Interview with Steve Carell star of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.
How did you get involved in this project, and what appealed to you about it to want to star in it and produce it?
It was a world I had never seen before done comedically. And I thought it was funny. I thought the character of Burt Wonderstone was really funny. Because he’s such a jerk. He’s such a pompous ass. He’s someone who has let the ego get the better of him, and he’s just a horrible person in dire need of redemption.
What does magic mean to Burt Wonderstone?
Well, magic starts out, for Burt, as a way to change his life. You know, here’s a kid who is bullied and is lonely, doesn’t have a lot of friends. Magic enables him to become popular, and gives him a best friend, that he becomes partners with. So it brings him out of his shell. And gives him everything that he thought he always wanted. But then it’s later on that he becomes jaded and forgets his own passion for it.
What do you think Steve Buscemi brought to the role of Anton?
He’s just a very, very good actor, obviously, to begin with. But to Anton, I think he brought a sweetness and a sense of caring, but not a pushover. And he’s just really funny. He plays this guy who is someone who, a childhood friend, idolizes Burt, cares deeply about him, but also, at a certain point, doesn’t want to put up with him anymore. And Steve Buscemi, in my mind, can do no wrong. He’s good in anything he’s ever in.
What can you say about Jim Carrey’s street performer-slash-magician that appears and kind of steals the show?
Again, I mean, to have somebody like Jim Carrey in this, I can’t think of anybody else who could play this part like Jim Carrey can. He is supremely crazy in this part. He’s scary and he’s funny. He’s this very dark magician, this very edgy guy, who loves to mess with people’s brains. And I don’t think there’s anybody better at that than Jim Carrey.
Tell us about your character’s relationship with Jane, your assistant.
Yeah. Jane is one of a long line of assistants. Anton and Burt seem to go through assistants at the pace of one or two a month. Because, frankly, it’s Burt. None of the assistants can stand being around Burt. He’s a terrible man, treats them terribly. And finally when Jane becomes their assistant, she gives as good as she gets, and she stands up. And she is a formidable opponent to Burt, and I think he likes that. And it’s somebody that he needs to shake him out of the sort of self-centered world that he’s spiraled into.
How did you get David Copperfield as a consultant and to even appear in the movie?
We sent him the script. He has a very good sense of humor about himself and about magic in general, so he loved the script. And he, being a magician, being someone who has lived and worked in Las Vegas for a long time, he not only offered insight into the world of the mechanics of the magic, but also the world of the magician and being in Vegas, and what that constitutes as a performer, and how you guard against being jaded, and how it’s an easy thing to fall into. So he, just character-wise, he was offering insights as well. He was always, just a great supporter. And he designed some of the tricks for the movie as well, which is neat.
They say a magician never reveals his secrets. Did you have to agree to keep your tricks a mystery?
We did. We signed confidentiality agreements that we cannot divulge how this trick was achieved. And I think that’s kind of cool. When we did it, we did it without any sort of camera moves or special effects. We did it as a single trick, a single illusion.
Were you interested in magic growing up?
Yeah, I did. I had a magic kit when I was a kid. More than once I performed for kids in the neighborhood, and did– There were probably ten or fifteen little tricks in this magic kit that I had. And I learned them and I got pretty good at them. They were very simple. But I was a bad magician, because after the shows I’d always show my friends how the tricks were done. So I didn’t keep up the illusion of the magic. So I think that probably set me off-course in terms of a career in magic. I’d want to show everybody how it was done.
What was it like to work with Don Scardino as your director?
He is a great, great guy. He’s somebody I had never met, but he’s directed a lot of television. He was a director on Thirty Rock. And I spoke to Tina Fey about him and she had nothing but the highest praise for him. So we thought he’d be a good fit to direct the movie, and I think he was. He understands the world. He’s a Broadway director as well as being a television director, so he understands the world of stagecraft and performing in front of a live audience. So I think he understood that aspect of the script really well.
Tell us about filming in Las Vegas. The city is almost another character in the movie.
Yeah. It is. We shot a fair amount of it here as well. And it’s funny. You know, you see these posters, and you see these billboards of our faces and our hair and our overly tanned chests, and the glitter, and obviously it looks ridiculous, but at the same time, it’s not too far from reality. That is this world. So while it may seem a little outlandish, and we tried to make it a bit outlandish and silly and fun, it’s not that far off. It’s not that far from the truth. We’re not stretching reality too much for this movie, which is kind of fun. It was just a world that we wanted to have fun with and be a part of. Just a world I’d never seen before in a comedy like this.
Did you have fun creating your character and getting that look right?
Yeah. When we first had our wardrobe fittings, it was ridiculous. You know, we’re putting on these velour jumpsuits with low-cut tops and all of these– I think the first, we had half as many sequins. Our costume designer said, “Oh, no, no. We need more. We need more sequins, we need more glitter, you need more chains around your neck, and the hair needs to be blonder and more full. And you need to be tanner.” So we kind of pushed it as far as we could go, and it’s fun. I defy anybody to put something like that on and not act differently. It informs who you are when you get into a getup like that.