Carell, Carrey mined Las Vegas and its magicians for ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’

Steve Carell knew he had tapped into something special with the golden-maned, velvet-suited magician he plays in “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” as soon as he realized no one cared.

“Several times during the weeks we were here, I walked around in full hair and makeup (and) costume, through casinos, and no one batted an eye,” the actor revealed earlier this month during the movie’s press junket at Paris Las Vegas. “Which led us to believe we were on the right track with the character development.

“On the poster, (the costume) looks absolutely ridiculous. But it’s not that ridiculous in the context of Las Vegas.”

“Wonderstone” draws its humor from the schism between traditional magicians and the edgier practitioners of street magic.

When Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) begins mutilating himself for tourists on Fremont Street, the audiences grow older and sparser at “The Incredible Burt and Anton: A Magical Friendship,” the Bally’s extravaganza starring Carell’s Wonderstone and Steve Buscemi’s Anton Marvelton that has ruled the Strip for a decade.

Before long, the insufferable Gray is thwarting Wonderstone at every turn.

“We had imagined and sort of hoped that there were rivalries among them,” co-writer Jonathan Goldstein said of Las Vegas magicians. “And when we met with them, we realized there are. They don’t all love each other.”

Goldstein and his “Horrible Bosses” writing partner, John Francis Daley, spent five days on the Strip, seeing a couple of magic shows a day and talking with their stars.

In addition to David Copperfield, who served as a consultant and makes a cameo appearance in the film, the duo delved deep into the local magic roster — “Deeper than we ought to,” Goldstein joked — meeting with Criss Angel, Penn Jillette, Lance Burton, Nathan Burton, Steve Wyrick and, ever-so-briefly, big-cat magician Dirk Arthur.

“We talked to him for a minute. He didn’t have time for us,” Goldstein said. “He was, like, ‘I gotta go. Call my manager.’ Meanwhile, Copperfield’s spending the whole day with us.”

(Knowing this just makes the scenes with ineffectual magician Lucius Belvedere, the supporting character who keeps turning up with fresh bandages from being mauled by his tigers, that much funnier.)

“I think the biggest thing that we researched with these guys is their personalities and figuring out, like, how they can manage to stay sane doing these shows constantly and in this bubble of Vegas,” said Daley, an actor best known to TV viewers for his roles on “Freaks and Geeks” and “Bones.”

Staying sane, though, was never really an option for Carrey’s Steve Gray. While his act more closely resembles that of David Blaine — going days without urinating or blinking, for example — the ridiculously over-the-top Gray has more in common with a certain Luxor headliner than their shared passion for offbeat jewelry.

Criss Angel had his “Mindfreak.” Steve Gray stars in “Brain Rapist.”

“He asked us if we were going to be making fun of him when we met with him, and we said, ‘Nooo,’ ” Daley admitted, somewhat sheepishly, of their interaction with Angel. “We’re not making fun of him. We’re definitely making fun of some of the things that magicians like him do.”

To be fair, they originally envisioned Gray as a bored mumbler in jeans and a white T-shirt. When Carrey signed on, he took the character in a much more grandiose direction. Gray became the kind of guy who, Carrey said, “would mess his hair up for three hours to look like he doesn’t care.” He even designed his character’s elaborate tattoos that give him a wrapped-in-chains look.

For Carrey, the local film shoot was a chance to bring his Las Vegas career full circle.

“I came here to do showcases at the Aladdin … way back when I was a kid,” the former stand-up comic recalled. “And I went to see, you know, Lola Falana with Fred Travelena opening for her, and stuff like that. It was always a great show. They know how to entertain here.”

Before long, he was playing the big rooms, too.

“I used to perform here with Rodney Dangerfield,” Carrey said, “years ago, at Caesars. … And to see (your) name up on that big sign is such a thrill for somebody when they’re starting out, you know? It’s just, like, ‘Wow. I’m really here.’ ”

Carrey eventually took his comedy to a more experimental place — “imitating cockroaches avoiding vacuum cleaners, and stuff like that” — and would completely lose the Caesars audience.

“Rodney Dangerfield used to stand backstage and howl with laughter at my failure,” he remembered, “but just in the most fun way.”

Goldstein and Daley, magic fans since childhood, are hoping for the same reaction. For all the ribbing magicians take in the movie, “Wonderstone” is, deep down, a loving look at the craft.

“Obviously, we have to lampoon some of it, because it’s a comedy. But we didn’t want it to be so broad that it’s disconnected from their real world,” Goldstein said. “Hopefully, that comes across. And, hopefully, it’s not going to hurt any feelings, because it’s clearly not meant to be (based on) any one person.”

Along those lines, while Siegfried & Roy may seem like easy targets, about the only thing they have in common with Burt and Anton is their fashion sense.

But just being in the same vicinity where they and countless others have left their mark on the magic world was “very informational” for Carell. Even if a good chunk of what he learned involved the apathy of tourists.

One of “Wonderstone’s” biggest set pieces is centered around “The Hot Box,” the see-through container Burt and Anton seal themselves in, high above the Strip, in an attempt to out-stunt their new rival.

Filming it went only slightly better than the fiasco depicted in the movie.

“We were suspended by a crane, 60 or so feet in the air in a Plexiglas box on the Las Vegas Strip, and we didn’t even gather a crowd,” recalled a bemused Carell, who also served as one of “Wonderstone’s” producers.

“We tried to gather a crowd. We didn’t want to pay for all the extras. We figured, ‘Well, people will just gather, and we’ll shoot that as the crowd.’ Nobody cared!

“They were on their way to the big shows. And, ‘Oh, two guys in costumes up in a box. Anyway.’ And they were on their way.”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@review or 702-380-4567.

5 must-see bands at Punk Rock Bowling 2018
5 must-see bands at Punk Rock Bowling 2018
Gabi Coffee & Bakery Is Like A Korean Speakeasy From The 1920s
Gabi Coffee & Bakery Is Like A Korean Speakeasy From The 1920s (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five must-see acts at the Electric Daisy Carnival 2018
Five must-see acts at the Electric Daisy Carnival 2018
The "13 Reasons Why" mustang cruises down the Las Vegas Strip (Courtesy Netflix)
4 fun and fascinating museums in Las Vegas
U2 in Vegas through the years
U2 in Vegas through the years
Dirt Dog In Las Vegas Makes Crazy L.A. Street Food
Dirt Dog In Las Vegas Makes Crazy L.A. Street Food (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
Black Tap In Las Vegas Makes This Instagram-ready Golden Knights Shake (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
Nevada Ballet Theatre Premieres Until December
‘Until December’ debuts at ‘Ballet & Broadway’ season finale (Carol Cling Las Vegas
Celebrate The Golden Knights With Knights-inpired Latte Art (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Yodeling Boy Mason Ramsey Signs With Atlantic Records, Debuts First Single
Yodeling Boy Mason Ramsey Signs With Atlantic Records, Debuts First Single Ramsey, who shot to fame after a viral video of him yodeling at an Illinois Walmart surfaced, just debuted “Famous.” “If I'm gonna be famous for somethin'/I wanna be famous for lovin' you/If I'm gonna be known around the world/I wanna because of you, girl” Mason Ramsey, “Famous” It’s been quite the rush to stardom for the 11-year-old, who appeared on The Ellen Show and performed at Coachella earlier this month. “I’d been to Nashville a few times before, but never thought something like this would happen. It’s a dream to sign with Atlantic and Big Loud.” Mason Ramsey “I loved recording ‘Famous’ and can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”
Steve Aoki, Pitbull And Other Stars Make An Apperance At The "Keep Memory Alive" Gala
Steve Aoki, Pitbull And Other Stars Make An Apperance At The "Keep Memory Alive" Gala. (Janna Karel Las Vegas review-Journal)
"Hamilton" Fans Line Up Overnight At Smith Center To Get Tickets
"Hamilton" fans line up overnight at Smith Center to get tickets. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 concerts to see in Las Vegas this week
You can visit the speakeasy in The Mob Museum's basement... if you know the password
6 new foods hitting movie theaters in 2018
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl!
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl! The 45-year-old actor posted an adorable photo on Instagram, celebrating his newborn baby girl, Tiana Gia Johnson. Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram This is Johnson’s second daughter with his girlfriend, Lauren Hashian. His oldest daughter, Simone Garcia Johnson, came from his previous marriage. Johnson and Hashian first announced they were expecting another child back in January. Congratulations!!
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend Car Show celebrates 21st year
The Stray Cats, Jerry Lee Lewis, Duane Eddy, Elvira and Mitch Polzak make appearances the 21st Annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend car show at the Orleans hotel and casino on Saturday, April 21, 2018.
This "Alice in Wonderland" cocktail changes colors and flavors while you sip
Take a tour of The Underground at The Mob Museum
Prince death investigation coming to an end
Prosecutors in Minnesota plan an announcement Thursday on the two-year investigation into Prince's death from a drug overdose Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl. Search warrants unsealed about a year after Prince died showed that authorities searched his home, cellphone records of associates and his email accounts to try to determine how he got the drug. The county attorney has scheduled a morning announcement at which time charges could be filed.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Big Bounce America visits North Las Vegas
Billing itself as "the biggest bounce house in the world," Big Bounce America visits Craig Ranch Regional Park in Las Vegas.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
Disneyland debuts new foods for Pixar Fest on Friday
Pixar Fest takes place ahead of California Adventure’s Pixar Pier expansion. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sneak Peek at New Decorations, Merch and Parade for Disneyland's Pixar Fest
Las Vegas Philharmonic celebrates 20th anniversary season
Orchestra’s 2018-19 season features premiere, more (Carol Cling/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Las Vegas' newest bar is a reggae lounge
Jammyland serves island-inspired cocktails. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like