AN INTIMATE EVENING OF ILLUSION
AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID COPPERFIELD
When you’ve already made the Statue of Liberty disappear, walked through the Great Wall of China, and levitated across the Grand Canyon, what can you possibly do for an encore? If you’re David Copperfield—the Guinness Book of World Records’ Magician of the Millennium—you simply create a new array of inexplicable feats, and you reach back into your own imagination and life experiences, as well as those of your audience’s.
“Inspiration for my illusions comes from many sources,” Copperfield tells Entertainment Today, preparing for his An Intimate Evening of Grand Illusion performances, Feb. 2nd -3rd at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. “A dream, a nightmare, a chance encounter on the street, my international travel to faraway lands and exotic locations. It really is a myriad of sources which provide the spark for the ultimate production that audiences witness, and are hopefully amazed by, onstage.”
Hollywood is an appropriate tour stop and creative backdrop for the 50-year-old New York native. He’s won Emmy Awards for his The Magic of David Copperfield television specials on CBS, and in 1995 earned his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (7021 Hollywood Blvd, to be exact).
“In many ways, my art of magic is a result of a lifetime of admiration for the great works of the cinematic directors—from Orson Welles to Steven Spielberg,” Copperfield says. “Also, the theatrical and choreographed nature of the illusions is largely based on the inspiration of Hollywood’s greatest dance legends like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.”
Grand Illusion is uniquely Copperfield, however. Highlights of the show include “The Lottery” (in which he shares his secret technique for predicting winning lottery numbers); “Killer” (close-up magic with a lethal black African scorpion); “Squeezebox” (in which the 6’1” Copperfield is squeezed into a bite-size piece); “Man Versus Steel” (where he floats through solid steel); and “Thirteen” (in which 13 randomly chosen audience members vanish, and reappear instantly in surprising places).
Copperfield’s feats amaze participants in over 500 performances around the world every year, but the conjurer himself is often as touched as his audience by the consequences. He cites “The Lottery,” based on his father Hy Kotkin’s dream, to win the Irish Lottery in his youth, as special. “‘Lottery’ was a very emotional moment for me immediately following his passing last year,” recalls Copperfield. “However, each and every night, this illusion is a tribute to him, and I know he is looking down from above and smiling.”
The scope of Grand Illusion is, as with Copperfield’s audience, diverse. Each act has a simple theme: love of family (“Reunion”), man vs. the animal king (“Killer”), the Munchkins (“Squeezebox”), Superman (“Man vs. Steel”), and “making that mother-in-law or boss vanish from your life” (“Thirteen”). It is little wonder, then, that Copperfield finds each one to be as incomparable as it is stimulating.
Of Copperfield’s current acts, he cites “Reunion” as “extremely emotional and very rewarding for me personally.” He is understandably perplexed when asked to choose a favorite, though. “That’s a tough one,” Copperfield says, “since a magician feels illusions are in many ways like offspring—a part of the family—that you love equally.” Instead, he prefers to allow his audience to compare the magnitude of his various marvels.
“My show consists of two categories of illusions, though: the close-up, intimate magic and the grand illusion,” Copperfield explains. “I believe audiences seem to like the 50-50 mix and are amazed by both. I will leave it up to those at the Kodak Theatre to decide which their favorite is.”
Some acts offer not only the element of surprise, but the element of danger—a consideration that the conscientious Copperfield keeps foremost in mind when planning and performing his stunts. “I keep the ‘safe’ illusions for the audience members,” he quips, “and the dangerous ones for myself—like hanging over a fiery bed of spikes or plunging over Niagara Falls in a few of my TV specials.”
As successful as Copperfield is in defying gravity—and the grave itself—he is careful not to underestimate the potential peril within easy acts. He recalls one performance of “what should have been a simple rope trick,” using a very sharp pair of scissors.
“I held the rope up for the audience to see, and proceeded to cut it like I had a thousand times, except this time I accidentally sliced off the tip of my finger,” Copperfield says. “I said to the audience, ‘Excuse me for a moment, I just sliced the end of my finger off,’ and exited stage left. They laughed hysterically, thinking it was a part of the show, while I headed to the nearest emergency room for stitches!” (Afterward, Copperfield came back and finished the show.)
Passion, not magic, keeps Copperfield motivated from city to city. “I love what I do!” says Copperfield, whose North American Grand Illusion run kicked off Jan. 8th. “I had better, since I average over 500 performances a year! And, it is the audience interaction that is different each and every show, that helps keep me on edge and often makes for some of the most hysterical moments of the show. I love to move my audiences emotionally from laughter to tears, and make the heart pump with an adrenaline rush whenever possible.”
Over four decades into Copperfield’s professional career, his talent has earned honors ranging from a wax likeness at Madame Toussaud’s in London to knighthood by the French government. Copperfield insists, however, that his most mesmerizing feats still lurk in his imagination.
“I have always wanted to put a woman’s face on Mount Rushmore, straighten the Leaning Tower of Pisa and vanish the moon, so you see I have many great challenges ahead of me,” Copperfield says. “The key to it all is to consider nothing impossible in crafting an illusion, and then work your way backward from the final reveal. Of course, this sounds easier than it is. Otherwise everyone would be doing it.”
David Copperfield: An Intimate Evening of Grand Illusion will take place Fri., Feb. 2nd (6pm and 9 pm) and Sat., Feb. 3rd (5 pm and 8 pm) at the Kodak Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., LA; Ticket prices are $40, $55 and $75; For ticket information, call Ticketmaster (213-480-3232) or visit ticketmaster.com .