Meet the Magician Who Taught Sandra Bullock Her 'Ocean's 8' Cons

Ocean's 8 and inset of helder guimaraes-Getty-Photofest-H 2018
Warner Bros./Photofest; Steven A Henry/Getty Images

Portugal-born Helder Guimaraes, who counts J.J. Abrams and Neil Patrick Harris among his Hollywood fans, also taught Cate Blanchett some sleight-of-hand moves.

To ensure that the many fake-outs in Ocean’s 8 ring true, writer/director Gary Ross enlisted a master of deception: Helder Guimaraes. The Portugal-born magician — whose dazzling sleight of hand has won him scores of accolades and Hollywood admirers including Neil Patrick Harris (who directed his 2012 show, Nothing to Hide), J.J. Abrams, Rob Reiner and even Stephen Sondheim — was brought on as a script consultant.

Guimaraes, 35, considers himself "a very honest person," but his line of work — which boils down to "making people believe one thing while you’re doing a different thing" — offers unique insights into the minds of career crooks.

He later was brought back to the project to work directly with the stars, tutoring Sandra Bullock (she plays ringleader Debbie Ocean, sister of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean) in the "psychology and principles of pickpocketing."

After some hands-on instruction, Bullock’s first mark was director Ross. "She caught on very quickly," says Guimaraes, adding that Bullock really got into the con woman mindset. "We spent a good hour throwing cards into a bin, while talking about the language hustlers use. She got really good at it. She was a natural."

For that matter, so was Cate Blanchett, who plays Lou Miller, Ocean's friend, who helps hatch a plan to swipe a $150 million necklace at New York’s Met Gala. Blanchett even managed to con the con man. "She asked me to show her my best move," recalls Guimaraes, who obliged with a card trick. As Blanchett commented on the intricacies of his finger work, he "realized she was talking to me in character and not as Cate Blanchett. I kept the flow of the conversation going as if we were two con artists sharing insights and secrets." When a crewmember announced "Places," Blanchett floated over to her mark, a look of pleased mischief in her eyes.

Guimaraes’ next live show, Invisible Tango, is set to debut at Los Angeles' Geffen Playhouse in 2019 and will be directed by Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom producer Frank Marshall, a longtime fan.