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The Showman And The Rival
In this time when magicians were the great entertainers of their age, no one else can rivet an audience with the charm and pizzazz of the consummate showman Robert Angier. But when a stage tragedy strikes close to Angier's heart, it pushes him to invent his greatest trick ever, one that will take him into realms of scientific discovery and magical deception no one could have imagined. To play Angier, Christopher Nolan immediately thought of Hugh Jackman, the multitalented Australian who has become a major star of both stage and screen. Jackman is known to millions of young fans for his screen portrayal of the hugely popular superhero Wolverine—an angst-filled mutant with animal-keen senses—but he is also a Tony Award winner for his showstopping performance as songwriter Peter Allen in "The Boy From Oz” and an Emmy® Award winner for his hosting of the televised Tony Awards show.

It was Jackman's unique mix of innate cool along with his sophisticated showmanship that convinced Nolan he was the only person who could bring out both the theatrical brilliance and the thirst for vengeance at the heart of Angier. He also seemed like the perfect persona to create a chain reaction of fierce competition and rivalry with Christian Bale.

Says Nolan: "When Hugh gets on stage, he truly comes to life. He's extraordinarily comfortable being up there and so knowledgeable about his relationship with the audience. That's exactly what this character needed—and Hugh presents Angier with a sincerity that's extremely winning.”

Upon reading the script, Jackman was hooked. He was drawn to Angier's journey—which takes him from the bright lights of success to the darkest shadows of the human soul. "At the beginning of the story, Angier is very optimistic, hopeful and energetic,” he observes. "His main strength as a magician is as a performer. He simply loves being in front of a crowd. He has an ease and a panache and a great sort of way with the audience. In fact, to be somewhat critical of him, you could say that his style is sometimes far greater than his content.”

But then Angier meets Alfred Borden and everything in his life changes. "It irks me to even say this, but Borden is technically a much better magician,” Jackman begrudgingly admits. "My character can sell a trick to an audience with far more skill, but Borden is a kind of inventive genius. When things go wrong between them, Angier has two conflicting responses. On the one hand, he begins to loathe Borden, to hate him, to want vengeance for what he has done, but on the other, he is driven by a competitive obsession to be better than Borden. So all of Angier's anger and hate, all his darkness and sadness become focused on one thing—finding out Borden's secrets.”

To prepare to play Angier, Jackman conducted his own research into the colorful history of magic, from its creative heyday in the early 1900s till now. "I found it to be an incredibly mysterious and interesting world,” he says. "There is something about magicians that makes them different from non-magicians.

They do everything alone, because they don't want to share their secrets, and they are intensely competitive. They're fascinating people, which makes them great characters.”

The more he learned, the more Jackman began to see that magicians share elements in common with both conmen and scientists, two mainstays of contemporary society. "Great magic is all about misdirection and illusion, the same skills a conman needs,” he says. "But just as scientists are obsessed with the things humans can't yet understand, magicians tap into that. What's great about THE PRESTIGE is that it melds the mystical, the magical and the idea of the impossible with elements of science and reality.”

As for Angier, Jackman believes he is addicted to the audience's stunned reactions

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