'Now You See Me 2' Director Jon M. Chu on Going "Behind the Curtain" With Sequel

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Jon M. Chu

At the film's premiere in New York this week, magic consultant Keith Barry revealed what trick audiences should keep an eye on and new additions Lizzy Caplan and Daniel Radcliffe discussed what drew them to the franchise.

The latest installment in Lionsgate's burgeoning sleight-of-hand franchise, Now You See Me 2, hit theaters just as the summer box office has already seen a number of sequels struggle, pulling in significantly lower grosses than their earlier films.

It remains to be seen how much the Now You See Me sequel will dazzle the audience. But director Jon M. Chu, who loved the first film helmed by Louis Leterrier, tried to deliver something different in the sequel by going behind the scenes.

"I didn't know what to expect when I first saw [the original movie]. It floored me. I loved the concept. And I knew that there was another angle to it — that you could [go] behind the scenes because it was very much a show for the movie audience," Chu told The Hollywood Reporter at the Now You See Me 2 premiere in New York this week. "[With] this one we could go behind the curtain with our horsemen and see magicians figure out how to get out of a magic trick. I thought it was a really interesting angle and the idea of perspectives and things like that."

A new angle also involved new types of magic, Chu explained, as both co-producer David Copperfield and Keith Barry contributed to the sequel's illusions.

"You kind of get to see the inner workings of the Four Horseman's minds in this movie as opposed to in the first one so you kind of see how a lot of the magic is done in essence because we reveal a lot of the secrets," Barry told THR. "That was a battle for me as a magician to come up with routines that I can reveal that the magic world wouldn't be annoyed at me about afterwards."

Chu also wanted the tricks to be real, as in "as little CGI as humanly possible," Barry said. "All of the magic that you see — at least 90 percent of it — has the intention to be done in real life. A lot of times the crew when they were filming it, their heads would pop out from behind the cameras because they were actually getting fooled by the magic they were seeing in real life."

Lizzy Caplan and Daniel Radcliffe are among the high-profile additions to the franchise in Now You See Me 2, with the Harry Potter alum playing the villain and Caplan essentially replacing her Bachelorette co-star Isla Fisher, who was part of the Four Horsemen in the first film but didn't return for the sequel.

The actress told THR that she was nervous about how well she'd get on with the actors who'd already forged a bond from being in the first film together, but that ended up not being an issue.

"I think it's always a bit daunting when you're coming into something where they're already a club and they really liked each other — I knew that much," she said. "So I was hoping that I would get to fit in seamlessly and luckily I did, and it ended up being one of the most fun experiences I've ever had."

Radcliffe, meanwhile, was drawn to "the opportunity to play a very different type of character" in the form of "an out and out bad guy" and work with a cast he found impressive.

"That, to me, is what made the first film so exciting is watching this phenomenal cast interact with each other and play around in those scenes. So just to get in that room and be a part of that process the second time around was incredibly exciting," Radcliffe told THR. "And getting to work with Michael Caine — that's going to be pretty hard to top for me."

While Radcliffe doesn't do much magic in the film, Barry said the actor practiced a lot and "could do a lot of magic," perhaps in another installment.

As for this film, when asked if there's a particularly cool trick viewers should keep an eye on, Barry pointed to a "three-card scene" with Dave Franco.

"I think it's very easy for a moviegoing audience to look at that and [think], 'Well, I guess they just did a couple of cuts and popped people in and out.' But that's not the truth. The method that you see in the movie is the real method that we used in the scene on the day," Barry said. "So I would challenge people to look at the three-card sequence with Dave Franco and try to figure it out before it's revealed."

Beyond the spectacle, Chu also saw the magic in Now You See Me 2 as advancing the story much like music can do.

The director said he tried "to find how magic taps into us as human beings. In the same way that a movie has musical numbers when words aren't enough, it takes a character and plotline from one thing to another. How can magic play with that?"

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