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"Burt Wonderstone" writers tap rivalries of Vegas magicians

Cast members Jim Carrey (L), Olivia Wilde and Steve Carell pose at the premiere of "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" in Hollywood, Californi
Cast members Jim Carrey (L), Olivia Wilde and Steve Carell pose at the premiere of "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" in Hollywood, Californi

By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The screenwriting duo behind raunchy workplace comedy "Horrible Bosses" have tapped the competitive world of Las Vegas magicians to bring the absurd antics of "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone," to the screen.

"Burt Wonderstone," out in U.S. movie theaters on Friday, is the creation of screenwriters John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who made their writing debut with 2011's "Horrible Bosses."

The duo found inspiration in the cutthroat industry of Las Vegas magicians for their latest film, which stars Steve Carell and Jim Carrey.

"It's a fascinating world, it's one that you don't really have to heighten or exaggerate all that much to get to comedy because it's already a crazy world of Vegas magicians," Goldstein said.

The rivalry among Burt Wonderstone (Carell), Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) and Steve Gray (Carrey) was drawn from the real world of Las Vegas illusionists, after Daley and Goldstein talked to magicians such as Lance Burton, Penn Jillette and David Copperfield, who makes a cameo in the film.

"Like rock stars or movie stars, these guys are very competitive with one another, and there's not a lot of love lost between them," Goldstein said.

Carrey channeled his outrageous comedic roots that rocketed him to fame in films such as 1994's "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" and "The Mask," bringing an unpredictable edge to street illusionist Gray's absurd stunts, such as slicing his face open for a trick.

"(Jim's) role in this is a throwback to the stuff he did in the '90s, where it's very big and physical, and that is my favorite kind of Jim Carrey character," Daley said.

FROM RAUNCHY COMEDIES TO ANIMATION

The road to writing and directing feature films has been a long one for Daley, 27, and Goldstein, 44, who began their careers in television.

Daley, who plays a psychologist in TV crime series "Bones," found fame as a teenager acting alongside James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel in Judd Apatow's coming-of-age sitcom "Freaks and Geeks" in 1999. But it took him nearly a decade to tap into writing and directing.

"You can only be taken so seriously when you're 9 years old, that's why acting came first ... you can work as a child actor but not as a child director and writer," Daley said.

Goldstein spent 10 years working in television as a writer and producer, meeting Daley on "The Geena Davis Show" and teaming with the actor to work on features.

While "Horrible Bosses" became a box-office success, grossing more than $117 million in U.S. theaters in 2011, alongside raunchy R-rated comedies such as "Bridesmaids" and "The Hangover Part II," Goldstein said the pair did not want to be known as "the hard R guys," referring to the rating for such films.

The duo expanded their screenwriting talents into upcoming animated film "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2," to "cover as many bases" within the comedy field, and bring humor rooted more in reality.

"There's something of a tendency now to go to a pretty mean-spirited place, where everybody's kind of nasty to each other. It's a very dark, cynical place in that R-rated world, where it's kind of the grossest thing you can think of, the most extreme, and it doesn't really matter if you like the characters," Goldstein said.

With the screenplay for "Horrible Bosses 2" in the bag, Daley and Goldstein will be making their directorial debut with the upcoming comedy "Vacation," starring Ed Helms.

(Editing by Jill Serjeant and Peter Cooney)

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