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The Magician's Sidekicks
Magicians have long had need for close assistance. Whether behind the scenes— where brilliant imaginations think up the tricks in the first place—or on the stage— where sexy, charming women have always served as a delightful means to distract the audience—magicians must rely, however begrudgingly, on the talents of others. In THE PRESTIGE, the assistants of Angier and Borden only serve to further thicken the plot with their own agendas and deceptions. Some of the most vital behind-the-scenes players in the magic world are the people known as ingeneurs—the dark, secretive figures of technical prowess who actually create the tricks. Angier's ingeneur is the retired conjurer Cutter, portrayed with wit and verve by one of cinema's most lauded stars, Sir Michael Caine. Though Caine has played an extraordinary range of characters in a vast array of film stories, he had yet to encounter a world quite like that of THE PRESTIGE. Add to that the chance to reunite with Christopher Nolan, with whom he had worked so successfully on "Batman Begins,” and Caine was immediately interested. He says that Nolan brings to mind another director from the past. "He reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock, the way that everything is about creating the best moments of suspense,” says Caine. "He is tremendous with suspense.”

As for his character, Caine describes him as "a teacher, a father and a guide to Angier.”

He continues: "He finds Angier, helps him to create his best tricks, and then watches as it all goes terribly wrong.” In creating his nuanced portrait, Caine even altered his highly recognizable voice. "Cutter is an older man, and in those days, they smoked like chimneys and drank like fish, so I brought his voice down into the throat with a kind of cough in it,” he explains. "And his accent is very thick and rather menacing.” Body posture was also key to Caine's reading of Cutter. "He's a powerful man, but also very relaxed,” he observes. "One thing about him is that he often has his hands in his pockets—but when they come out, you better worry!”

The filmmakers knew that Caine would make the role entirely his own. Says Nolan: "Michael Caine's character really becomes something of the heart of the movie. He has a wonderful warmth and emotion to him that draws you into the story and allows you to have a point of view on these characters without judging them too harshly.”

Meanwhile, when Angier hires an alluring stage assistant—Olivia Wenscombe—she becomes both a pawn and a player in the rivalry between Angier and Borden. Olivia is played by Golden Globe® nominee Scarlett Johansson, who says she was immediately attracted by the screenplay. "It was one of the best scripts I'd ever read and I thought it would be great fun to play this vivacious, bohemian character,” she says. "There's a spiciness to Olivia that I think Chris really honed in on and I felt there was a part of me that I could bring to her.”

It was easy for Johansson to understand Olivia's strong attraction to Angier. "She's very taken with his passion for what he does. He's one of those sorts of men who seems very untouchable, as well, and I think that's quite attractive to a young girl— that brooding, selfish behavior.

But when he betrays her, it really hurts her.” As for Borden, she says: "She's asked to live amongst the enemy with Borden, and I think Olivia and Borden come to a kind of understanding but she really will always be in love with Angier.”

The chance to work with Christopher Nolan was also a draw for Johansson. "He has that rare kind of Old Hollywood quality. I don't know exactly how to describe it, but you never want to disappoint Chris because you know he will always hold up his end of the bargain,” she observes.

Johansson especially enjoyed her up-close introduction to the world o

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