Posted on Monday, April 15th, 2013 by Angie Han
The movie is itself structured like a magic trick.
Appropriately for what Leterrier calls “a love letter to magic,” the film itself is patterned like a trick. “We constructed the whole movie as if it has the three acts of a great trick,” Cohen told us. Leterrier added that the idea was to perform tricks that’d work not just for audiences in the movie, but for real-life audiences watching from the movie theater. For example, a card-guessing trick would be filmed so that moviegoers would have picked the same card as a character in the film. “It’s really cool, it’s a cool magic technique. For me, it’s about falling in love with magic again,” Leterrier said.
Leterrier avoided potential criticism that the magic was “all CG” by making the actors really learn how to do magic.
Though it’d be easy enough to create most of the magic tricks with special effects, Leterrier tried to head off potential criticism by “having the actors do it for real.” He admitted that CG would be used to “take out the seams” in some cases, but insisted that “the tricks are real.” “The actors have been doing the real deal, training and the real stuff. Obviously they cannot do everything, but the magic they’re doing is very real,” he said. Among the actors’ guides were Kwong and Irish mentalist Keith Barry.
… and that’s how Franco got insanely good at throwing cards.
There was much talk from everyone about how much work all of the actors had put into perfecting their characters’ magic specialties, but the name that kept coming up again and again was Franco’s. In fact, Ruffalo had a scar on his face that he attributed to his co-star. “This is a Dave Franco special. He whipped a card at me,” he explained. Ruffalo wasn’t his only target, either. According to Leterrier, stuntman Steve Pope also got caught above his eye when Franco tossed a card across a theater at Leterrier’s prompting. “Dave has become amazing at throwing cards,” the filmmaker gushed.
It’s also how Harrelson was able to hypnotize Ruffalo.
While he was understandably reluctant to spill all the details, Ruffalo confessed that Harrelson had successfully used his new mentalist skills on him. “Woody got very proficient at hypnotizing people. We were out one night and I don’t know if something was dropped in my drink or Woody actually hypnotized me, but something did happen to me. I don’t want to talk about it much.” He declined to divulge his trigger word, he revealed that Harrelson had made him unable to remember the number three.
The filmmakers took advantage of MTA subways in New York City and Bourbon Street partiers in New Orleans.
In keeping with the theme of doing things “for real,” Leterrier tried to shoot on location as much as possible, taking production to cities like New Orleans, New York, Las Vegas, and Paris. In New Orleans, that meant embracing, as Cohen described it, “this great tradition of magic, dark magic, voodoo and mysticism,” and, of course, Mardi Gras. Leterrier revealed that they also visited Bourbon Street on a Friday night and got “twenty thousand free extras” for their trouble. Similarly, 5 Pointz’ unique appearance and close proximity to the 7 train allowed for some “amazing” shots.
The graffiti outside 5 Pointz will come alive thanks to the magic of CG.
However, some aspects of 5 Pointz will most definitely be enhanced by special effects. The lively graffiti decorating the outside of the building will actually come to life, morphing into the Horsemen’s faces. Their faces will also be projected into the sky “like the Batman signal,” for the crowd on the ground to see.
Sneakers, Ocean’s 11, The Usual Suspects, and Make Believe were all used as inspirations for the film. So was The Beat My Heart Skipped.
As a caper, Now You See Me not surprisingly drew from likeminded films like Sneakers, Ocean’s 11, and The Usual Suspects. Fisher also named the documentary Make Believe as one of the films she’d viewed while researching her character. But the films Leterrier shared with his actors were French titles, including the Jacques Audiard’s The Beat My Heart Skipped, which stars Laurent. “There’s a levity about the camerawork that is really inspiring,” he said. “I was talking to actors, I was like, here is how my camera is going to interact with you. It will be free, and I will capture moments, but it’s not going to be about the camera.”
There’s a Robin Hood angle to the film, but any thematic links to Occupy Wall Street are purely coincidental.
Cohen described the Horsemen’s crimes as having a “Robin Hood aspect” to them, which seemed particularly timely given our current political and economic climate. In fact, when we visited the set, the Occupy Wall Street protests were still going on. But Ruffalo said the link wasn’t intentional. “I just think occasionally, culturally films reflect the time that they come out in without even intentionally doing that. They just happen to catch that, you know?”
Leterrier has two DPs for a reason.
Somewhat unusually, Now You See Me has two directors of photography, Larry Fong (Super 8) and Mitch Amundsen (Transporter 2). Amundsen — whom Leterrier affectionately describes as “loud and annoying” — was brought in to focus on action sequences, while Fong drew upon his own knowledge of magic to shoot the tricks. “Larry’s an amazing magician,” Leterrier told us.
A variety of filming formats were used in the movie.
The scene we saw outside was being shot on “verrrry old” anamorphic lenses, but Leterrier divulged that he’d used a wide variety of formats for the film. “You weren’t here the other day, but the helicopter was shooting Alexa, we’re shooting with 5Ds, we’re shooting with GoPros, I’m shooting tons of formats,” he said.
Leterrier allegedly invented a shot for Now You See Me.
Leterrier spoke to us at length about two shots he was especially proud of doing “for real” instead of with CG. One was the elevator scene described above, and the other was something he called a “basket cam.” “Literally, it’s a camera, a seamless 235 camera, going up a shaft with people, with a SWAT team running up,” he told us. “It’s as low-tech as possible, but it looks like a visual effects shot.” Specifically, it looked like a similar shot in The Incredible Hulk, only this time, it wasn’t just CG wizardry.