Director Louis Leterrier Talks Shooting On Location, Practical Effects vs. CG, and More on the Set of NOW YOU SEE ME

Posted April 15, 2013 by Rick in Movie News

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Last year, director Louis Leterrier spoke about his reasons for wanting to make the film, Now You See Me:

“I was looking for a great script. I wanted a great script with a great story, some great twist, some great characters. I was looking for it, looking for it, looking for it, and then I found this amazing script. So I was like, “This is it, this is for me.” And what I love about this script is that it’s very respectful of the art of magic but also gives you a little bit of a peek behind the curtain, the Wizard of Oz curtain, a little bit. Not too much, but that’s what I want. So it really is a love letter to magic.”

Leterrier compared the tone to Sneakers and Oceans 11, why he wanted to use practical effects and not CG, the importance of having actors knowing and doing their own tricks and why they shot in New Orleans, New York and Las Vegas.

Here are a few highlights from the interview:

  • They didn’t do a lot of soundstage work on the film. Most of the scenes were shot on location in New Orleans, New York, Las Vegas, and Paris.
  • The actors preformed their own magic tricks.
  • Leterrier was looking for a great script with a great story, a great twist, and great characters.  That’s why he signed on to direct the film.
  • For many of the tricks, they had to shoot with one camera because it was so specific.
  • The film became a little bigger once Leterrier signed on because he decided to make the magic in the film bigger.
  • Once they cast Jesse Eisenberg (who was the first actor onboard), that changed the whole dynamic of the script.  His character was initially written as a David Blaine-like character.
  • Leterrier looked to SneakersOcean’s Eleven,Usual Suspects, and a lot of French movies for inspiration.
  • Leterrier tried to use as many practical effects as possible in the film.
  • The film had two cinematographers: Larry Fong (Super 8) and Mitch Amundsen (Transformers).  Larry shot the magic scenes and Mitch shot the action scenes.
  • It was hard to cast the film at first because actors automatically thought a movie about magic was going to be cheesy.

Question: So you guys had the graffiti done specifically, you had the graffiti done for the movie or you’re just working with what was here already?

LOUIS LETERRIER:

Well, no, we enhanced some of the stuff. But you know, it was done. These graffitis were done. This one, the big one — actually, it’s funny. They changed it. You see that clown face? It used to be Jim Carrey, but we changed it to that. They changed it and enhanced it, but it was there. I mean, people from everywhere come here and graffiti.

What did you need for this scene? Why was this location so perfect?

LETERRIER:

Because visually, we wanted a place where thousands of people could converge, New York in the background, several floors, a maze. That’s what I was looking for. It’s a cat and mouse game that ends up in this location and really, this place becomes this. You’ll see afterwards in the 4D projection, there’ll be helicopters flying around with spotlights and the spotlights will shine on the building, almost doing an X-ray transparency thing where you’ll see the magicians running around and the cops chasing them. All that stuff will be projected onto the building. This is a great building, this is unbelievable. And also, it’s very practical to shoot, it’s great, it’s almost empty, and it’s nice.

Did you recreate some of this on a soundstage or did you recreate some of this elsewhere?

LETERRIER:

No, actually, you know what, it’s all here. We didn’t do a lot of soundstage. We built an apartment just because it’s easier to film fly away walls and everything, but our thing was, let’s shoot on location as much as possible. So we went to New Orleans, you know, for the tax incentives, yes, but I said, well, it’s New Orleans. It’s magic and voodoo and all that stuff, so let’s really embrace New Orleans for what it is. So we shot New Orleans for New Orleans, we’re shooting New York for New York, Vegas we’re going next week, and then Paris at the end. So yeah, we’re going to the real places. We’re shooting in real places.

What was it about this project that said, I need to make this?

LETERRIER:

I was looking for a great script. And then the vision comes afterwards. But I don’t want to have just the title or universe, I wanted a great script with a great story, some great twist, some great characters. I was looking for it, looking for it, looking for it, and then I found this amazing script. It’s been written and enhanced, but it was already amazing in the beginning. So I was like, “This is it, this is for me.” And really, I’ve always loved magic and been a great admirer of magic, but respectful and fearing magic, because I was like, oh, I don’t just understand how you guys do it. And what I love about this script is that it’s very respectful of the art of magic but also gives you a little bit of a peek behind the curtain, the Wizard of Oz curtain, a little bit. Not too much, but that’s what I want. So it really is a love letter to magic, and that’s what I loved about the script.