Harry Houdini (born Erich Weiss in Budapest) is best known as a legendary magician and escape artist, but early on in his career he appeared in a few silent action-adventure films from the late 1910s...
Actor Adrien Brody jumped at the chance to portray Harry Houdini onscreen because he was fascinated by the legendary illusionist as a child and wannabe magician.
The King Kong star takes on the title role in upcoming miniseries Houdini and reveals the Hungarian immigrant and famed performer, who was known for his sensational escape acts in the early-1900s, provided "a profound level" of inspiration for him during his youth.
Brody tells U.S. breakfast show Today, "What he symbolises, still, resonated with me as a boy... "He is the epitome of the American dream. He is someone who has not only escaped the confines of the physical shackles, but the shackles that keep down the impoverished people. He was an Eastern-European immigrant... "He overcame all these things and he escaped that and he represented that to people, that it's possible, and that's a very heroic thing..."
At the end of the interview segment, Brody showed off his own magic skills by breaking a pencil in half with a folded dollar bill. The actor admitted he hadn't performed the trick in 30 years, but he succeeded on his third attempt, leaving Today co-host Tamron Hall stunned.
Buena Vista Pictures via Everett Collection
Now that he's played gangsters, pirates and mad hatters, Johnny Depp is set to make some real magic. The Oscar-nominated actor is reportedly in talks to play Harry Houdini in a biopic about the legendary magician, according to Variety. Based on the book The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero, the film will chronicle Houdini's life and career, from his poor childhood, his international fame and the time he spent working as a spy, culminating in his mysterious death on Halloween, 1926. Dean Parisot, who has previously directed Galaxy Quest and Red 2 is on board to direct, which bodes well for the film's intense stunt sequences, and will feature a script from The Maze Runner's Noah Oppenheim.
Depp has long been Hollywood's go-to actor whenever a film requires someone to play an oddball that still appeals to a mainstream audience, so it's not particularly surprising that he's being considered for the role. As an escape artist, illusionist, actor and aviator, Houdini cultivated a reputation for mystery and confusion over the course of his career, and even his death was shrouded in suspicion. Since the height of his fame in the early 20th century, his name has become synonymous with everything weird, perplexing and difficult to explain. Therefore, a fitting biopic would need to incorporate that reputation with the right amount of campiness to properly evoke the vaudeville spirit of his magic shows, and there are few actors in Hollywood who better exemplify campy darkness than Depp.
All of his most famous characters feature the kind of strange, off quality that is necessary to play Houdini, and both his on and off-screen personas lend themselves to portraying someone who is famous for the mystery that surrounds them. And despite being taller than the famously-short Houdini was, Depp looks the part, sharing the same sharp cheekbones, bright blue eyes and charming smile that Houdini was described as having. Depp often uses his charm and wit to make kooky characters seem friendly and entertaining, and Houdini often used his charisma in a similar way, drawing in massive audiences to witness his death-defying stunts. Plus, if there's anyone in Hollywood who looks like an off-duty illusionist, it's the guy who played Edward Scissorhands.
Though Depp's campiness and oddball nature is a major strength of his, many of his recent films have abandoned any kind of subtlety in favor of fully embracing all of the weirdness and absurdity they could possibly pack into one film. While that approach may work for something like Alice in Wonderland, which is set in a fantasy world, it doesn't necessarily bode well for a biopic that is grounded in reality. Houdini was a weird character, but his story is still rooted in the very real dangers that his profession and hobbies provided. A little bit of camp would serve the story well, but too much will overwhelm it and reduce it to simply a vehicle for another wacky performance of Depp's.
Biopics aren't Depp's forte as an actor, as it's often difficult to find real-life person whose story requires the kind of kookiness that Depp naturally exudes. His most recent, Public Enemies, was too serious to allow Depp to properly throw himself into the role, resulting in a performance that felt stilted and wooden. Watching the film, it was difficult to separate Depp from the character of John Dillinger, which makes it difficult for audiences to really connect with the story. While Depp should have better luck losing himself in a character like Houdini, it's still going to be a challenge for him to let go of his off-screen persona and allow moviegoers to experience Houdini, rather than Depp-as-Houdini.
If the script for the film veers too serious, it runs the risk of confining Depp, resulting in an awkward, wooden performance. However, if it edges too far into the absurd, the character or Houdini will probably be overshadowed by all of the funny tics and strange character choices that Depp will make. His recent films aren't known for their moderation, so it would require a strong directorial vision to keep Depp from chewing the scenery to the detriment of the story as a whole. The box office returns of his recent films seem to suggest that fans are looking for something different from Depp, as both the over-the-top weirdness of Lone Ranger and his straight-computer turn in Transcendence failed to win them over. Houdini could be the median he needs to impress moviegoers again, but if the film leans too far into the surreal or the straightforward, Depp will just be doing the same old thing.
Hopefully Depp and the team behind the Houdini biopic will be able to find the right balance between insanity and history in order to make a film that's both critically and financially successful. After all, it's difficult to find a guy who can pull off the suit-and-shackles look quite like Depp can.
Johnny Depp is in talks to take on another real-life role after showing interest in a new Harry Houdini biopic. Dean Parisot's The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero reimagines the master illusionist and escape artist as an occult investigator, and is based on William Kalush and Larry Sloman's book of the same name, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Depp is currently portraying Boston, Massachusetts gang boss Whitey Bulger in new film Black Mass and he also famously portrayed John Dillinger (Public Enemies), J.M. Barrie (Finding Neverland) , Ed Wood (Ed Wood), George Jung (Blow), Inspector Frederick Abberline (From Hell) and Joseph D. Pistone (Donnie Brasco) on the big screen.
Rarities including Bruce Lee's shoes from his final movie Game Of Death and a tapestry from Marilyn Monroe's home are to go up for auction next month (Apr14). Other lots in the Hollywood Legends sale include a test dress from The Wizard of Oz, crooner Bing Crosby's passport, a pair of handcuffs used by famed escapologist Harry Houdini, and Gimli's axe from The Lord of the Rings.
The centrepieces of the sale are the Mexican tapestry from Monroe's California home, which is expected to fetch up to $40,000 (£25,000), and one of her four prestigious Photoplay Awards, valued at $20,000 (£12,500) to $30,000 (£18,750).
The Wizard of Oz frock is expected to fetch more than $6,000 (£3,750), and the shoes Lee wore in the movie he was shooting when he died in 1973 are worth up to $8,000 (£5,000).
The sale will be held at Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills, California on 11 and 12 April (14).
"What you read in the NY Post is true. Not sure exactly when, but I'm really excited. A great team for The River... Can't wait to tread the boards again!!! #TheRiver #thegreatwhiteway." Hugh Jackman confirms reports he is returning to Broadway in a production of Jez Butterworth's The River. He stepped down from his involvement in a planned Harry Houdini musical last month (Dec13).
Hugh Jackman is no longer cuffed to a Harry Houdini musical on Broadway due to scheduling conflicts. The Les Miserables hunk has been working on transforming the escapologist's life story into a stage extravaganza for several years, but he has now announced he has stepped down from the project.
A statement from Jackman reads, "I have greatly enjoyed the collaborative process on Houdini. Ultimately, though, I wasn't able to commit to the time this role will require.
"I have tremendous respect and admiration for the creative team and I wish everyone the best. I know they're well on their way to making something extraordinary."
It's the latest blow for the musical - The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin was set to write the script but dropped out in January (13).
A pair of handcuffs thought to betray the secret to Harry Houdini's most famous escape are to go on sale at auction. The wrist restraints, believed to have been used in the famed escapologist's daring Chinese Water Torture trick, were purchased by a private collector in 2006.
Close examination of the iron cuffs reveal they had been adjusted to open when heated and held at a certain angle, and it is suspected Houdini used the secret to help him wriggle from his chains while hanging upside down underwater.
The handcuffs will go on sale at an auction in London next week (12Dec13). They are expected to fetch up to $4,500 (£3,000).
Harry Potter star Evanna Lynch is to play illusionist Harry Houdini's wife in a new Dublin, Ireland play. The actress, who played Luna Lovegood in the Potter movie franchise, will team up with British actors Jamie Nichols and Stuart Brennan onstage at the Gaiety Theatre next month (Oct13).
The 22 year old tells the Irish Independent that it will be a "strange" making her stage debut at a theatre she has always loved.
She says, "Theatre was always something that's been in the back of my mind and my parents were really keen for me to do it; so the little girl in me just wants to make them happy. I've been to the Gaiety plenty of times, since I was five years of age, so it will be a bit strange to be up there, on the other side of things, actually on stage. But I'm looking forward to it and it's definitely something I'd like to do more of."
Oscar winner Adrien Brody will be making magic on the small screen in a new mini-series about legendary illusionist Harry Houdini. The Piano star will play the master magician, who wowed crowds around the world with his death-defying escapes at the beginning of the 20th Century, in a new project for the History Channel.
It will focus on how the American-Hungarian performer overcame an impoverished background to become an international sensation, famed for escaping from handcuffs and straitjackets under water.
House of Cards star Kristen Connolly will play Houdini's wife Bess in the four-part series, which will begin filming later this year (13).
Tony Curtis, Harvey Keitel and Guy Pearce have all played the enigmatic escapologist before.
Oscar winner Adrien Brody is in talks to play master illusionist Harry Houdini in a new TV mini-series. Houdini will trace the magician's life from his humble beginnings to international fame. Star Trek and new Star Wars director J.J. Abrams' father Gerald is attached to produce the series, according to EW.com.
Harry Houdini (born Erich Weiss in Budapest) is best known as a legendary magician and escape artist, but early on in his career he appeared in a few silent action-adventure films from the late 1910s through the early '20s. He even produced a few of these films, such as The Man from Beyond (1922).