Nuts Magazine Interview, March 2005

“Use language in a certain way and women want to have sex with you”

Prepare to have your brain bent by illusionist Derren Brown, who has more mind-trickery up his sleeve than you can shake your magic wand at. Famous for playing Russian roulette with a loaded gun and convincing people they can speak to the dead, Derren recently made America’s psychic healers look daft in his TV special Messiah. This month, he’s back in Britain with his Something Wicked Comes This Way tour and has a new Channel 4 series starting in April. Nuts met Derren and looked into his eyes to find out more.

So why should we tune into the new series?

One of the highlights is when we set up an arcade game in a pub and laced it with subliminals to affect the player. This one guy went into a catatonic trance, which enabled us and his mates to wheel him down the road on a hospital trolley and take him into this building where we’d designed a set that was the exact replica of the game, with loads of extras dressed as zombies. His reaction was so extreme that he really freaked. His mates went along with it and helped wheel him back to the pub where he woke up. He just thought he’d been in a very intense game and casually said “Right who fancies a pint?”

Can anything top the Russian Roulette Stunt?

Funnily enough, that only generated about 20 complaints, but the seance I staged got about 700. For this series we got some celebrities involved and had a bit of fun, including Simon Pegg, Jonathan Ross and his wife, Jo Whiley, Alistair McGowan and Richard Madelyn.

And who did you make look really silly?

It wasn’t about humiliating them, but some were more susceptible than others. Simon Pegg was great. I can’t reveal too much about what we did to him, but his reaction was one of the strongest in the series. He’s a lovely guy, but to see him turn bright ref, shaking like a leaf and clearly frightened by the whole thing was really great.

Is there anything you won’t do?

Sit in a box over the Thames.

You haven’t got much time for David Blaine then?

No, I’m a fan of his. I just don’t fancy spending that much time in a box. The people I really admire are Penn and Teller and even Paul Daniels who, in his day, was as revolutionary and amazing as David Blaine was when he kicked off.

What do you make of Little Britain hypnotist Kenny Craig?

I thought it was really funny. I’ve done a lot of stage hypnotism in the past and the people who do it are generally quite creepy. I was a bit concerned and did ask and apparently it’s based on Paul McKenna and not me. I tried to get them on the new show but unfortunately it never happened.

Do your tricks work best on thick people?

Not at all. In fact, the more intelligent people are, the better they respond to it. Scientists are the easiest people to fool. The more logically minded you are, the more you fall for it. My way of working is to set up false logical patterns, so they end up falling into all the traps that I’ve set. The difficult people to catch out are the ones that are half watching and only half interested – it’s difficult to hook them.

Have you ever hypnotised an animal?

I haven’t, but I’ve a feeling there’s a TV series in that. You can hypnotise animals. If you point a chicken’s head toward the floor in a downward motion and then draw a line on the floor, the chicken will religiously follow that line. It’s very funny to watch.

You could use your powers to get away with murder. Ever left a restaurant after convincing them you’ve paid?

I wouldn’t these days, but I have in the past – only because of the terrible service we’d received. Actually, if you’ve really suffered in a restaurant, the best way to get revenge – and this isn’t a sophisticated mind game – is to pick a woman in the restaurant who’s with a big, ugly male partner. Give a note to the waiter and ask him to hand it to her but not to reveal who it’s from. On the note you write, “I really fancy you and want to put my hand up your skirt. PS. leave a big tip or I’ll trip you and your fat husband up on the way out.” Her husband will think the waiter’s trying it on and call him over for a row. In the ensuing chaos, you secretly walk out.

Like your style Derren. So come on, you must have used your talents to bed women?

It doesn’t work like that. If you’re a performer, you want people to see past all that. The last thing you want to do is pull women solely because you can play a few tricks on them, so I downplay it all in real life. When I was starting out, years ago, I did occasionally use it to chat women up – but I don’t think I knew what I was doing.

Did it work?

It’s difficult to tell. If you think you’re using some clever technique, all that happens is that you’re more confident than normal. And confidence improves your pulling power. A guy called Ross Jeffries has done a lot of work on speed seduction – your readers should have a look at his stuff on the net. It’s all about using language in a certain way to ensure women will want to have sex with you. It’s tacky and horrible, but, more worryingly, I’m sure there’s something in it.

Are the public wary of you?

The worst one is going into a shop and asking how much something is. Without fail they’ll say, “You tell me”. I suppose it’s a good gag, so I always laugh.

Could any of us learn what you do?

Absolutely. I got into this at university and just kept reading and learning. I started doing hypnosis shows, then did sleight of hand magic, learnt psychological techniques and then brought the skills together.

Are you a good liar?

I am, but I always giggle. As a kid I was a very good liar and used to make stories up about stuff that supposedly happened at school. My biggest lie was after I accidentally set fire to my neighbour’s boat. I just went to bed and claimed that he was having a bonfire. It was a rubbish attempt and I got found out.

Which world leaders use the same trickery and powers of persuasion as you?

I know someone who was involved in the structuring of Blair’s speeches and it’s amazing how much effort goes into it – the timing, the production and how they can provoke a natural standing ovation.

Have you had any phone calls form under-performing Premiership teams to get them to play better?

I have been asked to go and motivate players, but I steer clear of all that because I’d rather be using my stuff to entertain.

But seeing WBA play like Barcelona would surely be entertaining?

Perhaps. It would be possible, but that’s Paul McKenna territory. Plus I’d feel intimidated in a football changing room.

OK. Finally, are you fed up with people calling you “Darren”?

I’ve had it all my life so I’m used to it. My proper birth name is Derren, so it’s inevitable really. But let me tell you, I absolutely draw the line at being called “Derek”.