Magician David Blaine thrilled inmates at a U.S. jail by performing a free show last month (Jul14). The famed illusionist treated around 60 prisoners at the Manhattan Detention Complex in New York to a series of mind-boggling tricks, including levitation, during the hour-long show.
He even made jokes with the inmates about some escapology moves that could help them slip out of their cells, according to the New York Post.
One guard tells the publication, "He was levitating and teasing inmates with tricks on how to break out of here. You know that isn't happening."
A prison spokesman says, "The Department of Correction uses positive reinforcement as one of many strategies to reduce inmate idleness and improve facility safety. Inmates who attended this event were being rewarded for good behaviour."
It is not the first time Blaine has performed at a prison - in 2006 he gave shows for inmates in Arizona and Louisiana.
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.
Illusionist Penn Jillette has urged policy-makers in the U.S. to legalise all drugs, insisting it will make the world a "safer" place for youngsters. The magician wants all narcotics to be decriminalised and regulated to take the multi-million dollar industry out of the hands of violent criminals.
He admits there will be "downsides" to such a drastic measure but is adamant it is the only solution to the world's growing drug crisis. Jillette tells British magazine Seven, "Well, it's safer for children to have them legal, in a way. When you have drugs illegal you give people that live outside the law a great deal of power. McDonald's and Burger King don't have gang wars...
"(I don't have) a rosy view: if you make it legal there will be a lot of downsides. But maybe those downsides will be less against innocent people." Asked how he would feel about his own children using drugs, the father-of-two replies, "I guess we'll find out. They almost certainly will. I've never done drugs. But I'm aware everybody else does, and everybody else does a fine job with it. So I can't imagine my children will be any different."
Magician Penn Jillette has been bombarded with death threats over his outspoken atheist views. The Penn & Teller star is unafraid to discuss his anti-religion beliefs, and he is adamant more atheists felt compelled to speak out in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S. in 2001.
However, the illusionist's opinions infuriated crazed zealots, and he was subjected to a string of terrifying death threats - along with South Park creator Trey Parker.
Penn tells British magazine Seven, "I think that 9/11 made a lot of atheists more vocal. A lot of us... just took that as a sign of how dangerous it was to be quiet at all. I don't think anybody became atheist because of that event. But a lot of people who were atheist decided to shut up less about it. But I've been an outspoken atheist for 40 years. I've never held back...
"Yeah, I've got hate mail. I've got hate mail where the police have been called in... There's the macho thing that I used to do with (British writer) Richard Dawkins and Trey Parker - we'd pull out out death threats and compare them. (We would say) 'Look at these people that want to kill me!'...
"Once in a while the police are called on someone who's written something that crosses a line, and that's sad - and that person could just as easily be an atheist, or anything. You can talk all you want about the violent imagery of religion - but it's not the violent imagery of religion that's making people send out death threats. It's a mental illness."
Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Here's a feat: taking what is likely the oldest, most well-known story in the world, and making a retelling feel inventive. Over the course of its two-and-a-half-hour runtime, Darren Aronofsky's Noah takes many forms — Tolkien-esque fantasy, trippy psychological thriller, merciless dissection of the dark points of abject faith — never feeling too rigidly confined to the parameters of the familiar tale that we've all experienced in the form of bedtime stories, religious education lessons, and vegetable-laden cartoons. As many forms as the parable has taken over the past few thousand years, Aronofsky manages to find a few new takes.
The director's thumbprint is branded boldly on Russell Crowe's Noah, a man who begins his journey as a simple pawn of God and evolves into a dimensional human as tortured as Natalie Portman's ballerina or Jared Leto's smack head. Noah's obsession and crisis: his faith. The peak of the righteous descendant of Seth (that's Adam and Eve's third son — the one who didn't die or bash his brother's head in with a rock), Noah is determined to carry out the heavenly mission imparted upon him via ambiguous, psychedelic visions. God wants him to do something — spoilers: build an ark — and he will do it. No matter what.
No matter what it means to his family, to his lineage, to his fellow man, to the world. He's going to do it. No matter what. The depths to which Aronofsky explores this simple concept — the nature of unmitigated devotion — makes what we all knew as a simplistic A-to-B children's story so gripping. While the throughline is not a far cry from the themes explored in his previous works, the application of his Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan ideas in this movie does not feel like a rehashing. Experiencing such modern, humane ideas in biblical epic is, in fact, a thrill-ride.
Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Although Aronofsky accesses some highly guttural stuff inside of his title character, he lets whimsy and imagination take hold of the world outside of him. Jumping headfirst into the fantastical, the director lines his magical realm with rock monsters — "Watcher" angels encased in Earth-anchored prisons as punishment for their betrayal of God — and a variety of fauna that range in innovation from your traditional white dove to some kind of horned, scaled dog bastardization.
But the most winning elements of Noah, and easily the most surprising, come when Aronofsky goes cosmic. He jumps beyond the literal to send us coursing through eons to watch the creation of God's universe, matter exploding from oblivion, a line of creatures evolving (in earnest) into one another as the planet progresses to the point at which we meet our tortured seafarer. Aronofsky's imagination, his aptitude as a cinematic magician, peak (not just in terms of the film, but in terms of his career) in these scenes.
With all this propped against the stark humanity of his story — not just in terms of Crowe's existential spiral, but in character beats like grandfather Methuselah's relationship with the youngsters, in little Ham's playful teasing of his new rock monster pet — Aronofsky manages something we never could have anticipated from Noah. It's scientific, cathartic, humane. Impressively, this age-old tale, here, is new. And beyond that feat, it's a pretty winning spin.
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Veteran British entertainer Paul Daniels used inflatable paddling pools to protect his valuables when his luxury home flooded in a storm on Friday (10Jan14). The beloved magician lives close to the River Thames in Berkshire, England and had to swing into action when he fell victim to the relentless rain battering parts of the U.K. this week (beg06Jan14).
Floodwaters deluged his home when the river burst its banks on Friday, but the TV star was prepared for the bad weather and advised others affected to follow his lead and use inflatables to save their belongings.
In a message on Twitter.com, he wrote, "Get inflatable paddling pools downstairs and dump everything you can into them. You will save so much stuff."
Daniels later thanked fans for their support, stating, "Thank you to all those who asked about our flooding but don't worry. We are nowhere near as bad as some we are seeing on the news."
It is not the first time Daniels has suffered in a storm - his home was deluged when the Thames burst its bank in stormy weather in 2012.
Superstar illusionist David Copperfield is set to wed his longtime girlfriend. The 57-year-old magician has confirmed he is engaged to French model Chloe Gosselin, the mother of his three-year-old daughter Sky.
Speaking to Britain's Hello! magazine about his famous romances, including his six-year relationship with supermodel Claudia Schiffer, he says, "That was a long time ago. Now I'm engaged and in a committed relationship with Chloe in my mind and my heart."
Copperfield began dating the 28 year old after meeting her at a dinner party in 2008.
Lily Allen was joined onstage by a host of celebrity friends during Coldplay's charity gig on Thursday (19Dec13). The Smile singer was one of the performers drafted in to play at the band's third Under 1 Roof concert at the Eventim Apollo in London, in support of the Kids Company charity.
The pop star treated fans to duets with Robbie Williams and Coldplay's Chris Martin, and thrilled the audience when Keane's Tim Rice-Oxley joined her to perform her Christmas cover of the band's hit Somewhere Only We Know.
Other performances at the event, which was hosted by Fearne Cotton, came from Coldplay themselves, hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks, magician Dynamo, and Ricky Gervais' The Office character David Brent with his band Foregone Conclusion.
"Adele is one of those rare actors who is a magician of sorts. That is to say she is a master of subtlety. How can she seem to be doing very little, yet tell you everything she is feeling? You spend your time trying to figure out how she does it. In the early scenes of the film, she didn't have to say a word, but I could feel her shame. I could feel the burning pain of the secret she was burying. She is so utterly watchable and human, I was with her character from the very beginning." Actress Evan Rachel Wood is a big fan of Blue is the Warmest Color star Adele Exarchopoulos.
The series, set in Hollywood, follows the exploits of Anthony Blake, the world's greatest magician. Using the wizardry of his craft, he attempts to assist people in trouble who, for one reason or another, can't go to the police for help.