Steve Carell has a knack for playing characters who think they know it all, but in fact, have much to learn: From his turn as Michael Scott on The Office to his current role as the title character in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. In the film, Carell stars as a Las Vegas magician who, with his partner Anton -- played by Steve Buscemi -- has become one of Sin City’s biggest stars.
The only thing, an upstart magician (Jim Carrey), is challenging his Vegas supremacy. Instead of taking the challenge and making himself a better showman, he wilts and must find it in himself to fight his way back to the top.
Movie Fanatic caught up with the cast of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone in Las Vegas and today we bring you Carell’s thoughts on his fantastically ridiculous costume, filming on the Vegas Strip and how he found magicians and actors actually quite similar.
“Actors and magicians are both performers and they represent things that are not necessarily who they are,” Carell said. He also noticed how success can affect each and produces an artist who has lost his or her center.
“Success can corrupt you in a way,” he said. “It does in the story. This guy starts out as a boy who finds magic and it elevates him. It enables him to find himself and gives him a purpose. Somewhere along the line, he loses his joy and starts to think differently about himself and the world and magic and about performing.”
Is Carell having a personally revealing moment? Is this film semi-autobiographical? “It is, I have lost my will,” he said and laughed. “Not just to perform, but to live… so goodbye!”
The world of the Vegas magician is ripe for comedy, as shown off in this The Incredible Burt Wonderstone clip. Filming in the locale provided Carell and his cast a surprising benefit in that as they shot across the city, as outrageous as they were dressed and acting, it all appeared normal to the average person walking down the street.
“It was informational to be shooting here in Las Vegas. It does inform the characters a lot. There is obviously a different vibe in Las Vegas. And at several times I walked around in full hair and makeup and costume, and no one batted an eye,” Carell said and laughed.
“That led us to believe we were on the right track with the character development. On the poster, it looks absolutely ridiculous! But, it’s not really ridiculous in the context of Las Vegas.”
One of the scenes in the movie, seen in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone trailer, found Buscemi and Carell performing a “trick” high above the city’s main thoroughfare. “We were suspended almost 60 feet above Las Vegas Boulevard in a plexiglass box on the Las Vegas strip and we didn’t even gather a crowd. We tried to get a crowd. We wanted extras and didn’t want to pay for them! We figured people would just gather and we’ll shoot that,” Carell said. “Nobody cared! That told us a lot about our environment.”
One of the world’s most popular magicians was a consultant on the film and Carell reported that David Copperfield showed him a thing or two, but the actor won’t reveal the secrets to his onscreen tricks.
“David designed the hangman trick and we shot that without any special effects. That was fun, and I’m sworn to secrecy and cannot divulge the trick, which is very cool. In terms of slight of hand, we worked for several months beforehand with magicians who tried to get us to the point where we could replicate,” Carell said.
“These guys are so great at what they do, and it's years and years of practice. Just to get to the point where it looks at least plausible is what I hoped to get.”
One thing he learned from Copperfield and other magicians for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is that it is not always the magical reveal that is the most important part of a trick. “Part of it is just replicating the showmanship of it all. I learned in going to all these performances that so much is the buildup to the illusion,” Carell said.
“It’s the flair, the sense of mystery that they try to create. And speaking to these professionals, it’s something that they find important. It’s not so much the trick, it’s the buildup to the trick. That’s one thing I tried to emulate.”
Perhaps the biggest magic trick of all, Carell said, is how he has become a leading man onscreen. No one is more surprised than the man himself. “I’m always astounded that I’ve ever played a leading character in anything and my wife concurs with that,” Carell said and laughed.
“I always thought I’d be at best the wacky neighbor on a sitcom. This is all a surprise and a joy.”