Radio Times Interview

Look into my eyes… the psychological illusionist looks to the future and sees everything coming.

Trick of the mind is back for a new series. Tell us more…
It’s a similar format to before, but we’re going round the country instead of sticking in London. Also, every episode has a famous face – it’s not just a celebrity slot, but people I find interesting. We’ve got Jonathan Ross and his wife Jane Goldman, Simon Pegg, Iain Banks, Richard Madeley, Mo Mowlam and Alistair McGowan.

Rumour has it that during filming you were nearly punched. Was it the he\d of channel 4 after all the complaints about your shows?
No, it wasn’t. It was in Portmeirion in North Wales, where they used to film The Prisoner. It was an amazing, odd, slightly creepy place.

So what exactly happened?
We were doing a staring competition – as in you can’t blink or look away – and at the same time I was trying to make the subjects feel troubled or plant bad feelings. But one guy reacted badly and you could tell he was freaking out. I went to bring him out of it, and you can see him rear back as if to punch me. He said to me later that he nearly decked me. It’s probably going to happen one day.

Are you mysterious and otherworldly in real life, like you’re portrayed on TV?
I don’t think I am. But then again, I have had people come over to my house and say, “Erm, you’ve got a stuffed pickled baby chimp in the hallway. That’s not right.”

I did hear about the taxidermy.
It does get mentioned. But that’s my stuff in my home – my own things. I do like having things I find curious, and I’m a bit of a collector type. In terms of my personality, I hope I can leave that “mystery man” mantle behind me – the shows aren’t really like that any more. Otherwise I wouldn’t get to know anybody and I wouldn’t have any friends.

You’ve also got a UK tour coming up – Something Wicked This Way Comes. Aren’t you in less control when it’s live?
That’s what makes it more fun. It goes wrong more often, but when it goes wrong in a theatre people love it. I lost a few thousand pound last tour betting on things.

That must be an added incentive to buy a ticket – you might get your money back.
Absolutely. Although not so much for this tour. I’ve cut out the betting because I kept losing.

Is it true that more people complained about your recent séance show than the prospect of you blowing your head off playing Russian roulette?
Yes. The séance got 700 official complaints and the Russian roulette got about 20. No one was that fussed about me putting a gun to my head, but if I pretend to contact the dead, people get very upset.

Do you have the power to make people instinctively like you?
Well, it’s a feature of rapport techniques that…

Derren, I’d like to say at this point how much I’m enjoying our chat.
But I wasn’t using any techniques then – that’s my natural charm.

Oh. If you and David Blain were to have a head-to-head mind battle, who would win?
I think I’d win, unless he used his super-protective glass box. What technique would you use to conquer Blain?
Mmm… What’s his weak spot? Women, I think. And mine would be stuffed animals.

So the arena for the battle would contain you, him, a busty blond and a pickled chimp?

What about Paul Daniels. Could you mentally annihilate him?
This is horrible.

It’s what the public want.
I couldn’t possibly say – I know these people! Are you going to go through a whole list?

One final question: do you know what I’m about to ask you?
The answer is yes – you were going to ask me that. Before we arrived, I wrote down on a piece of paper the question you would ask me. Here it is, I’ll read it out: “You’re final question will be: do you know what my final question will be?”

Oh. I knew you’d say that!

Derren Brown was talking to Benji Wilson.