Derren Brown chats about his Sacrifice
Derren Brown on his latest epic experiment…
AVAILABLE from fri 19 oct / netflix
Over the past few years, Derren Brown’s TV illusions and psychological social experiments have grown in ambition – none more so than 2016’s The Push in which he tried to persuade four people to push a man off a building to his certain death (three of them wanted to do it).
Now, in his first special for Netflix, the self-described ‘mentalist’ pulls out all the stops as he attempts the exact opposite – to make someone lay down their life to save a complete stranger.
In Sacrifice, Derren uses all his powers of persuasion to make a prejudiced American stand up to bigotry and, literally, take a bullet for someone he thinks is an illegal Mexican immigrant.
Derren began by sifting through thousands of applications answering an advert looking for people to take part in a TV experiment, then selected Phil, a 33-year-old maintenance worker and father of two from Florida.
After pretending to Phil that he was taking part in a TV documentary about bio-technology, Derren secretly set about preparing him for the test with a series of techniques designed to increase his levels of fearlessness and empathy.
Here Derren, 47, tells TV Times more about the process… What is the idea behind Sacrifice? In these aggressive times everybody seems to have their own tribal identities. We have grown quite intolerant in our thinking and can’t see other people’s points of view. The show is all about stepping out of the restrictions of these narratives.
Why did Phil fit the bill so well? Phil has found raising a family to be tough and he sees illegal Mexican immigrants as being favoured over his own family. He has financial pressures that make him blame Mexicans for his troubles. In order for Phil to change so much, what needed to happen? He had to have a complex ideological transformation. For
Phil to act heroically, he had to do it out of fearlessness and empathy. Through various psychological techniques that you’ll see in the show, I wanted to create a huge personal change in Phil and change his most strongly held opinions.
It must have been a massive operation to put together? Altogether we had a crew of 100 in the US and UK, including stunt teams, divers, actors and multiple hidden cameras. We also had a team of medical and psychological experts on hand so they could check that Phil was robust enough throughout the process.
How did Phil react when it was all over and he realised what had really been going on?
He told me that, apart from getting married and having kids, it’s the most positive thing he has ever done in his life. It’s permanently changed his way of thinking.
We have grown quite intolerant in our thinkingé
Potentials: Derren and theauditionees