Kieve reveals secrets of the spells
This article by Ben Rooth appeared on Manchester Online in April 200 to coincide with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra’s family concert Making Tracks at the Bridgewater Hall.
HE’S the real-life magician who has been helping to add authentic slight-of-hand to the Harry Potter films.
While you might not recognise his face, there’s a distinct possibility that you will have seen Paul Kieve’s work on a stage or cinema screen near you.
For the last two decades, he’s been the man producers consult when they want to bamboozle audiences.
He has helped with a host of leading West End producers like Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Cameron Mackintosh and was the wizard behind the Harry Potter magic.
“You can just catch sight of me during the leaky cauldron scene which opens Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” he says. “I was the person who made the bottle disappear from a table before the waiter can get to it.
“I also played a role in making the spheres float in the Astronomy Room.
“I can also be seen plucking a series of candles out of thin air in the Three Broomsticks pub.
“I have the honour of being the first magician to perform slight-of-hand in a Harry Potter film. It was all background magic I did, but great fun.”
While Paul is reluctant to talk about how he perfects these tricks, he admits to being a fan of Harry Potter since JK Rowling first created him.
He was delighted when the film’s producer David Hayman invited him to take part.
He even found time to conduct a master class for budding magicians between takes.
“All the kids used to cluster round and I’d show them how to do simple tricks,” he says.
“One day I realised that the only young member of cast that I hadn’t actually tutored was Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry in the films.
“He came up to me and asked if I would mind teaching him as well.
“Daniel proved to be an excellent student who picked up tricks very quickly. He even agreed to write an introduction to a new book I’m writing on magic.”
Paul was born in Woodford, in North East London, and became interested in magic at the age of 10 when his parents gave him his own wand and various tricks.
His first break, at the age of 16, was when his agent got him a job performing magic in a pop video for Sade’s single “Your Love Is King”.
“They wanted a hand-double for Sade – someone to make it look as though she was performing tricks,” he recalls.
“So they shaved my hands and arms and I did a few tricks for the video.
“The song went on to be quite successful and Sade and her band referred to me as “Boy Wonder”.
“I never really looked back after that – and I know that I’ve been very lucky to get the breaks that I’ve received.”
Paul spends most of his time helping directors seamlessly incorporate magic into such West End stage shows as The Witches, Peter Pan, The Invisible Man and
numerous RSC performances.
“It’s true to say that from that age, I’ve always been aware how magic can be enhanced by music – and vice versa,” he adds.
“I’ve always maintained that when you are a magician, you have to lead your audience – rather like a barrister leads a jury – to the right conclusion.
“And music can be an integral part of the drama of the whole experience.”
That’s exactly what he’ll be doing when he appears with the Manchester-based BBC Philharmonic orchestra.
The two concerts will be hosted by Children’s BBC television presenters Adrian Dickson and Kirsten O’Brien and include a number of popular scores – such as the
sound track to Fantasia.
It’s five years since Paul last went on tour with the orchestra.
“One of the problems is that when there are 75 musicians on a stage, it doesn’t leave much room for you,” he says.
“So you’ve got to be careful that you don’t tumble off.
“I think that most of the adults and children in the auditorium are waiting for Fantasia – immortalised by Mickey Mouse in the film of the same name.
“While I can’t promise a host of dancing broomsticks, I can promise that there’ll be plenty of illusion.”