Absolute Bowieginners: THE PRESTIGE - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Absolute Bowieginners: THE PRESTIGE

Chris Morley explores the magic behind the man David Bowie portrayed in The Prestige.
For one of his final film roles, David Bowie was back on familiar territory as he appeared in the cinematic adaptation of a novel, in this case Christopher Priest's The Prestige as brought to the screen by Christopher Nolan - who raided the cast of his earlier Batman Begins for Christian Bale as magician Alfred Borden/Fallon, who had of course also portrayed the Caped Crusader, & Sir Michael Caine as stage engineer John Cutter, also Alfred to Bale's Bruce Wayne. Bowie came aboard in the role of Nikola Tesla, who within the narrative here builds a teleportation machine for Borden's rival man of magic Robert Angier/ Lord Caldlow, as played by Hugh Jackman.

Author Priest had found himself impressed with Nolan's earlier films Following & Memento & so when the film option on the book became available & this was brought to Nolan's attention work began - admittedly with a hiatus while he gave his full attention to Batman. And as he told Variety...
"The shifting points of view, the idea of journals within journals and stories within stories. Finding the cinematic equivalents of those literary devices was very complex."
Nevertheless, it's in the drama that the true magic lies, with very little depiction of actual stage magic in the finished film. The author of the source material was a fan, calling it...
"an extraordinary and brilliant script, a fascinating adaptation of my novel."
Bowie was very nearly not a part of The Prestige after turning down Nolan's original offer. The director later said that...
"David Bowie was really the only guy I had in mind to play Tesla because his function in the story is a small but very important role."
...adding that he had wanted someone who was "extraordinarily charismatic" but didn't necessarily have a conventional background in film. Nolan flew to New York to meet the man who would be Tesla in person & tell him he was the only one who could play the role, with Bowie accepting within minutes. Nolan also saw parallels between the man of science & the musician.
“Tesla was this other-worldly, ahead-of-his-time figure, and at some point it occurred to me he was the original Man Who Fell to Earth. As someone who was the biggest Bowie fan in the world, once I made that connection, he seemed to be the only actor capable of playing the part.

He had that requisite iconic status, and he was a figure as mysterious as Tesla needed to be. It took me a while to convince him, though—he turned down the part the first time. It was the only time I can ever remember trying again with an actor who passed on me.“
The real Tesla is said to have inherited a talent for invention from his maternal grandfather, an Eastern Orthodox priest who dabbled in making tools & appliances, with a first demonstration of electricity via his physics professor capturing his imagination - clapping eyes on this "mysterious phenomena" made him hungry "to know more of this wonderful force", as he wrote of the experience. When working in his own right, he claimed to start at 3am & not finish until 11pm, a state of affairs that led the technical faculty of the Austrian Polytechnic to write to his father out of concern that he may literally die of over-work!

By the end of his second year, though, all that was out of the window, losing his scholarship & developing a gambling addiction which lost him an allowance & tuition fees from his family, eventually leaving Austria in December of 1878 & cutting himself off from his remaining family to hide the fact he hadn't graduated.

Tesla then resurfaced in Slovenia, working as a draughtsman - his father travelling there in person in the March of the following year in an attempt to persuade him to come home, which failed, Nikola suffering a nervous breakdown shortly afterwards.

His first brush with any kind of invention arguably came after he found work in Hungary at the Budapest Telephone Exchange, being given the position of chief electrician & claiming to have invented a telephone amplifier, which was never actually patented.

Tivadar Puskas, the man who got him that job, then recommended him to the Continental Edison Company in Paris where he was in charge of installing indoor electric lighting as well as a bit of general troubleshooting & improving general dynamos & motors, making use of his engineering knowledge alongside physics.

Tesla was on the move again by 1884 at the request of Charles Batchelor, who'd been overseeing things in Paris before being asked to return to the United States as manager of the Edison Machine Works, lasting just six months before leaving. He had been working on an arc lamp system of lighting, which he developed further through his own Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing company.

The Tesla Electric Company followed three years later, founded in 1887 alongside Alfred S Brown & Charles Fletcher Peck - the two men interested in the promotion of patents & inventions for financial incentive & seeing something in their new business partner. Their instinct paid off when Tesla's induction motor was licensed for a fee of $60,000!

By 1891 he had become a naturalised US citizen & patented the coil which bears his name. He wasn't finished there, though! After acting as a consultant on the development of Niagara Falls, namely on how best to transmit the power generated, the Nikola Tesla Company was set up to handle his patents. With such a great run of innovation, you might guess that when the fork in the road arrived it was spectacular. And you'd be quite right. A fire at his lab prompting him to tell the New York Times "I am in too much grief to talk. What can I say?"

His pigeon-fancying brought him a degree of solace, at least, taking to the parks of New York daily after moving into the city's Waldorf Astoria hotel in 1900, spending over $2,000 on caring for one particular lucky bird after it became injured including building a support while its broken leg & wing healed....
“I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird, pure white with light grey tips on its wings; that one was different. It was a female. I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me. I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.”
Tesla and Bowie, two men ahead of their time in their own respective fields.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad