*”Now You See Me 2” arrives on Blu-ray & DVD September 6, and the star-studded follow-up to the multi-million-dollar box-office hit features Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”), Mark Ruffalo (“The Avengers”), Woody Harrelson (“The Hunger Games” franchise), Dave Franco (“Nerve”), Daniel Radcliffe (“Harry Potter” franchise), Lizzy Caplan (“Cloverfield”), Jay Chou (“The Green Hornet”), Sanaa Lathan (“Repentance”) with Michael Caine (“The Dark Knight”) and Morgan Freeman (“The Shawshank Redemption”).
As the official synopsis notes, one year after outwitting the FBI and winning the public’s adulation with their Robin Hood-style magic spectacles, the Four Horsemen find themselves in more trouble in Macau, China. A tech wizard named Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) forces the infamous magicians to steal a powerful chip that can control all of the world’s computers. Their only hope is to perform one last unprecedented stunt to clear their names and reveal the mastermind behind their vanishing act.
To celebrate the return of The Four Horseman — on DVD, EUR/Electronic Urban Report was invited to a private dinner at the Magic Castle in Hollywood with director Jon Chu, where we also chatted with Magic Supervisor & Mentalist Keith Barry about his methods and use of REAL magic in the film.
Check out our Q&A below.
What is the most challenging trick you had to develop for this film?
KB: The most challenging one would have to be the head chop sequence with Lizzy Caplan. It took us about three months to develop that one trick that lasted just a couple of seconds in the movie. We had to design the illusion to sort of work in real-time, without the use of CGI, and what you see is what you get. That really is Lizzy Caplan in the illusion getting her head chopped off. There’s no doubles. There’s no head dummy. It really was her.
Having your head chopped off is a common trick that many magicians have used. Why did it take three months to develop this one illusion?
KB: Because the common trick is to put it into a guillotine and have the guillotine blade come down and the head either not be damaged, or drop off, but it’s very different doing that particular illusion, which has exited for many-many years, and having a girl lay down on a couch with her full body be able to be seen with her legs moving and her head on the edge of the couch. So with the original trick, with the guillotine, a set of stocks goes over the person’s neck. That didn’t happen, so her neck was exposed the whole time through it. So from that perspective, even a trick that has perhaps existed for a long time, to do it in a very different way requires massive changes in methodology. So from that perspective, we had to go through a lot of testing and a lot prototypes to get to where we needed to get to.
Tell us about some of the principles behind how magic works.
KB: Well, there are a lot of basic principles — misdirection is a principle that magicians use all the time. Indirection is something that people don’t talk about too much. Misdirection is when you’re misdirecting the person’s attention to/away from perhaps where you’re trying to hide something. Indirection is where I’m directly getting your attention to go to focus to a specific point, perhaps when I’m doing something sneaky. So there’s a lot different principles, I suppose classics of magic, which were incorporated into both the first and the second (film).
Do magicians honor a specific code of ethics?
KB: I think most of us, if not all of us, wanted to keep magic a secret. We don’t want it to be exposed, and the technology age that we’re in, very often you can Google the answer to pretty much anything. Magicians try to protect our secrets as much as we possibly can. So from that perspective, its drilled into us right from the very early age: never repeat a trick, practice-practice-practice until your fingers bleed. Put on Band-Aids and then practice again. And then, never ever give away the secret. Some magicians break those rules. But for the most part, we stay true to those rules.
Now, I had to expose some secrets for the purpose of the movie. But then as a collaborative process, we came up with methods that could be exposed that magicians won’t get angry about, cause they’re not methods that they would really use in real life.
How much time did you spend with the actors teaching them the various illusions that we see in NYSM2?
KB: In the first movie, I mainly worked with Woody Harrelson on the hypnosis and mentalism aspect of it. Where as with this one, I was on set for all four months and we had a team of magicians come in and help as well. But for the most part, I was there every day with the actors, either working with them individually or overseeing some of the other stuff that they were doing. I worked with Lizzy Caplan on her dove sequence, where I taught her how to produce doves and how to rip a head off a dove and put it back on. All these things normally take years and years of practice but the actors were so dedicated to not only their own craft, but the craft of magic, that they made the process for us behind the scenes that much easier.
Did they have to sign a blood oath to not reveal your secrets?
KB: I thought about it for second, but for me, it was about being an open book. I’m at this a long time now. I’m 39. I’ve been at magic since I’m four or five, and I suppose my job must be an information hub for them. I had to make a decision very early on in the process to be very open about everything, so no blood oaths signed. I just took them at their word that they were gonna just keep the secrets themselves. And I know as far as I am aware to date, they really have done that.
How does this digital age affect how magicians maintain the mystery of magic?
KB: I think it makes magic better because we can pretty much Google the answer to everything. But the one thing we can’t Google the answer to is professional magicians secrets because — for example — with my own work, my own TV work. I do a lot of television. I develop my own tricks and I develop my own techniques so that even magicians don’t really know how they’re done. So therefore, they can’t be exposed. So for me, the more we learn about how the world works, and the more we learn about different aspects of the world, the more amazing magic becomes. We’re so jaded with the world, then when we see a good magician or good magic trick, it kind of blows us anyway even that much more.
The “Now You See Me 2” Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital HD release includes audio commentary by the director and three behind-the-scenes featurettes looking at the creation of the magic in the film, and discussions with the cast and crew about their work in developing and mastering the magic tricks seen in the film.
The “Now You See Me 2” DVD will also include audio commentary with the director and one behind-the-scenes featurette. It will also be available on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, Blu-ray and DVD for $42.99, $39.99 and $29.95, respectively.
Lionsgate will also be launching a “Now You See Me“ hidden object game in partnership with SideKick VR, which will be available on mobile devices including mobile VR headsets from Samsung, Google and others.