Benedict Cumberbatch to Star in ‘The War Magician’ Because Magic Is His Thing Now
For his next trick, Benedict Cumberbatch will go from Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme to Warlock of War (all rights reserved) for the quite literally-named The War Magician, scripted by former Star Wars: Rogue One screenwriter Gary Whitta. The actor is turning his powerful eye from battling mystical comic book baddies as Doctor Strange to defeating Nazis with…magic tricks — though to be fair, the plot of The War Magician does sound like it could be a new Marvel movie based on an obscure superhero.
THR reports that Cumberbatch has signed on to star in The War Magician, based on a screenplay by The Book of Eli scribe Gary Whitta, who spent some time writing the first draft of Rogue One before he was replaced by Chris Weitz.
Based on a true story chronicled in the book by David Fisher, the upcoming war drama centers on Jasper Maskelyne, a skilled magician who used his powers of misdirection and illusion to help defeat the Nazis during World War II (yes, really). Maskelyne gathered his own “dirty dozen” to form what he called “The Magic Gang” (yes, really), using camouflage tricks to hide precious targets, equipment and vehicles.
The film seemingly combines Cumberbatch’s two favorite things: magic and war narratives. It’s basically The Imitation Game with a magician, or War Horse with a magician, or Doctor Strange with Nazis.
Maskelyne reportedly wound up on Adolf Hitler’s personal blacklist, which also contained the names of high-ranking officials like General Douglas MacArthur and British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery — all of whom were to receive “special treatment” if and when captured.
Here’s the official synopsis from Fisher’s book, published in 1983:
Jasper Maskelyne was a world famous magician and illusionist in the 1930s. When war broke out, he volunteered his services to the British Army and was sent to Egypt where the desert war had just begun. He used his skills to save the vital port of Alexandria from German bombers and to ‘hide’ the Suez Canal from them. He invented all sorts of camouflage methods to make trucks look like tanks and vice versa. On Malta he developed ‘the world’s first portable holes’: fake bomb craters used to fool the Germans into thinking they had hit their targets. His war culminated in the brilliant deception plan that won the Battle of El Alamein: the creation of an entire dummy army in the middle of the desert.
Cumberbatch is currently in production on Doctor Strange, which hits theaters on November 4, 2016. He also appears in the Sherlock Christmas special, which will arrive in select theaters on January 1, 2016.