David Blaine Lands Celebrity-Studded Magic Special on ABC (Exclusive)

"Real or Magic" will air during November sweeps and feature Ricky Gervais, Woody Allen, Robert De Niro, Katy Perry, Stephen Hawking and former President George W. Bush, among others.
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David Blaine

David Blaine is returning to the small screen for an ABC special that has been years in the making.

David Blaine: Real or Magic will air as a 90-minute special during November sweeps and will feature Blaine performing for celebrities including Ricky Gervais, Woody Allen, Robert De Niro, Katy Perry, Stephen Hawking and former President George W. Bush.

"I went after all of the people that I loved the most and surprised them and did magic in places that I knew people would understand that I couldn't have staged or set up or had people pretending," Blaine told The Hollywood Reporter during a private show previewing some of the magic featured on the special. "I wanted it to all be believable and went after people you never could get to pretend. I combined that with going into the streets and encountering all different people to do magic nonstop."

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With no stage or glitzy props, the intimate environments feature the homes (and kitchens) of stars including Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde and Kanye West, among others.

The special, Blaine says, is the first all-magic one he's done since he took a break in 1999 to focus on stunts. "It's the most magic I've ever put into one show," he noted. "It took me six years to figure this one out and I've been slowly assembling it over the past year and worked nonstop to make this the best I could." 

To land access to Bush, Blaine says he first had to clear the Secret Service and work his way in. "Most of the people, it was me negotiating private parties -- I owe lots of people lots of performances for the rest of my life," he jokes.

The show specifically will allow the viewer to figure out what's real and what's based on magic, with a combination of all different kinds of magic. "There's things that I traveled to Africa to learn and you see that process when I come back and perform it in front of Woody Allen, Robert De Niro and guys like that," he revealed. "There are new things that only a few people in the world can do."

While he says his favorite part of the process is falling in love with people based on their reaction to his work, Blaine says the idea of going into homes helped drive home the point that what people are seeing is real. "There are crazy moments from doing things that doctors don't believe are happening while they're watching it in front of their eyes -- and I do that in people's kitchens and homes, places you really shouldn't," he says.

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Beyond the rare displays, Blaine will also incorporate his close-up magic with playing cards and ordinary objects. "There's no weird props; everything is what exists in the place as is -- it's stuff I can do anywhere, any time. It's not TV magic, it's real magic."

Blaine will serve as an executive producer on the special, which hails from Radical Media and was directed by Emmy-winning helmer Matthew Akers. Electus has acquired international rights to the special and will be shopping it this month at MIPCOM.

A specific airdate for the 90-minute Real or Magic special has not yet been announced. Blaine is repped by CAA.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
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