Jesse Eisenberg explores world of street magic for heist film

Fri May 31, 2013 12:36pm EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Jesse Eisenberg may be best known for his Oscar-nominated performance as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, but in his latest film, the fast-talking actor explores the underground world of magic for comedy heist caper, "Now You See Me."

The film, out in theaters on Friday, sees a group of street magicians come together as the "four horsemen," staging large scale magic shows during which they rob a bank and distribute the money among the audience.

Eisenberg plays silver-tongued sleight-of-hand expert J. Daniel Atlas, a role he said he was drawn to because of the character's confidence and his own need to overcome stage fright in 2011 while performing in an off Broadway production called "Asuncion," which he had also written.

"I thought it'd be like a perfect challenge for me, and maybe help me deal with some of the stage fright I was dealing with. My character is the greatest magician in the world and he has an attitude of someone who's earned that, so I forced myself to feel and behave like him," the actor explained.

In the film, which co-stars Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Mark Ruffalo, Eisenberg joins forces with three other street magicians, played by Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco, to stage a complex and captivating series of shows.

Eisenberg, who said he had never encountered a street magician before this film, had just four weeks to learn the basics of sleight-of-hand magic, and drew inspiration for his character from illusionists David Blaine and David Copperfield.

"David Blaine was so casual and Louis (Leterrier, the director) said he didn't want my character to be that casual, he wanted an edge of severity. I looked at David Copperfield, who is very severe and dramatic and flamboyant in his performance. Somewhere between those two guys is my character," he said.

Debunking magic is one of the many facets of the film's plot, and while learning the secrets of the illusion trade, Eisenberg said he still had concerns that the audience would not be so easily tricked or misdirected.   Continued...

Cast member Jesse Eisenberg poses during the premiere of the film "To Rome with Love" by U.S. director Woody Allen in Rome April 13, 2012. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini