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Matthew Wright
Matthew Wright


The film started development in 2006 when New Line Cinema bought Chad Kultgen's script, titled "Burt Dickenson: The Most Powerful Magician on Planet Earth."[7] By September 2010, Carell had joined the film, and the script had been completely rewritten by screenwriting team John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein.[7][31][32] The pair extensively researched the lifestyle of Vegas magicians, taking note of the pressure of performing multiple times a day and the consequence of living within the "Vegas bubble where you're not exposed to the outside world [which] can actually make someone stir-crazy or egotistical."[31] In July 2011, the story was described as following Burt Wonderstone, a formerly successful magician who was overshadowed by a younger, edgier magician.[33] However, by the time Carrey had joined the project in October 2011, the younger magician character had become simply a rival magician, and Burt was now part of a formerly successful magic duo.[17]


Filming had been scheduled to begin in October 2011, in Los Angeles, California,[33] but was pushed back to January 2012,[26][29] with casting of the remaining lead roles occurring throughout October.[17] Principal photography began on January 10, 2012,[19] lasted approximately 47 days and had a $30 million budget.[12][38] The film was shot on film stock instead of digital because it was decided that the difference in cost between the two was negligible, and the day shooting and color palettes of the magicians' outfits such as black and red were thought to be captured better on the stock.[38] Among the locations used during the Las Vegas shooting are interiors and exteriors at the Bally's Las Vegas hotel and casino,[19] and exteriors of the Las Vegas Strip, Downtown Las Vegas,[11] Fremont Street, and Binion's Gambling Hall and Hotel.[8] Scardino, who had not filmed in Las Vegas since helming an episode of Tracey Takes On... approximately fifteen years earlier, described shooting on location in the city as "an absolute must". Scardino added "We just felt that, to give the movie authenticity, it had to be on the Strip".[8] Carell was filmed on the Strip because Scardino believed his character is "a creature of the Strip," while Carrey was filmed "in and around Fremont Street," where his character felt more at home. Scardino explained the decision to film the characters in these environments, saying the "two different worlds" of Vegas "helps define our talent," with the "ever-changing Strip" providing contrast with "the frozen-in-time aspect of Fremont Street."[8]

By January 16, 2012, filming moved to Los Angeles[39] and southern California,[8][40] including the Wadsworth Theatre.[22] Filming had concluded by March 13, 2012,[41] after forty-nine days.[42] When Scardino boarded the project, the script contained several magic tricks that could not realistically occur on stage such as lasers decapitating two individuals and the heads then switching bodies, which would have required the use of computer visual effects to accomplish. Scardino insisted that most of the magic tricks should be credible feats to make the magicians seem more believable, but some tricks still required the use of visual effects. David Copperfield served as a technical advisor on the film and developed a live stage illusion for the film's climax, featuring a body switch between Carell's and Buscemi's characters.[8][38][42] Scardino insisted that the illusion should not depend on camera tricks, stating "I wanted one big stage illusion where you go, 'Oh, wow, how'd they do that?'" Copperfield provided instructions on how the trick worked and was present on set during its filming.[42] The production also used other magic advisors who ensured that hand movements during tricks were correct, and also served as hand-doubles.[38] Producer Chris Bender said that the film is meant to be set in a fictional history of the world of magic, and so the filmmakers avoided casting many real magicians, so that it would not seem that the film was intended to be set in reality.[14]

The film's plot was a focal point for criticism. Reviewers considered the tone uneven, segueing between dark comedy and family film, the extreme stunts of Carrey's Steve Gray, and sentimentality, and serious drama and farcical comedy.[53][54] Several reviewers noted that the plot was predictable,[55][56] and dated.[57] Total Film's Matthew Leyland said that the attention to detail in terms of magician gestures, posture and dialog created a "withering showbiz satire", which is sidelined in favor of sentimentality.[55] Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman said that the film is too cautious and unimaginative, choosing "earnest and mushy" over increasingly wild surprise,[56] and Empire's Helen O'Hara considered the script unfocused and the tone uneven, which undermined Carell's efforts to portray Wonderstone's return to glory,[53] and The New York Times' Stephen Holden said that the film's message was unoriginal and delivered without any special conviction.[58] In contrast, Richard Roeper said that The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is "dark and wickedly funny",[57] and Variety's Joe Leydon said that it neatly balanced sentimentality with edgy comedy.[59] Time's Mary Pols said that while the film does not always work, it did so enough that she thought it could be "the kind of semi-bad, semi-inspired comedy that could not only stand repeated viewings but perhaps improve with them."[28] 041b061a72


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