How Accurate is Magic in the Movies?

By Ben Seidman - Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Our friend Ben Seidman recently sat down with Vanity Fair for a special VF Review video analyzing the depiction of pickpocketing and psychological magic in blockbuster films like Now You See Me 2, The Prestige, My Cousin Vinny, Mission Impossible, Ant-Man and The Wasp and many others. He reviewed iconic scenes and even demonstrated a little sleight of hand himself.

It's no surprise they chose Ben for this opportunity. He is one of the hardest working magicians in the world and his bestselling effect "The Oracle System" (which is available again) is just so darn clever, it makes us smile every time we see it.

Credit: Vanity Fair

After watching this fascinating interview, we were eager to speak with Ben. He was gracious enough to give us a short interview about his interview. So meta--we know. With that, we pass it over to Ben.

What was the experience like?

I felt a great weight on my shoulders because I was sort of tasked with representing all of us magicians. A normal TV spot focuses on the subject and the spectators. This was about magic as a whole. So I reached out to some smart friends for help.

Eric Mead gave me some great advice: is every sentence and demonstration elevating magic? Will the viewers walk away having more respect and appreciation for magic and magicians, or less? This is a great lens to run everything through, but it was particularly important for this project.

How did you get that gig?

VF found me. They interviewed me for an hour and two weeks later reached out to confirm.

Did you get to meet Christian Bale?

Yes. I begin every day by meeting Christian Bale. My goal, though, was to meet one of Hugh Jackman’s drowned clones.

Where can I learn how to pickpocket?

I don’t know of any other secret resources that you’re unfamiliar with. There are books out there. The trouble is, they only teach about 20% of what you need to know. Unlike many magic tricks, pickpocketing has to be learned in context. But it is a dying art for many reasons.

For one thing, pickpocketing is much more difficult and takes much more practice than a great deal of magic. On top of that, clothing has gotten tighter, and performance situations where things can be unknowingly lifted without getting caught are becoming more and more rare. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

You said that you are an expert. Are you actually an expert?

The line: “I’m an expert” was a line that they gave me. I have never seen myself as an expert on anything. I try to get a little better at magic every day. I’m a student, and I hope that I will always be one.

Editors Note: What a humble guy. You're an expert in our eyes Ben.

Can you pick my pocket?

No. You’re on the internet. We’re in different physical locations right now.

What about the disappearing pencil trick in the batman movie that the joker performed?

You’re a monster.

What is Johnny Knoxville like?

Oh, he’s a sweetheart. I love that guy. He’s really nice. And super excited about life. When we first met I asked him not to hurt me. Thankfully he has yet to kick me in the [sponge]balls.

What was the most challenging part of your VF Review?

Paperwork. I had to fill out a lot of paperwork. It was really confusing. I had to have someone help me.

Oh, and also this: They wanted a behind-the-scenes look and showed interest in exposure. Not because they had nefarious intentions. Far from it. The producers were really wonderful. I can’t say enough good things about that team.

But there was an element of we would like to include some methods. This meant I was tasked with explaining magic, (but with my mind made up that I would not expose anything that would be harmful to any of us). In my mind that was key. The producers were great and didn’t push me farther than I was comfortable. But if they had, I would have simply refused.

The oracle system by Ben Seidman mentalism trick

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