Comic superstar Jim Carrey plays guerilla street magician Steve Gray who’s out to dethrone Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) as Las Vegas’ king of magic, in New Line Cinema’s envelope-pushing comedy, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.”
In the film, magicians Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have ruled the Las Vegas Strip for years, raking in millions with illusions as big as Burt’s growing ego. But lately the duo’s greatest deception is their public friendship, while secretly they’ve grown to loathe each other.
Facing cutthroat competition from magic industry’s grungy rising star Steve Gray, whose cult following surges with each outrageous stunt, even their show is starting to look stale. But there’s still a chance Burt and Anton can save the act—both onstage and off—if only Burt can get back in touch with what made him love magic in the first place.
“Steve Gray has a magical friendship with the devil as far as Burt is concerned,” states Carell. “Clearly, Burt hates this guy who’s suddenly getting all the attention. Gray appeals to a more youthful audience and he’s all the things that Burt is not, so Burt is jealous and outraged. But more than that, he feels that Gray’s displays are shocking and grotesque, and show no respect for the art and culture of magic. So it’s doubly galling to realize that Gray is kicking his butt with this stuff.”
“Gray is the outsider. He doesn’t go about things in the normal way and people don’t understand him,” Carrey concedes, although the misunderstanding might be exactly what Gray intends. “He is ultimately his own worst enemy.”
Leaning more toward performance art than magic, Burt’s long-haired nemesis recalibrates the magicians’ mandate from “amaze” to “shock,” with ever-escalating feats of endurance like being doused with pepper spray or playing chicken with bodily functions. He even ups the ante on the old pick-a-card routine by giving it a surgical interpretation its original inventors would have blanched to imagine.
The actor’s twists on existing gags included transforming Gray into a human piñata and extending a torture test so that, instead of lying on burning coals for a few blistering minutes, he gets a blanket and opts to spend the night.
“Jim took everything we had on the page to the nth degree,” says producer Chris Bender. “What he brought to the process was really an embarrassment of riches. I think he saw immediately the kind of fun he could have with the character and the wild things a guy like that would do.”
“It’s hard to describe how amazing he is,” says avowed fan Carell. “When you’re doing a scene with Jim you can’t help but stand back and observe. He has complete commitment to what he’s doing and he’s such a perfectionist. It’s exhausting just watching him. I don’t know where he gets the energy.”
For all his hippie homilies and casual dismissal of the kind of fame Burt symbolizes, Steve Gray is fiercely driven. “He plays it cool, but that’s just to mask his ambition,” Carrey reveals. “From the beginning, he wants what Burt and Anton have. That’s why he has to make it seem like he thinks Wonderstone is a worthless hack and that nothing he does has purpose or meaning. Burt is in his way. He’s standing where Gray wants to be and displacing him becomes his whole focus. Plus, he’s a real head-tripper.”
Opening across the Philippines on March 20, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is a New Line Cinema presentation and will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.