Director Louis Leterrier is quick to admit that his last two films — Clash Of The Titans (2010) and The Incredible Hulk (2008) – didn’t go as per plan. Reports claimed that there was too much studio interference, and the director adds, “There’s a thumb rule in Hollywood — the more money you have, the less freedom you get. Because everyone wants to recover their money. This time, it was a big movie, but I have tremendous producers who followed my vision.”
By “this time”, Leterrier refers to his latest film, Now You See Me, hitting theatres here on Friday. And it’s a “big” film primarily because of its stellar cast — Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Jesse Eisenberg, among others. The story revolves around a quartet of magicians that pulls off a series of bank heists.
That’s quite a casting coup you’ve pulled off.
Yes, as insane as it sounds, they are all my first choices for their respective roles. It took a year’s wait to ensure that everyone was available, and then we shot pretty quickly.
You’ve got a young guy, Jesse Eisenberg, talking down to Michael Caine in the film. Why did you pick him as the leader?
I wanted someone who was intellectual yet personable. He needed to be someone who you believe can mastermind massive illusions, play with the audience and trick people. That’s how everyone was cast, not just him.
Did they learn any magic to prepare for their roles?
All of them did, and they’re even performing little tricks during promotions now. Jesse is great at sleight of hand, while Isla can hold her breath underwater for three minutes. Dave (Franco) can throw a card from one corner of a room and slice a banana that’s in the middle, and Woody trained so hard that he can actually hypnotise you now.
Comparisons with previous films on magic are inevitable. Did you have to make a conscious effort to veer away from what’s been done before?
I love films like The Prestige and The Illusionist (both 2006), but I wanted to make a film revolving around a magic show, which hasn’t been done before. I wanted to show the conversations and jokes with the audience and create the experience of going to a magic show, being entertained and getting tricked. The movie starts with Jesse performing the card force (a popular card trick).
It’s been three years since your last film.
I wanted to make sure I had a script that represents the kind of director I am, and it took me some time to get this right. Besides, I didn’t get even a day’s break between my previous two films, and I wanted to spend some time with my young daughter.
You’ve done one superhero film. Given the surge in the popularity of the genre, would you consider another?
I’d love to. But in a sense, Now You See Me is a superhero film too. The superpower here is magic, and although they may not have anything supernatural about them, I find this film attractive for the same reasons as a superhero one – the camaraderie and fun. You can recognise it in the twists and turns, and whether they will make it or not (get away with the heist).