What are we going to see specifically tonight? What are you filming?
We are doing the moment when all the cops have converged on the last show. They know where the magicians are, they’re a little ahead of them, they’ve always been behind them, but now they’re ahead, and they will arrest them. There’s a moment when one group of cops is going where the show is, and Melanie Laurent stops Mark Ruffalo and says, “Come the other way, trust me, come this way, I’ll show you, towards this crappy pushcart, this food cart thing, that’s where they are, that’s where we can stop them, that’s where we can come ahead.” And he has that moment where he hesitates, and he’s like, should I trust her? Because they’ve been trying to work together, but sometimes she was — it’s two people working together for the first time, being attracted or being mistrusting and everything. So that’s the moment where really, it’s the crossroads between, do I go with these guys and keep my job, or do I risk losing it all and go with her?

How do you deal with the trains when they’re going overhead?
Oh it’s fine, the trains have been great. It’s free. We have a scene on Bourbon Street where Mark Ruffalo chases them, and we’re like, okay we need extras. We can only afford whatever, like two hundred. And I was like, with the AD, let’s go on Friday night and shoot on Bourbon Street. So we had twenty thousand free extras. And we have, you know, free trains. We did some amazing shots the other day with the helicopter with the trains. It’s amazing. People will see that, and that’s the thing, people will be like, “Visual effects.” I’m like, “No, that’s real, that’s real, let’s find a real location, that’s real.” No, it’s fine, you do that and then you loop.

Why was this location so perfect for the scene?
Because visually, we wanted a place where thousands of people could converge, New York in the background, several floors, a maze. That’s what I was looking for. It’s a cat and mouse game that ends up in this location. You’ll see afterwards in the 4D projection, there’ll be helicopters flying around with spotlights and the spotlights will shine on the building, almost doing an X-ray transparency thing where you’ll see the magicians running around and the cops chasing them. All that stuff will be projected onto the building. This is a great building, this is unbelievable.

Did you recreate some of this on a soundstage?
No, actually, it’s all here. We didn’t do a lot of soundstage. We built an apartment just because it’s easier to film fly away walls and everything, but our thing was, let’s shoot on location as much as possible. So we went to New Orleans, you know, for the tax incentives, yes, but I said, well, it’s New Orleans. It’s magic and voodoo and all that stuff, so let’s really embrace New Orleans for what it is. So we shot New Orleans for New Orleans, we’re shooting New York for New York, Vegas we’re going next week, and then Paris at the end. So yeah, we’re going to the real places. We’re shooting in real places.

It looks like you're trying to capture a lot of stuff in-camera instead of relying on CGI.
Yeah, absolutely. I’m trying to get as much as possible real stuff. Then afterwards we’ll do crowd replications. It’s not crazy visual effects, it’s crowd replications and stuff like that. There’s no full CG shot. Again, it’s putting stuff together, putting elements together. But I still try to get the stuff. Like the rig we have upside down. Yesterday we did a shot — I’ll try to find it — but we did the most amazing shot ever. It’s called a basket cam, we invented this. Literally, it’s a camera, a seamless 235 camera, going up a shaft with people, with a SWAT team running up. It’s as low-tech as possible, but it looks like a visual effects shot. I’ve done it before in Hulk, but it was a full visual effect. This time, I was like, “No no, let’s do it for real, I know how we do it, we do it for real.”

What was it about this project that said, I need to make this?
I was looking for a great script. And then the vision comes afterwards. But I don’t want to have just the title or universe, I wanted a great script with a great story, some great twists, some great characters. I was looking for it, looking for it, looking for it, and then I found this amazing script. It’s been written and enhanced, but it was already amazing in the beginning. So I was like, “This is it, this is for me.” And really, I’ve always loved magic and been a great admirer of magic, but respectful and fearing magic, because I was like, oh, I don’t just understand how you guys do it. And what I love about this script is that it’s very respectful of the art of magic but also gives you a little bit of a peek behind the curtain, the Wizard of Oz curtain, a little bit. Not too much, but that’s what I want.

We’ve seen other movies like The Prestige that tried to show magic, and audiences sometimes are like, “Well, it’s all a special effect.” So how do you deal with that aspect of today’s film-going world?
By having the actors doing it for real. You met [magic consultant] David Kwong yesterday, he’s a magician, and the actors have been doing the real deal, training and the real stuff. Obviously they cannot do everything, but the magic they’re doing is very real. Dave Franco has become amazing at throwing cards. He can take a card and throw it across the room. You met Steve Pope, the stunt guy, he slit his eye, above his eye, with a card across an entire theater. They really got amazing at it. And Woody has been training with this mentalist called Keith Barry. I don’t know if you know him, he has a TV show on Discovery. And really has been that close to hypnotizing people. But you know, hypnosis is very tough, mentalism is very tough, because you can actually make somebody go down, and if you don’t know how to bring them out, you can actually really be in trouble.

? What was the one magic trick that was most difficult to film?
?The card tricks are tough. We had some very complex stuff. We really had some very complex technical stuff, like mirrors. Sometimes, literally, the crew didn’t know what they were shooting. I knew ’cause I was like, this will be used to do this. But sometimes we’re inside a mirror, upside-down, reversed, and the guy on the crane was like, I don’t know where I’m at. Just take the wheels.

How would you say the project has changed or developed since you first signed on?
It’s become a little bit bigger, but not so much. I started like, oh, this is my small one, and then it became a little bit bigger just because the magic became bigger. Jesse Eisenberg as the leader of a magic group — that changed the whole dynamic as the script was written. The script was written for a David Blaine character, a guy wearing a T-shirt, in the original script, hitting on women and doing all this stuff. Jesse coming in was very different. So that’s one change, I guess, but it’s by meeting people, not me saying, “I want to do that.” Meeting people, and seeing that that would be the dynamic I wanted. Again, it was very healthy; the development process was very healthy on this one. It was a great script, then we get a great cast, then we rewrite the script for that cast, and then we build it up from there, starting with visual effects and stunts, finding locations, finding this kind of location, costumes, everything.

You're shooting with anamorphic film, even as a lot of people are going digital. What inspires you to stick with film?
I’ve always shot on film, or we shot on anamorphic lenses. Actually, these lenses that you see are very old, very old lenses, they’re like 40 years old. I feel like digital right now is getting better, because of the new camera that came out, it’s called the Alexa Studio, so now it’s really good. But three months ago when we started this movie, this camera didn’t exist. And I thought that without this camera, the image I would get would be too digital, too crisp. I mean, we’re shooting every format on this movie. We’re shooting digital. You weren’t here the other day, but the helicopter was shooting Alexa, we’re shooting with 5Ds, we’re shooting with GoPros, I’m shooting tons of formats. But the main format is film, 35 and anamorphic, just because of these reasons. Because it’s a film for me, it’s a feature film.

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