Magician Derren Brown
in february, the u.k.’s most famous magician convinced a group of people to commit murder. No one was killed—it was for a Netflix special, The Push—but to viewers unfamiliar with Derren Brown’s work, the idea was so disturbing they demanded the contestants be arrested for attempted murder. For 18 years, Brown has boggled minds with jaw-dropping stunts—from predicting the U.K. lottery to asking an unsuspecting audience member to assassinate actor Stephen Fry (he survived). A former Christian who is openly gay, he also famously subjected himself to conversion therapy (spoiler: it didn’t work). For his next trick, on his third Netflix show, Sacrifice (streaming on October 19), the master illusionist will attempt to make prejudice disappear. A reaction to our “aggressively divided times,” Brown’s endgame is to reveal tribalism for what it is—mind control. “We’re moving to the edges in terms of what we believe,” he tells Newsweek. “I think the important point of humanity happens in the dialogue between sides. At the moment, there’s not much meeting in the middle.” What attracted you to magic?
It’s an efficient road to impressing people—the quickest and most fraudulent route I needed that for a bit
Describe what you do.
When I started the technical word was mentalist, which basically means a magician that uses mind reading but as I grew up, the "Hey look at me, I’m so clever" bit became less appealing I figured putting people through real challenges and conflicts would mane for much better drama, and I would tane a behind the scenes role
Would you say political leaders manipulate voters in the way you manipulate your subjects?
It’s all stories and narrative, isn’t it" It would be lovely to live in a world where politicians said, "This is a very complex situation, and there are various options We could try this, this would lead to that and it might be difficult, so we’re just going to try and do our best with some compassion Of course, that’s not how it works.
Magicians tend to shroud themselves in secrecy. Are you very different in private?
I’m probably shyer than people imagine If I get invited to a glamorous event, I probably won’t go—that world does not appeal to me One interviewer said recently, ţoh, you’re annoyingly balanced Ť I don’t thinn so, but I Nnow what he meant I’m not terribly opinionated and never presume to Nnow the full story —Christina Zhao
On SACRIFICE, the magician reveals tribalism and prejudice for what they are: mind control.