LAS VEGAS, Nev. — What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas, no matter what the players say.
Take, for example, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” a comedy about the glitzy world of professional magicians that was filmed on location in Sin City and will magically materialize Friday on movie screens nationwide.
Steve Carell, who stars in the title role of a long-established illusionist with an overblown ego, and Jim Carrey, who plays a guerrilla street performer out to steal the conventional conjurer's thunder, both agree the “playground to the world” can work some dazzling magic of its own on actors.
“Yeah, it was very informational to be shooting here,” Carell said during a recent press conference hosted by Warner Bros. at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. “It does inform the characters a lot, because there is obviously a different vibe in Las Vegas. And at one point, or several times during the weeks we were here, I walked around in full hair (long, coifed tresses) and makeup and costume (glittering lame jackets), through casinos, and no one batted an eye. Which led us to believe we were on the right track with the character development, because on the poster it looks absolutely ridiculous, but it's not that ridiculous in the context of Las Vegas.”
The film, directed by Don Scardino (TV's “30 Rock”) from a screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (“Horrible Bosses”) — with superstar magician David Copperfield serving as technical consultant — also stars Steve Buscemi as Anton Marvelton, Burt's partner in magic and best friend since they were kids. They have a “lovely assistant” named Jane (Olivia Wilde), and The Incredible Burt and Anton even have their own namesake theater on The Strip.
But due to jealousy and Burt's ever-swelling head, they've come to loathe each other in recent years, and their act has suffered for it. With attendance dropping, while extreme street trickster Steve Gray (Carrey) is grabbing all the publicity with his outrageous physical stunts, Burt and Anton, desperate to revive their appeal, come up with an ambitious and dangerous trick called The Hot Box.
And here again, filming was affected by the weird Vegas mindset.
“Case in point, we (Carell and Buscemi) were suspended by a crane 60 or so feet in the air in a Plexiglas box on the Las Vegas Strip, and we didn't even gather a crowd,” Carell said. “We tried to gather a crowd. We didn't wanna pay for all the extras. We figured, well, people will just gather, and we'll shoot that as a crowd. Nobody cared. They were on their way to the big shows and, ‘Oh, two guys in costumes up in a box.' And they were on their way. So ...”
“Normal,” Carrey said.
“Yeah, which actually told us a lot about our environment,” Carell said.
“Well, you know, it's kind of normal for me,” said Carrey, whose rubber-faced, over-the-top style of comedy is cranked to 10 in the film.
“So I felt totally at home out there. It was nice. I really liked being out there. I like being in the street in Vegas. I have trouble being in the room. I don't know what happened to architecture. I think they're getting us ready for space colonies or something. Nobody puts a window in that you can crack. So I'm literally drying out on a daily basis. I'm drier and drier. I'm chewing my lips right now. Day three, I'm beef jerky,” Carrey said.
“I have dreams here, too,” he said. “I had this crazy dream that I'd been shrunk down to the size of an insect and I was swallowed by this hungry giant. And I went through the esophagus and into his stomach, and I was burned by the juices. And then by the time I got to the lower intestine, I was no longer anything that I could recognize ... And then I woke up at the cashier window at Bally's begging for another line of credit. I don't know if it was the Ambien or I have a gambling problem. If somebody could give me 500 bucks ... Seriously, I'm gettin' really hot.”
If Carrey's really lucky, maybe what happened to him in Vegas will stay in Vegas.
Travel and accommodations provided by Warner Bros.