Talking magic with Director Jon M. Chu

Coming to theaters Friday from director Jon M. Chu is the sequel to magic at its finest with “Now You See Me 2.”

Jon M. Chu’s career began in 2001 with a short titled “Silent Beats,” which was followed up be a second short “When the Kids Are Away.” In 2008 he directed “Step Up 2: The Streets” and the next “Step Up 3D.” No stranger to music he would direct “Justin Bieber: Never Say never,” executive produced “Step Up Revolution” in 2012 and “Step Up: All In” in 2014. Moving away from dancing and singers, he also directed “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” in 2013.

In 2013 fans were introduced to the Four Horsemen, and “Now You See Me” became a hit. Now you didn’t think the Horsemen were going to stay gone forever did you?

I had the opportunity to speak with the director of “Now You See Me 2” as we spoke about the thrill of the film, his own love of magic and what he hopes fans will take from the film.

Jeri Jacquin: Hi Jon, thanks for joining me today.

Jon M. Chu: Hi Jeri, of course.

JJ: I’ve seen the film and wow!

JMC: Oh thank you, thanks a lot!

JJ: I have to ask what made you want to take on “Now You See Me 2?”

JMC: Well, I absolutely loved the first film and never thought that they would approach me to do another. I didn’t think I’d be making a sequel in my career either, but Lionsgate came to me with an outline with a different perspective. That’s what I love about magic — is that when you are in the audience the magic trick changes. The first movie was about the Horsemen on stage and in this film you are going backstage with the Horsemen themselves. That to me was a really cool approach to the film. I am a huge fan of magic, I won’t deny that, and the cast of course, I mean it’s such a huge cast right?

JJ: I was curious if you were a magic fan yourself.

JMC: Yes, I loved magic growing up and I’m a fan of David Copperfield and watched a lot of his live performances growing up. I mean the Great Wall of China, making the Statue of Liberty disappear, escaping a safe and to me those were really cool events and he is a great storyteller. I think magic is story telling, so in a weird way our movie is about great story tellers and how they use that as their superpower.

JJ: That’s a good way to look at it, magicians with their super powers! Nicely said.

JMC: It’s the power of the brain.

JJ: You never know what it will do next.

JMC: Exactly!

JJ: When you read the script were you surprised at the direction the story took?

JMC: It definitely is in a different direction, but it evolved over time. I think as the script developed it became natural over time with the characters and what the actual arc of these characters are and how we could make it mean more than just escaping some trap that they are in. This all comes from those characters. I am so close to the film that it’s hard to know if the audience catches everything or not. This was a tricky architecture to build.

JJ: Well, to let you know, you did an amazing job of telling the story.

JMC: Oh good, thank you.

JJ: Especially when you have Morgan Freeman on board right? This man has a voice that is almost hypnotic. He can lead you with just his voice to where he wants you to go, whether that’s where you intended to go or not.

JMC: He has mischievous eyes, and when he speaks in the film there are so many meanings to what he is saying. There are so many perspective shifts.

JJ: The writing is so clever.

JMC: Ed Solomon (the screenwriter) is a genius, and I loved working with him. He created “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” “Men in Black,” and he really came to construct this thing and it was an honor to work with him.

JJ: I enjoyed getting to know more about the Horsemen and see their inner struggles, and it’s also a distraction from what is going on.

JMC: The first movie they are contracted liars basically forced to be together, and in this movie they chose to be together and form this family. At the same time, how does a group of professional liars learn to trust each other and sacrifice for someone else and not be selfish. That was the most interesting aspect of the film for me.

They communicate these things by their magic tricks, when they are working all together there is this amazing flow in what they do. Eventually when they do the citywide magic, although they may be apart they are still flowing together.

JJ: The effects of the film, whether big or small, are all mind blowing.

JMC: Cool, we try to do as much real magic as possible and anytime the card is in their hands it is real. We could do it in CGI but we wanted the audience with us. We spent time building prototypes and R&D (Research & Development) it to death to do these tricks because we wanted people to feel the physicality of the magic. We promised ourselves that we were going to use as much practical magic as possible because we believe the audience can feel that. Even if they can’t fully there is something instinctual that happens when you experience the magic without cgi.

JJ: The way it is shot as well — the rain scene with Jesse Eisenberg, watching that just made everyone so wide eyed like a kid in a candy store. It’s just so very cool!

JMC: It makes our movie a little different from the caper films because we get to go there. We didn’t want to just make a witty caper film but instead ultimately we are a magic movie and the audience wants us to go there. We wanted to make sure that every trick can practically be done if you have the resources to do it. At the same time you want to believe that the enormity of that particular event is impossible and can’t be done.

JJ: I really had a good giggle about Daniel Radcliffe being in a film — about magic. What a brilliant choice!

JMC: I’m glad you liked that because Daniel is really good at magic. He is part of the real world magic stuff. We didn’t know if we wanted him to be good at magic or bad at magic. When we talked to him about the film and he did some magic that made us really laugh, we knew he was our Walter.

JJ: He has amazing timing with his sarcasm.

JMC: He is sarcastic and very cool like that. He has the English sarcasm with the very sharp wit that is cutting.

JJ: What do you want fans to take from “Now You See Me 2?”

JMC: I think whether you haven’t seen the first film or you have you are going to love it. We have set it up so that we get a little deeper into these characters. It is bigger and crazier magic. This isn’t hocus pocus magic, this is on the ground skill set and these guys are super heroes of the mind. They are masters of psychology, storytelling, science, technology and I think that makes for a real fun movie that is original, not based off of some IP. We have a cast full of legends and icons that the entire family can enjoy and try to figure out. We think it’s a fun event and game for the whole family and I think they are going to have a good time.

JJ: One last question and I have to ask it Jon, will there be a “Now You See Me 3,” and will you be at the helm?

JMC: <laughs> You know, we always like to plan because there is a lot more story to tell in this world we’ve created. If the audience comes out and sees the film and wants more I think we have some very interesting stories still to tell in the magic world. We will be ready!

Prepare yourselves for the best slight of hand ever with “Now You See Me 2” opening in theaters this Friday!



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About the Author

Jeri Jacquin

Jeri Jacquin covers film, television, DVD/Bluray releases, celebrity interviews, festivals and all things entertainment.