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About the Production
The fascinating and alluring realm of professional illusionists provides a glittering backdrop for director Louis Letterier's electrifying heist thriller Now You See Me, a love letter to the world of magic. Cops and criminals jockey for the upper hand as the film reveals ancient secrets and invents new ones, updating classic illusions and taking the audience on a journey that embraces the idea of the impossible.

Producer Bobby Cohen, president of Kurtzman/Orci, admits to being what he calls "a secret magic geek." "When I was a kid, my grandfather would take me to the local Holiday Inn to see magicians who designed their own tricks and sold them there," he says. "You could buy special decks of cards or wands or cups of balls. He'd buy me three or four tricks every year and I kept them all in a little tackle box. I would annoy the relatives at Passover with my repertoire."

Cohen, who has served as producer on dozens of feature films ranging from the Desert Storm drama, Jarhead, to the wacky Robin Williams comedy, RV, had been trying to develop a magic-themed action picture for years. "My partners, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are interested in magic as well," he says. "We were looking for this script for a very long time."

The whole idea of magic evokes a dual visceral response in most people, he says. "On the one hand, we want to be amazed, but on the other, we want to know how they did it. We often talked about the best way to get both of those experiences into a movie."

Cohen and his partners finally found the balance they were looking for in Edward Ricourt's original script, Now You See Me. The film is a very personal project for the writer, who started to explore the idea when he was still a student at NYU. He remembers, "I told my father about the idea one night. He was so enthusiastic about it. Sadly, he passed away the next day and I always felt I owed it to him to get this made. I still get goose bumps thinking about how proud he would be."

Ricourt wanted to write a classic heist film, but he was looking for a unique hook to set it apart from the pack. "I wanted something a little different," he says. "I started with the idea that it would be a Robin Hood tale where the real feat is not taking the money, but how it's done. What if the four greatest magicians in the world come together and become one big unstoppable unit? Together, they pull off the impossible."

He came up with a group of unique individuals, each with a very special skill of their own. "As I imagined each character, it became like a superhero story," Ricourt says. "Creating them had an element of wish fulfillment to it -- if you could have a super power what would it be? Some people would want to read minds or make things appear out of thin air. I thought that grounded the characters and made the magic more real."

There is something very appealing about watching a team being built, says Cohen. "Whether it's The Magnificent Seven or Ocean's Eleven or The Four Horsemen, it's exciting. I had never seen a team of magicians in film before. One of the fun things that it allowed us to do was give each one a really dynamic opening that was specific to their talent and personality."

When Ricourt originally pitched his caper to his friend, the prolific writer, director and producer, Boaz Yakin, he called it Poof! "I thought it was a funny and memorable name," he says. "Boaz laughed so hard that he never let me finish my spiel. But he read it and he loved it. He totally got the concept and came up some really great ideas, so we started to collaborate. He added a lot of complexity to the story."

For centuries, magicians have been part of an outlaw culture, says the writer. "It is not about the money, in the end," he points out. "They give it away, because they're after something bigger. That's a twist I'd never seen."

"There is something in the nature of magicians that tends toward the subversive and the counter-cultural," agrees Cohen. "The audience is going to love seeing the Horsemen ply their trade, but we also follow the story of the FBI and Interpol agents who are on their trail, trying to figure them out."

Because the film takes the different sides into consideration, the audience may find themselves alternately cheering for each. "We want to be amazed by the illusions and see the Horsemen get away with their heists," says Cohen. "But we also want to know how they did it, which creates great friction. It's an ongoing game of cat and mouse, and you don't root for anyone for the entire time."

With Ricourt and Yakin's rewrite in hand, Cohen and his fellow producers approached the French director Louis Leterrier and invited him to share his ideas about the film.

"We thought he would make the movie buoyant and colorful, while bringing a certain hipness to magic," says Cohen. "Sometimes people associate magicians with that guy who shows up at kids' birthday parties and waves his arms around. This is definitely not that."

Leterrier has established himself as one of contemporary cinema's most masterful visual stylists and the creator of unforgettable action films such as Clash of the Titans, The Transporter and The Incredible Hulk. He was drawn to Now You See Me's nuanced story and intriguing characters, but it was the film's sly peek behind the wizard's curtain that sealed the deal for him. The director came back to the producers brimming with ideas for expanding the scope of the movie. He wanted to take the illusions to unprecedented proportions -- and do the same for all the production elements, including visual effects, stunts, locations and costumes. He also proposed shooting primarily on classic 35-millimeter film stock using 40-year-old anamorphic lenses that would capture the lush, romantic imagery. Finally he suggested that they use two different cinematographers. Mitchell Amundsen would photograph the film's blistering action sequences, while Larry Fong would oversee the intricate illusions.

"Louis showed that he really understood what it was that we were going for," Cohen says. "A heist movie is a genre in itself. The question was, how do we inject something new into that and keep it character based at the same time? His influence on the script and the casting took the movie to an entirely different level."

"Louis and the producers brought authenticity to the magic and created fabulous sets," says Ricourt. "It was awe inspiring to watch. To see the hundreds of people and thousands of components that went into making this work was incredible."

To help realize the director's ambitious vision, veteran writer Ed Solomon (Men in Black) also joined the team. "It was an inspiring collaborative effort," says Ricourt. "I looked at the process as being like a baseball game. A pitcher comes in for the first eight innings, but sometimes you need a closer if you're going to win the game. But my vision was honored from beginning to end. I felt so lucky to be able work with such good, experienced writers."

Also providing expertise to the production were several top-notch professional magicians with specialties varying from mentalism to sleight of hand. Led by David Kwong, founder of Misdirectors Guild, a company that regularly counsels filmmakers on the art and craft of magic, they delved deeper than ever before into the mechanics and philosophy of onstage sorcery to provide an authentic framework for the story. In an age when CGI can achieve the impossible with startling efficiency, the filmmakers insisted on keeping as many of the elements in the illusions as possible in-camera.

"We talked about some of the basic principles of magic, as well as training the actors and helping to design the illusions," says Kwong. "One of our most important goals was to engage the audience on an intellectual level, so they understand all the preparation that goes into creating illusions. We don't expose too many secrets, but you will learn to respect what The Four Horsemen are capable of doing."

Now You See Me harks back to the days that movies were projected on a "magic lantern," reminding audiences that the two disciplines have always gone hand in hand, according to Ricourt. "When you buy your ticket and go into the theater, you're prepared to believe in magic, because that's what movies are," the writer says. "You have to suspend your disbelief momentari ly for both. You suppress what you know is real and become willing to believe whatever you see. This movie reflects that. Anything is possible!"

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