/Film Visits David Copperfield’s Secret Warehouse/Museum to Learn The Magic History Behind ‘Burt Wonderstone’
Posted on Thursday, March 14th, 2013 by Peter Sciretta
The large room is an old school-style celebration of success and self, covered with posters and magazine covers from throughout David’s career. David points to the walls and says “This is a plethora of bad haircuts.” Famous artist Al Hirschfeld has created three caricatures of Copperfirled throughout his career, which are hung on one wall. Oversized paintings used for commemorative Copperfield stamps in different countries separate the room from a couched hang-out area.
There is a trophy room displaying his 21 Emmy Awards (he was nominated 38 times), his Living Legend Award from the Library of Congress, a metal from being knighted by the Queen of England, the Bambi Award (the German Oscar), and a ton of other accomplishments.
A small room to the side features wall to wall drawers of news clippings collected throughout his career. Almost anything that is printed by a publication is saved. Copperfield estimates over 30 thousand clippings in all, but the most important are at the end of the room in an old scrap book which was kept by his parents at the beginning of his career.
Copperfield guides us through another door into his huge warehouse. The walls are lined by big banners from all of his world tours. Huge illusions from all of his television specials are on display.
Near by is the door to a steel safe which has seen better days. The remnants are from an illusion which involved Copperfield being handcuffed and locked in a safe inside a building which was set to be imploded. Copperfield would have only two and a half minutes to escape the safe and the building before the demolition. Of course, things don’t go as expected and it appeared that Copperfield was unable to get out in time, before appearing out of thin air on a steel board outside in the parking lot.
David explains the the safe door was found within the rubble of the building after the special aired, somehow mostly intact.
“Steel was turned to dust, but that safe door was somehow in the right spot and they were able to pull it out.”
The escape was shot in one long Steadicam shot. Employed for the implosion escape were the McConkey brothers, who have worked as Steadicam operators on many of the famous one-shot takes in cinema history, including Goodfellas, The Bonfire of the Vanities, Kill Bill and more recently Hugo.
“Part of the reason we’re involved in so many films is that because you can do literally anything in cinema today, there is really an effort to make the magic credible. And my career was spent trying to make the magic as credible as possible. How do you make the home viewer believe they are seeing something for real, and not a camera trick? We sometimes accomplished this with long camera shots. In Burt Wonderstone, my team and I designed this Hangman illusion. And if you notice, it is presented in this long technocrane shot that doesn’t cut away — it lasts forever, until the very end. You see the audience, you see him, you see everything in one long camera shot — which is something that is really hard for the actors. You can’t just fix it in post, thats how its really done. And my whole career is that.”
Film projects that have come here in the past include Christopher Nolan‘s The Prestige, and The Illusionist with Ed Norton. Copperfield is a huge film buff.
“My passion for movies supersedes my passion for magic. I happened to be good at magic when I was a kid, but movies really inspired me. Magic is what I happened to be skilled at but my real idols were Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and directors like Frank Capra and Victor Flemming.”
Many other illusions are seen in the distance of the large warehouse, including remnants of Tornado of Fire, the Elevator appearance prop for “Heaven On The Seventh Floor”, the death saw illusion and many others.
Copperfield also has artifacts from the world of cinema. The Da Vinci flying machine from Hudson Hawk hangs from the ceiling. Copperfield points over to the side at the mast from The Black Pearl (seen above), the ship that Johnny Depp’s character Captain Jack Sparrow sails in Pirates of the Caribbean. David had nothing to do with these movies. He just collects many different things. He says he just liked the look of the flying machine prop. Its also likely that it aesthetically fits in with the “Flying – Live The Dream” illusion, which is probably the greatest magic “trick” ever created.
“I just found out that Leonardo Da Vini wrote a magic book, a book of card tricks and mathematical puzzles” Copperfield enthusiastically tells us. “I definitely think he’s a magician, he even did some of the magic I do. This is a guy who is one of my idols, he inspires all of us on so many levels. The renaissance man, probably named after him. Da Vinci kinda dabbled in my kind of work? That makes me feel really good. He made people dream, with his art and his creations.”
At another point he shows us a box on a wall containing a small children’s doll he claims is from the Child’s Play movies. We all examine it as he quickly counts down, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The doll jumps out of the glass box at us, scaring some of the journalists on the tour. David has a good laugh.