Kraze Club interview with Paul Kieve
Interview with Paul Kieve for the children’s magazine Kraze Club.
I collect magic books dating back to 1600 – I have literally hundreds of volumes and I love reading about the acts that were performed a long time ago. Some of them are astonishing – like this man called Ivan Ivanitz Chabert – known as ‘The Incombustible Wander’. His act used to be to sit in an oven with a raw sausage and steak until they were cooked – then he’s come out and eat them accompanied by a nice cold drink (DON’T try that one at home!). And learned pigs were very popular in around 1830 – they were pigs that apparently performed card tricks and seemed to be able to add up – the possible answers would be written on bits of card. When they were laid out in front of the learned pig they’d push the right answer forward with their snouts! This is just a couple of examples of some of the mad performances that happened years ago.
You couldn’t really dream these things up and I get loads of ideas from them. The stories of the magicians are really mad – like The Great Lafayette whose closest friend was a dog – a little hound called Beauty. She would get her own three course dinner served at the table and had her own miniature sofa and porcelain bathtub! And if you visited the great magician at home you would see a plaque by his front door that said ‘The more I see of man the more I like my dog’.
So lots of the ideas are really from history – and then I love to dream up funny situations too, Just the idea of bringing back a performing troupe from 1900 and landing them in a busy London street 100 years later leads to lots of funny thoughts.
Did you always want to be a writer and what made you write your first book?
Well ,Hocus Pocus is my first book. I didn’t really think I’d be a writer – I always thought I was more of a hands-on person who likes making things in 3D. But my father wrote a couple of books and I recently discovered that I attempted to write a book when I was 8. It wasn’t very good and I never finished it!
I had the idea for Hocus Pocus while I was teaching Daniel Radcliffe who I’d met on the set of Harry Potter. I’d always talk to Dan about the stories behind the great magicians as well as tech him the tricks and he was really interested in that stuff. Once I’d thought of the idea he kindly agreed to write the introduction.
How old were you when you performed your first trick?
When I was about 8 or 9 I borrowed a trick out of my brother’s magic set. The first trick I invented was a way of making it look like my leg had fallen of. I got a cardboard tube and pushed it up a spare pair of trousers and rested a shoe on the floor at the end. Then I sat on my bed with my real lower leg hidden under me. I called my mum and when she came into the room I moved a bit and it looked like my leg had fallen off. Mum looked a bit shocked and then just told me to get on with my homework! At school I was more of a practical joker – I was in quite a mischievous group and we were always thinking up silly things like smuggling crane flies into the classroom in a jar and then letting them all out in the middle of a French class.
How did you advise the crew of Harry Potter with their magic tricks?
I was the first magician to work on any of the films, so I had to do long demonstrations called ‘show and tell’ presentations to demonstrate all the possible things I could help them with. One of these demonstrations was actually held on the set of Hogwarts Hall, and amongst other things I made a ball float all the way down it and back again. The designer of the film, Stuart Craig, saw it and thought it would be great to have in the Astronomy room as if one of the model planets had escaped from the cupboard and was floating around – and the floating balls in that scene ended up a big feature. The original folding Marauder’s map I made up at home on a plain white model version and then I took that one in to the studio and worked on the real one. One of the things I suggested was a wizard reading a newspaper by candlelight – and to created more light the candles started to multiply in the wizards’ fingers. It was a piece of magic that had to be done by sleight of hand – that means just the quickness of the fingers. The director really liked it and it was just easier for me to do it myself than for anyone else to try learning how to do it, so I ended up in the film – appearing as a wizard in The Three Broomsticks pub.
How long did it take you to research all the magicians in Hocus Pocus?
In some ways I’ve been researching them all of my life. When I was in Edinburgh about 10 years ago doing my show up there I met an elderly magician called Mac Wilson who was an expert on The Great Lafayette. He took me to the place where he is buried with his dog, and Mac got me really fascinated with that story. And as Lafayette had accidentally burned down a theatre which stood on the site of the one I was performing in I was extra careful with my fire tricks! Some of the magicians in the book are people I’ve always been fascinated with – Devant invented the most amazing tricks that are still legendary with magicians today, and I was always fascinated with the French Magician Robert Houdin – many years ago I saw this beautiful clock which had no cogs or wheels – just a transparent glass face – by the hands still worked. Houdin had built it over 150 years ago long before computers – I was fascinated! But writing the book allowed me to research all of my favorites even more, and I looked in old copies of the Hackney local paper to see when they appeared at The Hackney Empire theatre.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be a magician or write about magic
Firstly – you’ve made a great choice – learning magic is not only a truly fascinating hobby that other people will enjoy too, but it’s a great ice breaker – a wonderful way of introducing yourself to people. It’s also an international language and is a great thing to boost your confidence! The first advice I’d give them is to get a hold of a copy of Hocus Pocus!! Now I would say that – but seriously, I’ve tried to integrate all the most important things about learning magic into the book – the tricks are only a part of it – the presentation, the way you do it is just as important as the tricks themselves.
Secondly I would suggest they try and watch other magicians perform – nowadays you can do this easily online – go to youtube and try typing in some of these names and watching their magic: Doug Henning, David Copperfield, Lance Burton, Jeff McBride, Juan Tamariz. It’s not the same as seeing them live but it’s a start! There are some great magic shops online and all over the place – look in your Yellow Pages and see if there’s a magic shop near you. And you could join a magic society such as the International Brotherhood of Magicians – or aybe the junior Magic Circle. I took up magic at the age of 10 and it’s taken me to over 50 countries and introduced me to friends all over the world – I can’t imagine a better hobby! Writing about it – well I think you should try doing it before you write about it!