Norton, Biel and Giamatti Team Up for The Illusionist

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What's the best part about being an actor? For Samuel L. Jackson, it's screaming at snakes on his mother$%#kin plane!

For Matthew McConaughey, it's probably all the free time on his hands to party it up with BFF, Lance Armstrong.

The Illusionist Cast Photo

As Edward Norton this question, however, and receive a different answer:

"[The best] part of the process is where you're just absorbing a new set of experiences and getting to learn," the two-time Oscar nominee said of making movies. "It's like going to camp or going to school again."

Norton has taken a break from film sets, but he's ready to return now, starring in The Illusionist, a romantic mystery that hits theaters September 1. The movie co-stars Paul Giamatti and Jessica Biel and features Norton as Eisenheim, an enigmatic magician in early 20th century Vienna.

"It's kind of in a genre of its own," Biel said of the flick, which pulled some impressive buzz out of its hat at February's Sundance Film Festival. "You can't label it."

While most people think Harry Houdini invented modern magic, Norton shared the actual truth with MTV News.

"The magician who really started the era of the black-tie theater performance of the high-end magic presentation was this guy named [Jean Eugene] Robert-Houdin," the 37-year-old actor explained.

The character of Eisenheim is based on the local celebrities who bridged the gap between Robert-Houdin and Houdini. Norton played a card shark in Rounders - and now poker has become America's latest obsession. Does that mean magic is next? Probably not (sorry, David Blaine), but the actor still marvels at how the craft used to be viewed.

"They didn't have 'The Matrix', they didn't have things blowing their minds," Norton said. "People weren't as inside the world technologically ... [but] there's things in the movie that [a modern audience] might say, 'Oh, that's a computer trick,' but every illusion in the film is a type of illusion that was being done then.

People were doing really amazing ghosts at the turn of the century, things that you would put your hand through, and all that kind of stuff. So we tried to be pretty true to what was going on back then."

While Norton was perfecting tricks that had crew members scratching their heads, his female lead was getting ready to make a startling reveal of her own.

"I guess I do feel it might be some of the best work I've done yet," Biel said, aware of critics that have scoffed at her performances in 7th Heaven and Stealth. "It was scary every day to go to work with this accent and work with this new physicality. ... I do remember just feeling positive and good about the work that I did."

It doesn't hurt to work with actors such as Norton and Giamatti, either. Or, of course, to look like Biel.

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Jessica Biel Biography

The Sink Pic Jessica Biel is a popular and pretty darn attractive young actress. She dates Justin Timberlake (and has for awhile). Jessica Biel... More »
Born
Birthplace
Ely, Minnesota
Full Name
Jessica Claire Biel
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