Each of the tarot cards refers to a Horseman. J. Daniel Atlas' (Jesse Eisenberg's) card is the "Lovers", referencing his implied sexual prowess. Merritt McKinney's (Woody Harrelson's) card is the "Hermit", referencing how his brother abandons him and destroys his career, leaving him alone and with nothing. Henley Reeves' (Isla Fisher's) card is the "High Priestess", referencing her trick with the bloody tank, similar to a blood sacrifice. Jack Wilder's (Dave Franco's) card is "Death", and his is the only card with a meaning that is not explained until late in the movie, where he fakes his own death. The Death card in Tarot, mainly means change, most likely referencing Wilder's change from being seen as a kid at the start, to an actual adult at the end.
Isla Fisher got into difficulty while filming the piranha tank scene. The top of the tank remained opened so that Fisher would be able to swim to the top to get some air, and there was also an emergency lever inside the tank that, if pulled, would alert the crew that she needed help. During one take, Fisher was running out of air, and tried to swim to the top, but the chains on the handcuffs she was wearing got stuck on the bottom of the tank, so she was unable to swim to the top, or pull the lever. She then attempted to alert the crew by hitting the glass of the tank, but since her character is supposed to be panicked and scared in the scene, the crew thought she was acting. She was stuck for three minutes, before the Stunt Coordinator finally realized that something was wrong, after he noticed that her handcuffs were stuck.
The card trick in the opening sequence works in real life too -- there is no editing, contrary to popular belief. It is done by performing what is known as a "card force," wherein the magician makes the unsuspecting audience member pick a predetermined card. The audience member believes he picks a random card, a belief which is strengthened by the magician usually re-shuffling the deck several times. This is, of course, just misdirection.
Demonstrating that he really had learned how to throw cards with forceful accuracy, Dave Franco sliced a half of a banana into a further half with his hotel key card, while promoting the film on the Bob Rivers radio show (KJR-FM, Seattle).
In the scene before J. Daniel Atlas and Merritt McKinney enter the secret room, McKinney tells Atlas that he is a "bit of a control freak," to which Atlas replies "Have we met before?" This is a nod to a previous film Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg had starred in, Zombieland (2009).
The final scene was filmed on the Pont des Arts in Paris, France, which, as shown in the film, was famous for having an estimated one million "love locks" attached to its railings. However, on June 1, 2015, city council workmen started to remove the padlocks following years of complaints from locals.
When Alma Dray is reading the newspaper in Paris, she reads an old article about Lionel Shrike's death happening in the 70s. Shrike can be seen in a front-page photo of the article. Shrike, in footage news, is played by Elias Koteas.
After The Four Horsemen get arrested, Merrit McKinney (Woody Harrelson) tells the FBI Agent, there's no shame for a man to wear a dress. This is a reference to J. Edgar Hoover, the long time Director of the FBI, who was revealed to be a cross dresser after his death.
Morgan Freeman's character, Thaddeus Bradley, a former magician who debunks other magicians, shares some similarities with James Randi, the famous magician and escape artist. Although James Randi does not, and would not, reveal another magician's tricks, he does debunk psychics and other fraudsters. He is also seen frequently wearing a large hat, similar to the one that Thaddeus wears throughout the film.
While in New Orleans, French INTERPOL agent, Alma Dray, is wearing a striped shirt. This is a reference to a famous French New Wave film, Breathless (1960), in which the main female character, Patricia Franchini, wears striped clothes throughout the film. This look, along with short hair, became the "look" throughout the 60s and 70s. This "look" has been revamped among celebrities recently, as the popular culture looks to French New Wave as a retro and stylish inspiration.
When Jack and Dylan land in the garbage, above the Shrike magician prop-box, is an apartment mailbox labeled "Shrike." This is for apartment 6-A, and is the apartment of The Four Horsemen, previously owned by Lionel Shrike, and later, more importantly, his son's apartment.
During the interrogation scene, Merritt says that Dylan Rhodes has "big daddy issues." Later in the movie, proving Merritt's skill as a mentalist, it is revealed that Agent Rhodes is the son of Lionel Shrike.
When the Horsemen enter Times Square, eyes flicker in and out of visibility in the billboards around them. The last to appear is the same Eye that appears on the merged tarot cards in the park, which lingers long enough to be seen clearly almost in the center of the screen.