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The Magician's Wives
Magicians may be able to pull off incredible illusions, but even they are not immune to the complex realities of love and relationships. And indeed, it is a dazzling but disastrous trick involving Angier's wife, Julia, that sets in motion his increasingly treacherous magical feud with Alfred Borden.

Playing Julia McCullough is Piper Perabo, the rising American star who has come to the fore in a number of lighthearted contemporary comedies but here takes on a much darker role—as the woman willing to go the dangerous extremes for the cause of a great magic trick. Perabo was fascinated by the chance to explore through Julia the inner world of the magician's assistant. "Julia is the kind of girl who is willing to be sawed in half and have knives thrown at her and that sort of thing,” explains Perabo. "She's very young and I think she's just happy to feel like she belongs in this world of magicians—to actually have that sense of power of being a woman with a job, where men respect her and take her seriously, which was quite rare in that time. Magicians were really glamorous and glitzy at that point. The vibe was more like a rock concert and it would have been very exciting for Julia.”

Perabo not only had to take on an English accent for the role—something she had honed for the recent British comedy "Imagine Me and You”—she also had to learn to perform the adventurous "water tank” trick, in which she is bound by a rope and dropped from a considerable height into a tank of water, only to be sealed within. "I got pretty good at it by the end,” Perabo laughs.

But while Angier's wife is a part of the magic show, Borden's wife, Sarah, sees it as her competition. Convinced that her husband will always love magic more than he loves her, she is flummoxed and hurt by his constant changes of heart. Starring as Sarah is British newcomer Rebecca Hall, a young actress best known so far for her work on the London stage, who was cast after the filmmakers saw her reading on tape. "We knew right away we were seeing something special,” says Thomas. "This is one of her first film roles but there will be many more.”

Hall was fascinated by the film's magical nature. "It creates a nice tension between what's fun and entertaining about magic and what's potentially scary and dangerous about it,” she comments. She also felt a lot of empathy for her character's romantic trials. "Sarah's got a difficult job of it because she's very much in love with a man who on some days is 100% obsessed with his work and yet, on others, seems completely in love and committed to her,” she explains. "At first, she accepts that the work side of him is going to be secret, but she becomes increasingly frustrated by the feeling that she doesn't know the real intricacies of what he is doing or who he really is.”

Since THE PRESTIGE is only Hall's second feature film, the chance to work one-on-one with an actor of the caliber of Christian Bale seemed almost like a surreal dream to her. "When I met him, I was pretty intimidated because he's such a huge star,” she says, "but I have so much respect for everyone in this film and I learned so much that it was an incredible experience.”


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