We caught up with Louis Leterrier to talk about his latest film, NOW YOU SEE ME

NOW YOU SEE ME tells the story of street magicians elevated to a life of fame and Robin Hood-esque crime. Movies.ie sat down with director Louis Leterrier to talk all things magic…

Do you now believe in magic…? Or are you more of a Thaddeus Bradley; keen to show the little man behind the curtain?
LOUIS LETERRIER: I’m still in awe of magic. Although I know some of the tricks, I’m still susceptible to a good magic turn. In a sense, the more I learnt about magic, the more respect I had for magicians. I went to see David Copperfield, and even being aware of what may be going on behind the curtain, it still mesmerising.

You lived up by Magic Castle cental. They’re not crazy about the Thaddeus Bradleys of this world – were they wary of you?
LL: Magicians came to us not because they were worried but because this movie was so different. Transforming reality with magic, that’s something they strive for, and that’s pretty much the basis of the film. They were very open to giving us ideas and giving us ideas. We never wanted to reveal tricks completely, but we did have something like an uproar on our hands with one sequence in the movie. This was the spoon bending scene, and they just felt that we couldn’t reveal anything here, but it’s very easy, and it’s there on the internet. But our consultant didn’t want to be on set that day.

The mantra here is ‘the closer you look, the less you see’ – tough to take an audience close enough to spot the clues but not so close the trick becomes obvious…
LL: Half of the trick is about where the trick is being seen. So, where I positioned my camera was very important, and so we had to be pretty mathematical about not giving too much away, but, at the same time, to feel as though you have the chance to spot the switch. It wasn’t really possible for us to employ the misdirection that would happen in a live show…

Magic has gone from Vegas to the mainstream, from Houdini to, in the case of David Blaine; Whydini, what grabbed you?
LL: I just loved the plurality of the story. It was not a movie just about a heist, or a cat and mouse chase. For me, it was really a character movie, and that’s what I concentrated on more than the flash of the magic itself. It was very intriguing, being able to work with these great magicians. We had David Copperfield on set, we had David Blaine on set, we had Keith Barry, and so many other great magicians, each bringing something new to the process. And something authentic.
Kevin sat down with the writers, and really went through the script. He’s the reason this movie works so well, because he could see the magic in everything. And he know how that magic worked. That sort of input was so important, from writing the script to training the actors, letting them know how they would hold themselves, what they would say, and how. Keith Barry was amazing for us.

Did the studio chase these guys down, or did they chase you down?
LL: They knew about the script early on, because it dealt with their world, and I must say that David Copperfield didn’t get paid a single cent for his work on this movie. He just wanted to make sure the magic worked, and that we took magic itself forward with this movie. He’s a great man to do that. And to have Keith Barry for six months, that reflected how important it was to them that this movie truly reflected how magic works. Magic has been around for centuries, and it will be around for a long, long time, and that’s how these guys approach it. Magic is bigger than them. And they work on their tricks every single day.

Any movie reference points? There’s a degree of THE GRIFTERS about these guys, but did THE PRESTIGE, THE ILLUSIONIST, MAMET’S HOUSE OF GAMES, OR THE ANTHONY HOPKINS’ MOVIE MAGIC play a part…?
LL: We were looking at these movies, and many others. One of our producers, Rob Cohen, is a movie buff, and he was incredible with coming up with so many references for us to explore. And it helped us find our own voice, having all these other takes on the subject.

Hollywood is the home of sleight of mind, and there are plenty of mediocre filmmakers who have convinced Hollywood they are something special…
LL: The film being a hit is great, but I just want people to like the movie. I’m quite uncomfortable with the Hollywood system – I’m dreadful, actually – because I just don’t quite get the politics of it all. I say what I think, and that’s not always welcome. I’m respectful, but I don’t talk nonsense. I lead a very normal life, and that removes me from the usual Hollywood speak.
And I know that movies sometimes work and sometimes don’t, but I always set out to make a good movie. I want it to work without being generic. And I don’t think someone like James Cameron sets out to hit a certain box-office figure; I think each filmmaker sets out to make a great film that people will like. I’ve been very lucky to make movies that a lot of people like, and even though some of them have become franchises, I always feel that I’ve said what I needed to say with that first outing.
But, yeah, I’m truly uncomfortable with the game around filmmaking, and I do read the reviews. Which can hurt, of course, when those reviews are dismissive of the work you’ve done.

You dad, Francois, seemed to like erotica – you’re more into getting your thrills in action and fantasy; would you agree, or do you see yourself differently?
LL: He did the one movie that was very successful, Emmanuelle [laughs]. I think the next cycle due to hit our screens are the great erotic thrillers. Movies like Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct. I think that’s the next big thing. I’m not a prude, and I’m not against that kind of movie, but I’ve never really been drawn to erotica. But, why not? Erotica with a lot of special effects.

3D erotica, I could like with that! Has Liam or Keith managed to drag you over to Ireland?
LL: You know what, I very nearly did make it. We were shooting Clash Of The Titans in Wales, and Liam was encouraging me to head over, but, man, it was so cold at that time. The idea of going from Wales to Ireland – out of the pot of water into another pot of water. So, I ended up going back to London, and my warm, dry hotel room. But I’m surrounded by Irish men on this movie – Brian Tucker, the associate producer, is someone I went to school with, and he’s standing in front of me now, giving me the finger. I really need to go to Ireland, because I’m surrounded by Irish men.

NOW YOU SEE ME is in Irish cinemas now.

Words: Paul Byrne