This weekend two of the world’s biggest comedic stars will be going head to head in Don Scardino’s The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. In one corner there’s Steve Carell, starring as the titular illusionist, who after years of success has let his act – and his friendship with partner Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) – go stale. And in the other corner there’s Jim Carrey, playing a David Blaine/Criss Angel riff named Steve Gray, whose act isn’t so much about “tricks” as it’s about inflicting as much pain on himself as possible.
But before the duo’s new movie arrives in theaters this weekend, the duo was in Las Vegas as part of a press event to talk about their latest collaboration (which fans will notice is their third after Bruce Almighty and the animated Horton Hears A Who).
At the top of the press conference, held at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, the actors and filmmakers on stage, which also included Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, and screenwriters John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, were asked what they saw if they saw any similarities between their professions and the ones that they portrayed on screen. And while Carell sees a comparison in that both work to disguise reality and “represent things that are not necessarily who they are,” Carrey actually sees more of a negative side to the illusionist’s performance.
“I think magicians are a lot more arrogant,” Carrey said. “That’s what bothered me about magicians growing up. I was always fascinated by it growing up, they’re kind of like, ‘Abracadabra, you’re an idiot!’ They don’t let you in on the joke. Comedians are in on the joke, unless you’re Andy Kaufman.”
While he may have his own personal issues with the idea, however, that doesn’t mean he didn’t work to bring his full creative force to Burt Wonderstone. Not just going at the character from a psychological stand-point – saying that Steve Gray has a “Christ complex” – he also contributed to the look by designing the tattoo that the character so proudly sports on his back.
“I’m an artist and the insignia with the rabbit with the skull, my makeup artist, Academy Award winning Billy Corso, helped me bring it to life and refine it,” Carrey said. “That was thrilling. The first time any of my art has crept into a film. It’s amazing all these little touches you have to do to be a completely different person.”
Getting assistance from professional outside help didn’t stop at the Ace Ventura stars tattoos. Early in the film, Burt and Anton perform a trick during their act called The Hangman that was actually designed by David Copperfield - who also has a small cameo in the film. What’s really impressive about it, though, is that the crew didn’t use any camera tricks or effects to alter the illusion. But Carrell had to work hard on his own magic abilities as well.
“In terms of sleight of hand, we worked for several months beforehand with various professional who tried to get us to the point where we could replicate,” he said. “These guys are so great at what they do, and its years and years of practice. Just to get to the point where it look at least plausible is what I hoped to get. I thought Jim got really good with the fanning of the cards.”