Posted on Monday, April 15th, 2013 by Angie Han
Leterrier purposely avoided casting typical action stars — which made it more difficult to get financing.
Talented as the Now You See Me cast is, they aren’t the stars you’d necessarily expect in a heist flick. But Leterrier fought to get people who could land the smaller character beats. “I think that this was such a different and specific, nuanced script that I really wanted people that really can give me acting,” he explained. The first actor cast was Eisenberg, which helped convince Ruffalo to sign on board, and then Freeman. Because none of them were typical A-list action heroes, Leterrier needed all of them to get the proper amount of financing. “All of them equal to one action star, one big movie star,” he laughed.
Each character has hidden motives of their own.
The Horsemen are introduced in an opening prologue, while other characters come in later.
- Atlas (Eisenberg) is a charismatic street magician who specializes in close-up magic, and the Horsemen’s controlling, almost Zuckerbergian leader.
- Henley (Fisher) is Atlas’ fearless former assistant and former lover, who’s since eclipsed his success with her solo act but remains emotionally vulnerable around him.
- Merritt (Harrelson) is a mentalist who’s no longer as famous as he once was, and now earns money hypnotizing tourists at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.
- Jack (Franco) is the “rookie” of the group, an expert pickpocketer who’s eager to be in the “big leagues.”
- Dylan (Ruffalo) is an FBI agent who’s less than thrilled with the new case he’s been assigned, and doesn’t sympathize at all with the Horsemen.
- Alma (Laurent) is an Interpol agent, who shares a mutual suspicion and attraction with Dylan.
- Arthur (Caine) is a Donald Trump / Richard Branson-style entrepreneur who has his own reason for funding the Horsemen’s shows.
- Thaddeus (Freeman) is a magician who’s made the cynical decision to become a debunker, and is brought on by the FBI to help capture the Horsemen.
Interestingly, Cohen noted that the Horsemen are put together for reasons they themselves don’t necessarily understand. For that matter, everyone in this movie has a hidden agenda. “Part of the fun of the movie is that we’re never quite sure” what the characters’ real motives are, he said.
Unlike his character, Eisenberg feels bad about doing magic.
Although one of the cardinal rules of magic is that a magician never reveals his secrets, Eisenberg confessed to us that he couldn’t bear to not spill the details to his practice audiences — much to the exasperation of consultant Kwong. “I feel very guilty doing magic because you’re deceiving somebody,” Eisenberg said. “But one of the things about being a mgician is you have to overcome the feeling of discomfort that comes with lying, you have to get over that feeling, which is a strange quality. [...] You have to get over that, because the truth is people seem to like being lied to in that safe context.”
Don’t expect any Zombieland Easter eggs.
No doubt plenty of Zombieland fans are excited about the reunion of Eisenberg and Harrelson, but Cohen cautioned us not to expect a rehash of the Tallahassee / Columbia dynamic. Or, for that matter, any nod to their previous collaboration. “I should probably pretend like we have something like that in store. We haven’t,” he admitted.
Conan O’Brien has a cameo in the movie.
Conan O’Brien hasn’t appeared in many movies, but he agreed to cameo as himself, interviewing Caine’s character, after reading and “loving” the script. “The real fun thing is that, like most of us, he reveres Michael Caine. So the scene, he and Michael Caine get to banter with each other, sort of live on television. It was really fun,” Cohen remembered. “Obviously Conan is unbelievably quick-witted, and it was great to watch Michael completely throw back with Conan.”
One of the scenes turned into a surprise 79th birthday party for Michael Caine.
Caine turned 79 on his last day of shooting, which prompted his wife to set up a surprise birthday party on set. For one scene at the MGM Grand (actually the University of New Orleans’ basketball arena), Caine’s character was supposed to stand up to applause from the audience. During one take, they brought out a birthday cake and the cast, crew, and hundreds of extras began singing “Happy Birthday” for him as the cameras continued to roll. “He loved it. He was just so touched by it,” Cohen recalled. While that take certainly won’t be used for the final film, we may get to see it eventually. “That is absolutely going on the Blu-ray,” Cohen told us.