Posted on Monday, April 15th, 2013 by Angie Han
As with movies, the art of magic relies on seamless illusion. Since we know we’re not really seeing the things we think we’re seeing — George Clooney, for instance, isn’t really a casino-robbing mastermind, and David Copperfield didn’t really make an airplane just vanish into thin air — it’s up to the artists to put on such a dazzling show that we can suspend our disbelief, and ooh and ahh just the same.
But on two nights last April, /Film and several other outlets were invited to the set of Louis Leterrier‘s Now You See Me to find out just how the magic movie sausage gets made. For one thing, it helps to have what Leterrier calls “great ingredients,” like an “amazing” script by Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricourt (with rewrites by Ed Solomon) and an eminently talented cast. Hit the jump to keep reading, but be warned that spoilers follow.
Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, and Woody Harrelson play a magic supergroup called the Four Horsemen, which is backed by a wealthy patron (Michael Caine). When they begin using their talents to loot banks and distribute the stolen goods to their audiences, FBI agent Dylan (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol agent Alma (Mélanie Laurent) team up to catch them. They, in turn, bring in a magic debunker named Thaddeus (Morgan Freeman) to aid in the investigation.
The cat-and-mouse game culminates in a massive outdoor performance in New York City. Dylan and Alma have finally caught up with the thieves, while the Horsemen are attempting to pull off one last spectacular show and, if they’re lucky, an even more dazzling escape. It was that late scene the cast and crew were working on when we stopped by, weeks into their 60-day shoot.
Leterrier and his team had set up shop at 5 Pointz in Queens, N.Y., a uniquely New York location. Once a factory, the big concrete building now served as both studio space and exhibit space for graffiti artists all around the globe. The exterior was covered with an ever-changing array of colorful designs, while the interior was big, empty, and perfect for keeping us, the cast, and the crew out of the rain on the first night.
We watched as Eisenberg and Fisher worked on reaction shots inside in front of a green screen for the group’s big speech, which they make just moments before they attempt to vanish. Both dropped by our little group to chat about the movie, as did producer Bobby Cohen. In between conversations, the film’s magic consultant David Kwong kept us entertained with (what else?) a series of magic tricks. (We couldn’t get video, unfortunately, but you can see his work for yourself on his site.)
Happily, the weather proved much better on the second night of our visit. Leterrier and Ruffalo each took a few minutes to come speak with us, as did Cohen and Kwong. Leterrier spent some time showing us a previously shot scene on the monitors, in which the camera goes down a shaft while an elevator full of actors goes up. “I’ve done this shot full CG before [in Unleashed], but this time I was like, let’s do it for real,” he said. “I’m super proud of that shot. Costs ten times more, but you know.”
We also stepped out to see Leterrier filming another portion of the film’s climax. Over 600 extras had convened to form a flash mob-style audience for the Horsemen’s third and last show. Fighting their way through the throng were Ruffalo and Laurent as their characters pursued the elusive Horsemen. The moment forces Leterrier to choose whether to follow the cops, who are headed in one direction, or new colleague/love interest Alma, who’s pulling him toward another. “That’s the moment where really, it’s the crossroads between, do I go with these guys and keep my job, or do I risk losing it all and go with her,” Leterrier explained.
Click to the next page to read about seventeen more things we learned on the set of Leterrier’s Now You See Me.