We're not used to seeing Steve Buscemi in the role of entertainer. Frequently cast as the would-be tough guy dabbling inexpertly in crime, the popular actor is a muse of the Coen Brothers (appearing in six of their films including 'Fargo', 'Millers Crossing' and 'The Big Lebowski'), and a household face after starring roles in The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire.
This week, the distinctive-looking actor lends his talents to 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' (in UK cinemas on Friday), playing failing magician Anton Marvelton opposite Steve Carell (Burt). Also starring are Jim Carrey, Olivia Wilde and Alan Arkin.
Steve Buscemi and Steve Carell in 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone'
Here, Buscemi tells HuffPost UK about his character, his castmates and hanging out with David Copperfield...
Tell us about your character. Who is Anton Marvelton?
He's really a good guy. He's the best friend of Burt Wonderstone. And he loves what he does, he loves magic, he loves being in show business, and he loves Burt, he loves their friendship. And it's all he ever wants to do.
Can Burt and Anton's partnership survive their failing magical business?
Can you explain the relationship between Burt and Anton?
Well, I think when you do anything for a long period of time, you have to find ways to keep it fresh. And I think that's the problem that Burt and Anton are facing when we meet them ten years down the line. And they’ve gotten very successful and so they are playing it safe. But Anton is frustrated. He wants to try new things, but Burt seems very happy and content just to do the same show, pick up the same sort of girl each night, and just kind of ride that crest. But it's sort of starting to falter now that this new magician comes on the scene, played by Jim Carrey. And it causes a breakup for Burt and Anton. Which is probably the best thing to happen to them, because it's probably what they needed to shake things up.
What do you think of Steve Carell’s portrayal of Burt Wonderstone?
Well, Steve is one of the most generous and giving and nicest guys that you'd ever want to meet. I watched the film, and it's so hard to believe that. You see this guy who's so arrogant and mean, and Steve is the complete opposite.
What do you think Jim Carrey brought to the role of this really different magician, Steve Gray?
Well, he brought this otherworldly sort of sense to it. It was kind of like, "Where has this guy been?" "Was he in India for thirty years and then he came to Las Vegas?" I just loved what he was doing because it was just so intriguing.
Jim Carrey is a threat to the magical world of Burt and Anton, with his outrageous stunts
Did you do anything special to prepare for your role?
For me, if you have a good script then that's most of it right there. And then just talking with Don and Steve. In the rehearsal period we had a lot of conversations about what their friendship meant. And then, of course, practicing some magic and hanging out with David Copperfield.
What was it like to have David Copperfield not just play a cameo, but also as a consultant on the film? How important
Well, it was a real honour to have him on set, and to have his blessings, that here we are, playing magicians. And when we did the read-through, he was at the read-through, I think he was laughing the loudest. So it was nice to see that he had such a sense of humor about being in this business and the showmanship of it. And then he taught us that illusion that we do in the film, the Hangman's trick. And it was great. That was one of the most exciting days on set.
Did you enjoy shooting the different magical acts you perform in the film?
They're really a lot of fun. Part of it is how you present yourself. And so Steve and I just really had a lot of fun just hamming it up. And (director) Don let us do it.
Is magic something that you were a fan of growing up?
Yeah. I had some version of the magic kit that you see in the film. Yeah. I just remember practicing with-- There was this, like, this little guillotine that you put your finger in it, and then a carrot in it, and then you press down and it seemingly goes through your finger, but it cuts the carrot. It was a very effective trick.
What did you think of the completed film?
I loved it. I just loved these characters. And, for me, when I watch a film, I'm often remembering what it was to shoot it, too. So I have that kind of double pleasure of remembering, "Oh, I remember that day." It was really a lot of fun to shoot.
What was it like to work with Olivia Wilde?
I thought Olivia, she really brought a lot to her character, I think that was even more than what was on the page. She really had great suggestions and Don really worked with her well, and she just fit right in.
The film has a great supporting cast in Alan Arkin and James Gandolfini. Did you enjoy working with them?
I always loved working with Jimmy Gandolfini. And when I watched the movie, it's just hard to believe that we played such different characters in 'The Sopranos'. But, that's what we love about being in this business, that we get to play different parts.
What did you learn about the real world of magic from doing this film?
I don't know if I learned anything that I didn't know before, but it sort of reconfirmed how much it's about presentation sometimes. And it is an illusion. A lot of it is an illusion, just like movies are. And there’s real magic in that. So I think it just sort of reconfirmed my whole love of why I want to do films and what drew me to magic as a kid.
In a show like David Copperfield’s, it seems magicians bring more to the stage than just tricks. What else do you think is important for a good show?
I think the humour is really important. And David is so good at it. And I think Burt and Anton are aware of that, too. They try and be funny in their own way. Sometimes it falls flat for them, but I love that they try and that they think they're funny.
Did Anton and Burt’s outrageous outfits and looks help you get into character?
Yeah. The look is-- Once I saw myself in that wig and in the outfit, that sort of takes over. You can't help but be this magical person.
Was it hard to keep a straight face working with such funny actors as Steve Carell and Jim Carrey?
You're not seeing the stuff that Don couldn't use, because we were laughing a lot. Steve and I would laugh, every time Jim Carrey would do something and Steve and I were on camera, it was just really, really hard.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is in UK cinemas from Friday 15 March. Watch the trailer above and some stills from the film below...