Inside the mind of Derren Brown – BBC Interview, 24 June 2008

Illusionist Derren Brown is no stranger to controversy.

Since he began performing on TV in 2000, many of his tricks – including a live game of Russian Roulette, a seance and claims he electrocuted a cat – have sparked anger amongst audiences.

So when Brown’s private life hit the headlines recently, it came as a bit of a surprise for the 37-year-old to learn how interested people were in the fact he is gay.

“I am quite a private person and it’s just one of those things you just take on board,” he said.

In 2007 he did a “discreet” interview with The Independent where he officially came out.

“If you don’t do anything at all then suddenly it’s like, it is it supposed to be a secret? How open can you be with your friends, because if the press suddenly find out, and you haven’t told them first, then it becomes a story,” he said.

“Despite that, The Sun newspaper picked up on it and ran the news labelling it as an “exclusive”.

“It was a bit tacky, but it’s kind of what those sort of papers do anyway.

“I don’t think it’s a story at all. I would never dream of ringing up the tabloids and saying ‘this is my private life’,” the star said.

Having always been popular with his female fans, Brown smiled when asked whether they have stopped showering him with attention.

“I used to get a lot of affectionate gifts in love heart wrapping paper from ladies at the stage door. I’ve had a few less of those but apart from that I don’t really think people care, it’s not like it’s a huge shock,” he said.

However, the illusionist does not mind the controversy that has surrounded his shows in the past.

“It’s the way it works, if you do anything that might cause offence to some people, it all helps for the show. The journalists all ring up, I’m not complaining, it gets me in the papers,” he said.

“However, I never court controversy for its own sake. The controversial things have only ever been now and then. I just look for things that are going to be dramatic and watchable in a way that is going to be intelligent and sensitive. If you court controversy for its own sake, it just ends up being shallow and people can see through it.”

With his recent Channel Four series Trick or Treat just finished – which critics responded well to – and a successful UK tour behind him already this year, Brown’s career is stronger than ever.

Although many of his tricks and illusions are hard to believe, he insisted that all it takes is practice.

“It’s like driving a car, it’s one of those things that when you do it, you don’t have to think about it, it becomes instinctive.”

And even though he knows the tricks of the trade, Brown still loves to indulge in watching others perform magic.

He likens David Blaine, best known for stunts such as spending 44 days in a Perspex box above London’s River Thames, as Houdini and calls US duo Penn and Teller’s act “beautiful”.

The star explained how he went to Las Vegas to see the pair perform.

“I found it heartbreaking when you find yourself gasping and you feel like a child again. Ironically you’re probably being fooled by techniques you already know.”