UPN’s TV movie Death by Magic, with former Sliders star Charlie O'Connell, found good taking on evil with the fate of mankind in the middle! Judy Sloane delves into her box of tricks and pulls out a feature...

Charlie O'Connell: he's magic

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Selected from Xposé Special #11

In search of a new Grand MagicianGrand Magician Simon Magus must find his replacement before he dies - the survival of the human race depends on it. This intriguing premise sets the stage for UPN's movie Death by Magic. "At first glance, the world of Death by Magic seems utterly contemporary" acknowledges the film's producer, Bennett Cohen "but, when you cut a little deeper, you find it's also the world of the eternal, of ancient rituals... A world where magic is real. The new Grand Magician must take over from Simon and lead all the good magicians through the next thousand years."

Enter Michael Devane, a street conjuror making his living in the seaside resort of Newton, USA. "There are a number of prophecies that point Simon to where and who the next Magician will be," comments Cohen. "But they're prophecies that both good and evil are hip to, drawing both forces to the arena and creating a race as to who will get to Michael first."

When Charlie O'Connell was approached about the role of Michael, he agreed before they could say 'abracadabra!' "I guess I pulled a little magic trick at the audition and got the role," he laughs. "As soon as I arrived in Sydney, Australia, where we shot the film, they hired a magician called Kristo the Amazing to teach me the magic tricks I needed to do. As a little kid, I always loved getting tricks at the magic store, but nowhere near the amount of tricks that I had to do in this thing."

Cohen knew immediately that O'Connell, who co-starred with his brother Jerry for one season on Sliders, was perfect for the role. "Peter Firth (who plays Simon) and Charlie give wonderful, charismatic likeable performances. Charlie feels like a young Keanu Reeves in this."

O'Connell says "As a kid I did judo and karate, and I'm still pretty flexible. This movie is like The Matrix and, in a sense, we give them a good run with the special effects. The hardest trick for me was a scene where I walk across a building on a tightrope. I was pretty proud of myself. I did it well, and I was never in a circus!"

Magic plays an active and crucial role in the movie as Cohen explains. "It plays as an element of faith , and as an element of battle. There's a lot of Jackie Chan hand-to-hand action in it. A kind of supernatural martial arts. Evil has this fire-like power that the Magicians throw, but they don't stick out their hands - it's burning in their eyes."

When Michael is first approached by Simon, he refuses to believe in his awesome destiny. "I run from it," says O'Connell. "But, I'm the last chance. If it's not me, then it's no one and evil will reign for a thousand years. I'm the only one who can see the magic. It's a matter of facing that I'm the one and coming to terms with it..."

Images © UPN • Feature © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000

IN THIS XPOSÉ SPECIAL (#11)

10-PAGE A TO Z OF XENA • RENEE O'CONNOR on XENA's GABRIELLE • ROBERT TREBOR ON HERCULES' SALMONEUS • 7-PAGE SEASON TWO GUIDE TO HERCULES • MICHAEL SHANKS ON STARGATE SG-1 • GRAHAME BOND ON BEASTMASTER • GINA TORRES ON CLEOPATRA 2525 • BARCLAY HOPE ON PSI FACTOR • SAM WHIPPLE ON SEVEN DAYS • DENNIS HAYSBERT ON NOW AND AGAIN plus PITCH BLACKTHE TENTH KINGDOM • WITCHCRAFT 84 PAGES AVAILABLE NOW