Question for Richard K.

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby Guest » 03/17/05 09:42 AM

I've always been curious, if you feel like discussing it, about your role as magic advisor on Goldman's novel Magic . How did you land the gig (and at such a young age), what all did it entail and what's he like? Any interesting stories?
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/17/05 10:04 AM

I met William Goldman up at Tannens shop one day. I was about 16 I think (really can't recall exactly). He was looking for someone who would explain tricks to him and one of the demonstrators suggested he talk to me. It was my impression that he had approached some others and found that they didn't want to explain how stuff worked since he was a layman.
I had no idea who he was--his name didn't mean a thing to me at that age.
I answered some of his questions and then he asked me if he could talk to me at length privately, and said he would pay whatever fee I might charge for a private show for an hour of my time. I asked for $100, thinking it was a ridiculously high amount of money, but he said fine.
I went to his apartment on Park Avenue, which was a duplex on top of a very fancy old building that had a private elevator. It was bigger than most houses. We sat in his library (all beautifully panelled in dark wood with his Oscar for Butch Cassidy on the shelf). I think that I found out who he was between the time he asked me to come to his place and when we eventually got together.
Either way, he asked some very specific questions, such as could I show him a trick that would be very difficult to get out of if someone shouted out the secret in the middle of the performance. I demonstrated the Phoenix Aces, and explained that if someone shouted out that there was more than one card you were a dead duck. You could, of course, palm off the extras, but if someone then demanded to see both hands empty you really couldn't get out of it. And this scenario ended up in the book, though he called the trick the Rising Aces.
I gave him a lot of the magic terminology that appears in the book, and suggested some books he might buy. I was not the only person he spoke to--he definitely talked to Dingle at some point, but I have no idea what they discussed.
I don't know where he found "Do As I Do," which he explained to great effect at a critical plot point.
I enjoyed the book when it came out, but it got terrible reviews. Goldman's career as a novelist had declined after Marathon Man, and aside from his non-fiction books about Hollywood, his novels were generally panned. He stopped writing novels altogether after the sequel to Marathon Man and has written many screenplays since.
The movie of MAGIC is awful, miscast and just plain bad. Of course, Goldman's "trick" novels (of which Magic was one) all have an inescapable problem when translated to the screen--you can SEE things that are hidden when you read, and so a gimmick like not knowing that Fats was a dummy, which goes on for quite a while in the book, can't be translated to the screen.
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Postby Guest » 03/17/05 11:19 AM

Thank you very much, Richard. Great story.

I don't mind the film as much as you do--the U Do As I Do sequence is probably the best presentation the trick has ever had. But, good lord, Anthony Hopkins as a Catskills performer? About as believable as Carrot Top doing King Lear.

Thanks again for your answer. I appreciate it.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 03/18/05 02:07 PM

The Internet Movie Database gives credit to Michael Bailey and Lew/Lewis Horwitz as "consulting magicians" -- Richard got stiffed!
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Postby Guest » 03/18/05 02:27 PM

heres another vote against 'Magic" the movie. So many magicians say the movie is great but it sucks. The talk about magic in that movie is absurd.

Richard's experience with Goldman shows that its worth it to say yes when peopel esay they want lessons. Due to Goldman's involvement with Butch Cassity, Richard now has a story that will go down in movie history.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/18/05 03:44 PM

Bill, I didn't get stiffed. No one in Hollywood is going to ask a 16 year old to be the technical advisor on magic for a big budget movie. I was disappointed, of course, when the "Rising Aces" of the book, my beloved Phoenix Aces, became a Devano Deck in the movie. How the hell did that fit into the plot?
It was an impossible book to translate to the screen, it was miscast with Hopkins in the lead, and Richard Attenborogh was the last person in the world who should have directed it.
I have wondered why it hasn't come out on DVD, since it would be interesting to see it now and hear Goldman do a commentary.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 03/18/05 03:54 PM

I remember a post which a magician made on a forum or list several years ago (unfortunately I have forgotten the person's name).

In the book (I understand, I've not read it) the one handed faro is described as a fantastically difficult sleight that only seven people in the world can do. During the height of the book's popularity our hero was working in restaurants in the NY area. At each table he would ask whether they had read the book. Of course, many people had, so he would go on to ask them about the one handed shuffle, which very few people could do. They agreed that they knew that part of the book.

'It looks like this', he would say, and after a quick faro had them just where he wanted them...

I hope this story is true, it's too good to be a fable.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Guest » 03/18/05 05:10 PM

Ian, I am so happy you said that was a difficult sleight and only seven folks can do it. I ran into one of those seven a few years ago and I have felt inadaquate ever since and now I feel much better for not even getting close to doing it right.
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Postby cgscpa » 03/19/05 05:29 AM

Currently, there is a DVD version of the movie on Ebay from a seller in Hong Kong. I found it by accident when I typed "magic - dvd" into the search function.
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Postby Guest » 03/23/05 05:27 AM

Interstingly, Anthony Hopkins executes a poor french drop in "Magic" at least I think I remember him doing this (years since I saw this).

He also uses it in "Hearts In Atlantis" a much better film.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/23/05 10:10 AM

Hopkins appeared on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show when MAGIC first came out to promote the film and did some sleight of hand--can't recall if it was a Charlier Pass or French Drop. Something.
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Postby Tom Ladshaw » 03/26/05 03:59 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
Hopkins appeared on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show when MAGIC first came out to promote the film and did some sleight of hand--can't recall if it was a Charlier Pass or French Drop. Something.
He also demonstrated how a ventriloquist learns proper technique...with a pencil between the lips. This is interesting for two reasons: I don't know of a single vent who actually learned this way (and I know *lots* of vents)... and Hopkins didn't do any ventriloquism in the film anyway. The voice of "Fats" was dubbed in by the film's vent technical advisor, Dennis Alwood.
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Postby mike cookman » 03/26/05 04:26 PM

I think it's funny in the movie how the person Hopkin's manager is trying to talk into watching the nightclub act reacts with disgust at the thought of seeing a magician. And didnt Hopkins do a coinroll in the taxi cab?
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