internationally known was what we were trying to achieve with Wonderstone,” Goldstein said. “Copperfield was another hero of mine growing up. When I went through that magic phase, he was the number one."