Monday, October 22, 2007

Phenomenon Billboard at NBC Studios in LA

Phenomenon - Premiers Oct 24 8PM on NBC

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lara Lewington Interview

12/10/2007 By Lara Lewington

The celebrated cutlery-bender is taking his hit Israeli television series global. He talks to Lara Lewington

Uri geller divides opinions. People look at his “magic” skills and either agree that he is a psychic, or accuse him of being a trickster. He prefers the term “mystifier”.

Now the 60-year-old Israeli is out to mystify a whole new audience. Geller is moving from bending spoons to breaking America as the Simon Cowell of an X-Factor for illusionists.

How he plans to do this is not actually mystifying at all. Geller is relying on a good old-fashioned reality-TV show to win over American hearts and minds.

In The Successor, Geller passes judgment on young magicians who hope to take up his spoon-bending mantle. The show was such a hit on Israeli TV that NBC has bought it for the US market.

Yet it will not follow the Israeli format exactly. Instead, NBC is sexing it up.

“They wanted to make it more mystifying and mysterious, so they came up with the name Phenomenon, which sounds much more powerful,” says an excited Geller.

Along with American magician Criss Angel, he will be an expert panellist on the programme, which will be screened weekly from October 24. Viewers will phone in to vote for the act that has most impressed them, but Geller and Angel retain the power of veto.

“We have the power, the expertise and the know-how to judge” which competitor has “the power, the charisma and the act”, says Geller.

He may be on to something. Industry insiders are predicting that this could be the latest reality format to spread around the world. After its run in America, it is heading for Europe, starting with a series in Germany.

“People think because of what I do I’m looking for an individual with powers, and I’m not, because The Successor is really about many things,” explains Geller.

“It’s about the performance, talent, personality and character of the competitor. It’s about the way you deliver your act, and most importantly it’s about the astonishment factor.”

Geller has received strong support from the chairman of NBC, Ben Silverman. He is the man taking his chances on Phenomenon being a hit Stateside, and has a reputation for recognising a good format.

As Geller says: “Ben Silverman had the vision to take The Office, to take Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? to the United States. When they asked him why he commissioned the show — after all, they said, Uri is controversial — he answered: ‘Because when we watched The Successor, my hair stood on end’.”

Viewers may be forgiven if they detect a hint of ego in all this, but Geller is having to share his show with a man who is an even bigger name in magic than he is.

Criss Angel, who has a large US fan base, specialises in illusions, “mentalism” and escapology. He is one of the rare few to have converted a hit Broadway magic show into a success on the small screen, with Criss Angel: Mindfreak.

Geller says that Angel is reportedly being paid £100m to perform at the Las Vegas hotel The Luxor — “but I can only quote you what I’ve read in the gossip columns”, he says, adding: “When I drove down LA’s Wilshire Boulevard, there was a billboard of Criss as big as the Hilton Hotel.”

Geller can comfort himself that Angel is little known in the UK, beyond a few tabloids briefly linking him to the troubled pop star Britney Spears.

Geller himself has been a controversial character over the years, with some people mesmerised by his abilities and others cynical.

“For many years lots of things have been attached to my name. People have called me anything from a magician, to a mentalist, to a psychic, to a ‘mystifier’, to a miracle worker. Yes, everything. I mean, I’ve even been called a trickster. You name it, I have been called nearly everything. I love to be called a ‘mystifier’. After all, I have amazed and mystified millions of people in the world.”

Whereas many young boys dream of being a fireman or astronaut, the young Geller spent his formative years in Tel Aviv with other ambitions in mind. “I was three years old, when I was eating soup, and suddenly the spoon bent in my hand. That was the first time my association with an energy, a power or a talent came.”

More intriguingly, he believes the source of his abilities may be inherited. “It comes from my mother’s side, because she’s related directly to Sigmund Freud. Very few people know this, but my name in my passport is actually Uri Geller Freud.”

No stranger to reality TV, in 2002 Geller appeared on ITV1’s I’m a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here. Even though it was well publicised that he was a vegetarian, he proudly admits: “I was the first person on the history of I’m a Celebrity… to eat living bugs.”

Does he feel these programmes can keep working? “Some reality shows are better than others. I think that reality television is still going to flourish. People think it’s peaked, but no way. It’s exactly like the magazines such as the National Enquirer, OK! or Hello!. People are interested in celebrities, people are interested in gossip. People are interested in the lives of others; people are interested in the mysterious things. The universe and beyond. Shows like ours, like Phenomenon, will always be intriguing.”

So back to the question of who is right about Geller — the fans who believe in his talents, or the doubters who do not.

For what it is worth, I can add a personal experience to the debate. A few years back, I interviewed Geller about his well-publicised friendship with pop star Michael Jackson.

During our conversation, he asked me to take off my necklace — a choker with a curved metal pendant hanging from it.

He rubbed his fingers over the metal pendant and, as I watched, it bent. Simple as that — he was not even touching the part that contorted.

I could not find any logical explanation for what happened right before my eyes. Later, I asked if he would tell me how he did it.

He replied: “If I am asked, ‘Uri, tell me how do you do it,’ I simply answer that I’d rather it be a mystery.”

Mystifying indeed.

Born: Tel Aviv in December 1946. His original name was Geller Gyorgy

Family: Geller was born to Hungarian- and Austrian-Jewish immigrants to Palestine. He claims to be distantly related to Sigmund Freud on his mother’s side

Early life: Geller says he first became aware of his paranormal powers when he was three, after a light from the sky knocked him to the ground. He served as a paratrooper in the Israeli army and was wounded in action during the 1967 Six-Day War. His early career was as a nightclub entertainer in Israel. He moved to America in the early 1970s

Geller trivia: He speaks four languages — Hebrew, English, Hungarian and German. He has been chairman of English football club Exeter City. He owns a 1976 Cadillac adorned with thousands of pieces of bent cutlery, given to him by, among others, John Lennon and the Spice Girls. He says he has been anorexic for many years

Jewish identity: Geller is the president of the International Friends of Magen David Adom. He also says he that his friendship with Michael Jackson — Jackson was best man when Geller renewed his wedding vows — ended over antisemitic comments the star allegedly made.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Uri Geller And Criss Angel Present : Phenomenon

Uri Geller and Criss Angel Present Phenomenon. The New ground breaking reality show on NBC.

Beginning Oct 24th, Wednesday, 8pm EST on NBC. Don't forget to watch Phenomenon

Check out the trailer below running currently on NBC!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Los Angeles

What I love most about Los Angeles is the sense of being inside a movie. Anything is possible, the more dramatic the better. All you have to do is dream.

At dinner last night with my TV producer, Suzy Lamb, I heard a wonderful story about Jim Carrey, the comic star of The Truman Show and Bruce Almighty. In 1987, a 25-year-old unknown, Jim drove his old Toyota into the Hollywood Hills and parked on Mulholland Drive.

The city which was spread out before him, like angel dust on the hillside, had never heard of him, but he was going to make sure it did — and the rest of the world with it. Taking a scrap of paper and a pen, he wrote himself a cheque, “for acting services rendered,” and dated it Thanksgiving Day 1995... eight years in the future.

The cheque was for ten million dollars.

Jim Carrey believed in his own talent so vividly, and was so unswervably committed to turning his dream into reality, that he easily outstripped his goal. By 1995, he’d broken box office records with The Mask and Dumb And Dumber, his worldwide grosses were estimated at more than half a billion dollars, and he commanded a cool $20m a picture.

Throughout my career, I’ve been urging people, “Believe in yourself and anything is possible.” But if your self-belief needs a boost, jump on a plane and come to Los Angeles.

And bring some sun-cream... it was 110 degrees in the city yesterday, and out in the California desert today, on a dry lake bed at El Mirage, the thermometer is bursting out through the glass. It’s hard to believe California is on the same planet as England — we had more rain last month than this desert has had in a century.

I’m here with a crew of around 80 technicians to shoot a promo for my show Phenomenon with Criss Angel. He’s internationally famous, but in the US there’s no one bigger — more members of the public would recognise his face than could name even the President.

I was introduced to Criss about an hour ago, and he struck me as a charming, thoughtful guy. Shooting an entire series with him promises to be a fascinating experience.

We have to survive this promo first, of course. Unbelievably, as well as contending with the naked sun and 115 degree sands, there are billion-watt lamps over our heads. I’m wearing a special jacket designed to absorb or deflect all the heat — otherwise, I’d look like I’d just stepped fully clothed out of a swimming bath.

And of course we have an air-conditioned trailer. That’s not a Hollywood luxury... it’s a life-support system.

I can’t wait to see the finished promo footage. There will be amazing, stunning special effects. And I have no lines... it’s all about the way I stare into the lens. The location was chosen for its eerie open spaces and the other-worldly glow of its cracked, white sands. For me it’s a unique experience — I’ve never shot anything like it.

Yesterday we were at the NBC studios, with Jay Leno’s Tonight Show shooting next-door. I was astonished to see a team of 18 people for an ordinary photoshoot, taking publicity stills for newspapers and magazines in the run-up to the show’s launch. It really drove home to me what a massive business NBC is — one of the big three television channels, in the country that produces most of the world’s biggest TV shows.

The Tonight Show, when it was compered by the late Johnny Carson, was the scene of my greatest professional humiliation, in 1974. My detractors have never let me forget that night: my dowsing and mind-reading abilities deserted me, in front of an audience of countless millions.

Johnny, who was an amateur conjuror and a sceptic about the power of the mind, thought he’d caught me out. I knew I was simply having the worst off-night imaginable, like a tennis star who freezes on match point. But it was a turning point for me, and I learned more from that disaster than I could have possibly discovered by any easy route.

Yesterday I was interviewed by NBC’s publicity team, who wanted to know what will make Phenomenon a show unlike any other. The answer lies with the character and charisma of the contestants. It’s about natural-born showmanship, creating acts that make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

And it’s about the audience too. I’ll be urging viewers to video any phenomena that erupt spontaneously in their homes while they are watching — they can email the clips to us and we’ll be able to screen them live on air. That’s a genuinely thrilling prospect.

Shipi and I were amazed to find ourselves standing under a mural depicting NBC’s logos down the decades. The rainbow swatches started out in 1956 as a peacock... with eleven feathers. Regular readers will know I regard eleven as much more than a lucky number: it signifies a connection to the cosmic consciousness, a gateway to infinite possibilities. It’s no coincidence that this peacock has eleven brilliant feathers.

My daughter Nat, who lives and works out here in the movie industry, has been driving me and Shipi round in her Mini Cooper. It’s the quintessentially British car for a very English young lady! But we’re off to Germany in the morning, and it’s a sure bet that my next despatch won’t be coming from a 115 degree desert. Fortunately, we’re booked on an airline where the seats recline fully, into beds. I’m going to need mine!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

NBC Phenomenon Preview

Premieres Wednesday, October 24 8/7c

New LIVE competition that will blow your mind!


Mystifier/artist Criss Angel ("Criss Angel MINDFREAK") and famed mentalist Uri Geller will host this mysterious live competition series in which they will conduct an intensive search for the next great mentalist. The series tests 10 hopeful mentalists who must compete each week to demonstrate a wide spectrum of mystifying talents for a panel of weekly celebrity guests and a studio audience. Geller and Angel will assess the contestants but ultimately the winner's fate will be determined by the viewers at home. In addition to voting, each episode will also contain an interactive component to engage the at home audience. WATCH PREVIEW NOW


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