bowie

David Bowie couldn’t have asked for a grander entrance in Christopher Nolan‘s finest film, The Prestige. Walking through a field of electricity, Bowie’s Nikola Tesla greets Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman), conducts and produces electricity with his body, and then offers the magician a meal. Even though the real Tesla, a famous germaphobe, probably wouldn’t have shaken Angier’s hand, it’s still a wonderful exchange between the two characters.

Below, Christopher Nolan remembers David Bowie and the time they spent together.

The musician and actor originally turned down the film. Nolan persisted, though, convinced Bowie’s iconic presence was perfect for the larger-than-life figure. You can read Nolan’s full story at Entertainment Weekly, but here’s what he had to say about working with David Bowie:

The experience of having him on set was wonderful. Daunting, at first. He had a level of charisma beyond what you normally experience, and everyone really responded to it. I’ve never seen a crew respond to any movie star that way, no matter how big. But he was very gracious and understood the effect he had on people. Everyone has fond memories of getting to spend time with him or speak to him for a little bit. I only worked with him briefly—four or five days—but I did manage to sneak a couple moments to chat with him, which are very treasured memories of mine. Normally when you meet stars, no matter how starry they are, when you see them as people, some of that mystique goes away. But not with David Bowie. I came away from the experience being able to say I was still his biggest fan, and a fan who had the very miraculous opportunity to work with him for a moment. I loved the fact that after having worked with him, I had just the same fascination with his talent and his charisma. I thought that was quite magical.

Nolan has expressed his passion for Bowie’s work in the past. The director is a massive fan of director Nicolas Roeg (The Man Who Fell to Earth), and when he ranked his 10 favorite Criterion films, he noted Bowie’s undeniable charm in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence:

Few films have been able to capture David Bowie’s charisma, but Oshima’s wartime drama seems tailor-made for his talents. Tom Conti has rarely been such a sympathetic guide for the audience’s emotions.

Long after Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Nolan got a terrific performance from David Bowie. The actor commands your attention in The Prestige. When Tesla discusses the dangers of obsession with Angier, it’s a powerful moment. You sense Tesla knows more about Angier than Angier does about himself.

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