So that the crew would not have to use CGI to "fake" the magical illusions seen, Norton received intensive training in sleight of hand and other stage magic techniques from British magician James Freedman and American magician Ricky Jay.
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The Orange Tree trick was made famous in France by Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin in the 1840s. It is first mentioned in old Indian manuscript as an illusion by Faux. Pinetti, an 18th century magician, did a similar trick, but he used lemons. Robert-Houdin was the first to use real fruit.
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Edward Norton did many of his own magic tricks, with the coaching of James Freedman. He worked with Norton preparing him for his stage performances and acted as a hand double in numerous situations.
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The film premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and opened the 2006 Seattle International Film Festival.
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The love scene was entirely lit by kerosene lamps. By the end of each take, the small room was so filled with smoke that it was hard to see.
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Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who plays the teenage Eduard in the beginning of the film, also learned how to do the ball trick.
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Filmed in 46 days.
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The soundtrack for the film was released on 15 August 2006.
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It was distributed in limited release to theaters on August 18, 2006, and expanded nationwide on September 1.
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The characters of Prince Leopold and Sofie were not in the original short story.
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As of June 29, 2008 the film has earned worldwide box office receipts of $87,892,388, including $39,868,642 in the United States, exceeding its reported $16.5 million budget.
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The Illusionist is one of three 2006 films to feature both the topic of magic and magicians as main characters. The other two are Scoop (2006) and The Prestige (2006). Both of which star Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansson.
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Although the film is set in Austria, it was filmed mostly in the Czech Republic, with the cities of Tábor and Prague standing in for Vienna.
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When Eisenheim is performing at the Hofburg, he places the Crown Prince's sword upright on the stage. The first officer who attempts to lift it is unable. The second person to try, to whom the Crown Prince says "Not so eager, cousin", is also unable. That second person was probably meant to be Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who would have been next in succession to the throne at the time.
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According to an article on production costs in Eastern Europe published by Bloomberg (August 25, 2005), the average extra on this film was paid around $30 a day.
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Director of Photography earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.
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In the first five months after it was released on DVD in January 2007, the film earned $35.99 million in rental revenue.
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The character Prince Leopold says during a performance of Eisenheim at the palace: "He tries to trick you ... I try to enlighten you. Which is the more noble pursuit?" This reference is to a famous slogan the RJ Reynolds tobacco company used in the 1930's that said "It's fun to be fooled ... it's more fun to know." The slogan was combined with adverts showing the secrets behind famous mysteries. The impetus for this was a tribute to the popularity of the American magician Horace Goldin.
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The character portrayed by Philip McGough is shown in the credits to be named Dr. Hofzinser, after a prominent sleight-of-hand artist.
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The drawing of Crown Prince Leopold's father is a well-known portrait of Emperor Franz Josef, who ruled over Austria, Hungary, and their constituent states from 1848 until 1916, the fourth-longest reign of any European monarch.
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Jake Wood dyed his famous ginger hair for his role as Jurka.
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The Illusionist received mostly positive reviews.
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The method for creating the ghosts as shown to inspector Uhl involved the projection of a pre-recorded image into a hazy background. Since the ghosts Eisenheim conjured could speak to and interact with the audience, he most likely used a different method popular among magicians at that time. A fantascope was used to illuminate a real person off stage. The image was reflected off of a mirror or glassplate, creating a ghosted image. The lanterns that Eisenheim tells his assistants to leave behind when they are packing up the workshop bear a strong resemblance to fantascopes.
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When inspector Uhl and his men are searching Eisenheim's workshop he picks up a glass bottle with a dark red liquid in it. This is the same bottle Eisenheim placed in the suitcase he gave to Sophie before her 'murder'. It contained the blood mixture used to fake the murder.
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Crown Prince Leopold is broadly based on the historical Crown Prince Rudolf. In 1889, Rudolf and his lover, Baroness Mary Vetsera, were denied permission to marry, and were found dead at the hunting resort of Mayerling. It is generally reported that they shot themselves, although alternate conspiracy theories abound.
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The first time the Duchess appears on stage and begins to vanish their hands form into a clear homage to Michelangelo's fresco in the The Sistine Chapel.
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