Benedict Cumberbatch to Star in World War II Epic 'The War Magician' - Hollywood Reporter

Benedict Cumberbatch is attached to star in The War Magician, a World War II epic tale that Studio Canal is financing.

Cumberbatch will portray British hero Jasper Maskelyne, the titular magician whose clever illusions helped the Allied forces fight against the Nazis during World War II.

Jasper Maskelyne: Gentleman, Soldier, Magician

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Jasper Maskelyne was one of an established family of stage magicians.

In January 1941, General Archibald Wavell created A Force for subterfuge and counterintelligence. Maskelyne was assigned to serve in it and gathered a group of 14 assistants, including an architect, art restorer, carpenter, chemist, electrical engineer, electrician, painter, and stage-set builder. It was nicknamed the Magic Gang.

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The Magic Gang built a number of illusions. They used painted canvas and plywood to make jeeps look like tanks — with fake tank tracks — and tanks look like trucks. They created illusions of armies and battleships.

His largest illusion was to conceal Alexandria and the Suez Canal to misdirect German bombers. He built a mockup of the night-lights of Alexandria in a bay three miles away with fake buildings, lighthouse, and anti-aircraft batteries. To mask the Suez Canal he built a revolving cone of mirrors that created a wheel of spinning light nine miles wide, meant to dazzle and disorient enemy pilots so that their bombs would fall off-target.

He died in 1973 after having moved to Kenya.

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My interest in Jasper comes on the heels of learning about HBO’s new series, Hobgoblin.

The potential series centers on a group of magicians and con men who use their skills at deception to battle Hitler and his forces during World War II.

The classic story of magicians fighting nazis. I’m guessing this is somewhat inspired by Jasper. 

Supposedly, this show is to be written by Michael Chabon and directed by Darren Aronofsky.

I hope this sees the light of day. 

Benedict Cumberbatch attached to star in The War Magician

Though you might think he’ll have had his fill of the mystical arts after starring in Doctor Strange, it appears Benedict Cumberbatch is happy to keep on with the magic act for a different role. He’s attached to star in The War Magician.

It’s the story of real-life magician and illusionist Jasper Maskelyne, who, along with a group of colleagues dubbed The Magic Gang, became an integral part of a unit focused on the action along the Suez Canal in World War II. He devised ingenious – and very large scale – illusion systems that virtually made tanks invisible from the air, hid whole buildings full of ammunition and supplies, and even made an entire city vanish and reappear several miles away. Maskelyne joined the Royal Engineers at the start of the war, thinking that his skills could be used to create camouflage. He convinced skeptical officers by creating the illusion of a German warship on the Thames using only mirrors and a model. The military eventually deployed him to the North African theatre in the Western Desert, although he spent most of his time there entertaining the troops. But his work was enough that he ended up on Hitler’s personal blacklist.

This one has been in the works for a while, with Tom Cruise and Paramount buying the rights to David Fisher’s eponymous non-fiction book back in 2001. Since then, little has happened beyond Marc Forster flirting with directing the film and, as it stands now, it’s in the hands of StudioCanal with Book Of Eli writer and Rogue One contributor Gary Whitta on screenplay duty. No director is currently attached, and there’s a ways to go with the film, not least because it’ll have to wait for Cumberbatch to be finished with his Strange work.

James White.