Exclusive Interview: John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein Discuss The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, the upcoming comedy about magicians starring Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi, aims to entertain its audience with laughs and tricks. Film Equals was able to speak to the film’s writers, John Francis Daley (aka Sweets on Bones) and Jonathan Goldstein about their magic-filled childhoods, meeting famous magicians and the research behind the film’s magic tricks. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone will be in theaters March 15.
You guys had to create a lot of tricks for the movie. What was it like to come up with those tricks and do the research for those tricks?
Jonathan Goldstein: It was probably the hardest thing in writing the movie. There are guys whose job it is come up with illusions for magicians; we are not those guys. And also, for our purposes, [the tricks] had to be funny and either something you can shoot without camera tricks or do digitally and the movie has both. And so, it was very challenging. It helped a bit to be able to talk to a lot of the magicians, which we did–we talked to [David] Copperfield and Penn Gillete, [sic], Lance Burton, a number of these guys. They were very helpful. Not so much in revealing how the tricks worked out, but giving us ideas as to how they come up with them.
John Francis Daley: And letting us know the inner workings of the magic community, which is very competitive because there can only be so many vastly successful magicians.
That’s interesting. Like you guys, I watched a lot of magic growing up and I figured it was competitive, but I didn’t know it was as competitive as you guys are making it sound. I guess I naively thought they were all friends or something.
Jonathan Goldstein: No, there’s actually a lot of rivalries and a lot of…resentment. Just a small community of people at the top; there’s a very small number that make it there.
John Francis Daley: …There are also friends as well. I don’t want to say that they all hate each other. But it’s definitely competitive.
What was it like meeting all of these different types of magicians?
Jonathan Goldstein: It was great fun.
John Francis Daley: They were all pretty nice and helpful.
Jonathan Goldstein: I think there’s a part of a lot of magicians that’s drawn to Hollywood and the movies and stuff like that, so they really opened up and were very helpful. Copperfield specifically was actually involved and a consultant on the movie and has a cameo and that was exciting. He’s a really nice, normal guy for hainv been in the limelight for 30-something years.
I read there was a scene that comes directly from John’s life. John, can you talk more about that scene?
John Francis Daley: It’s when young Burt opens a gift from…his mom and sees that it’s a magic set with a VHS tape, and when I was a kid, I was a huge fan of magic…and when I was in Vegas one time, I bought a magic set that had a VHS that I played over and over again the same way young Burt did.
The fact that this film seems really important to you guys, how it goes back to your childhood, what other types of childhood memories sprang up as you guys were making this movie?
Jonathan Goldstein: We have young Burt come home. He gets bullied and he comes to this empty house because his mom is a single mom and she’s out working. That was similar to my childhood, getting pushed around and..I had a single mom…We try to tap into that, but it’s primarily, hopefully, a funny movie. There is some heart to it and we try to sort-of explain how Burt Wonderstone got to be the man he is by understanding his childhood.
John Francis Daley: It’s really a story of friendship, too. Anton is Burt’s real, only friend through all of his life, basically. And by the end of their friendship, he has gotten so jaded and egotistical that he has eschewed Anton and feels like he doesn’t need him to be successful. It’s like the most crippling blow to his life and career because we realize that they needed each other and they were very much one and the same mind.
This film is a character film, similar to that of Anchorman and Blades of Glory and things like that. To the average movie goer, how would you convince them your film is different, aside from magic? How would you convince them that your film is the film to go see?
Jonathan Goldstein: I think our cast is unique in that it’s not necessarily your traditional comedy stars. We’ve got Steve Carell and Jim Carey. We also have Steve Buscemi playing a magician and we have Alan Arkin…James Gandolfini…[there are] really talented and dramatic actors that are just so funny in this.
John Francis Daley: I think anyone who’s ever gone to Vegas or seen true magic perform would appreciate it becuase it can be a very funny world…and goofy and it doesn’t take much to see the humor in that.
Jonathan Goldstein: It was a semi-surreal world to begin with for us, so we didn’t have to exaggerate all that much to find the comedy there.