The Prestige is a 2006 psychological thriller film directed by Christopher Nolan, written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan, based on the 1995 novel of the same name by Christopher Priest. It follows Robert Angier and Alfred Borden, rival stage magicians in London at the end of the 19th century. Obsessed with creating the best stage illusion, they engage in competitive one-upmanship, with fatal results.
The film stars Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier and Christian Bale as Alfred Borden. It also stars Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, Piper Perabo, Andy Serkis, Rebecca Hall, and David Bowie as Nikola Tesla. The film reunites Nolan with actors Bale and Caine from Batman Begins and returning cinematographer Wally Pfister, production designer Nathan Crowley, and editor Lee Smith.
The Prestige was released on October 20, 2006, to positive reviews and moderate box-office returns, grossing $109 million worldwide against a production budget of $40 million. It garnered Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction.
Hugh Jackman as Robert "The Great Danton" Angier / Lord Caldlow, an aristocratic magician. After reading the script, Jackman expressed interest in playing the part. Christopher Nolan discovered Jackman's good, and after meeting him, he saw that Jackman possessed the qualities of stage showmanship that Nolan was looking for in the role of Angier. Nolan explained that Angier had a "wonderful understanding of the interaction between a performer and a live audience," a quality he believed that Jackman had. Nolan said that Jackman "has the great depth as an actor that hasn't been explored. People haven't had the chance to see what he can do as an actor, and this is a character that would let him do that." Jackman based his portrayal of Angier on 1950s-era American magician Channing Pollock. Jackman also portrays Gerald Root, an alcoholic double used for Angier's New Transported Man.
Christian Bale as Alfred "The Professor" Borden / Fallon, a working-class magician. Bale expressed interest in playing the part and was cast after Jackman. Although Nolan had previously cast Bale as Batman in Batman Begins, he did not consider Bale for the role of Borden until Bale contacted him about the script. Nolan said that Bale was "exactly right" for Borden and that it was "unthinkable" for anyone else to play the part. Nolan suggested that the actors should not read the original novel, but Bale ignored his advice.
Michael Caine is John Cutter, the stage engineer (Ingenieur) who works with Angier and Borden. Caine had previously collaborated with Nolan and Bale in Batman Begins. Nolan said that even though it felt like the character of Cutter was written for Caine; it was not. Nolan noted that the character was written "before I'd ever met" Caine. Caine describes Cutter as "a teacher, a father, and a guide to Angier." Caine, in trying to create Cutter's nuanced portrait, altered his voice and posture. Nolan later said that "Michael Caine's character becomes something of the heart of the film. He has a wonderful warmth and emotion to him that draws you into the story and allows you to have a point of view on these characters without judging them too harshly."
Scarlett Johansson as Olivia Wenscombe, Angier's assistant. Nolan said that he was "very keen" for Johansson to play the role, and when he met with her to discuss it, "she just loved the character. ." Piper Perabo as Julia McCullough, Milton the Magician's assistant and Angier's wife.
Rebecca Hall as Sarah Borden, Borden's wife. Hall had to relocate from North London to Los Angeles to shoot the film, although London's film itself takes place.
David Bowie is Nikola Tesla, the real-life inventor who creates a teleportation device for Angier. For the role of Nikola Tesla, Nolan wanted someone who was not necessarily a film star but was "extraordinarily charismatic." Nolan said that "David Bowie was the only guy I had in mind to play Tesla because his function in the story is a small but vital role." Nolan contacted Bowie, who initially turned down the part. A lifelong fan, Nolan flew out to New York to pitch the role to Bowie in person, telling him no one else could play the part; Bowie accepted after a few minutes.
Andy Serkis as Mr. Alley, Tesla's assistant. Serkis said that he played his character with the belief that he was "once a corporation man who got excited by this maverick, Tesla, so jumped ship and went with the maverick." Serkis described his character as a "gatekeeper," a "conman," and "a mirror image of Michael Caine's character." Serkis, a big fan of Bowie, said that he was enjoyable to work with, describing him as "very unassuming, very down to earth... very at ease with himself and funny."
Ricky Jay as Milton the Magician, an older magician who employs Angier and Borden at the beginning of their careers. Jay and Michael Weber trained Jackman and Bale for their roles with brief instruction in various stage illusions. The magicians gave the actors limited information, allowing them to know enough to pull off a scene.
Roger Rees, as Owens, a solicitor was working for Lord Caldlow.
W. Morgan Sheppard as Merrit, the owner of a theater where Angier initially performs.
Daniel Davis as the judge presiding over Borden's trial