EW.com talks to the magician about his bone chilling stunt

By Josh Wolk
Updated November 29, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST
David Blaine
Credit: Blaine: Eric Antanitus/Retna

When illusionist David Blaine emerges from a 6 ton ice cage after two days (it all happens live Wednesday at 10 p.m. on the ABC special ”David Blaine: Frozen in Time”), he doesn’t want anybody wondering, ”Okay, what’s the trick?” (Party pooping illusionist Penn Jillette, of Penn & Teller, has publicly posited that it’s nothing more than an igloo with a hidden heat sourcer.) The sealed off icebox is purely an ”endurance experience,” Blaine says, and not — as many people supposed during his weeklong internment in a glass coffin last year — a hologram trick. ”There is no such thing as a full sized hologram that can look people in the eyes and respond to them,” says Blaine, 27. ”That would be hundreds of millions of dollars of technology. If I had that kind of money, I wouldn’t have been in a coffin 6 feet deep for a week.”

To help prove that it really is Blaine on ice, he’s been allowing people to walk around the ice cube — which is set up in the front window of the ”Good Morning America” studio in Times Square — and touch the ice. (Or view him via his website.) Blaine won’t be able to wave back as he did in his coffin, since there’s only 2 inches of clearance around his half clothed body, not enough to scratch his own nose, let alone give passersby a thumbs up. (He will be wearing special boots that will help pump blood through his body so he doesn’t develop clots.)

Inside the ice block, the temperature tops out at around 39 degrees, Blaine says — a chill that can, after eight hours, cause hypothermia. Since he will be inside for more than seven times longer, he’ll be coating his body in the same warmth sealing gel used by long distance ocean swimmers. As added insurance, doctors will monitor Blaine’s vital signs the whole time, and if his body temperature dips below 90 degrees, they will order the chain saws and ice picks in early to free Mr. Freeze.

Blaine himself seems unfazed by the dangers, although he’ll casually toss around phrases like, ”I could easily drop” to make sure you acknowledge his risks. But he’s boiling over with enthusiasm, and has been since he came up with the idea while vacationing last year. His original plan was to drown in a tank of water and then be brought back to life, but ”I had a drawing of [the tank], and I was in Jamaica, so it’s hot, and I looked at it and said, ‘It looks like ice.’ No one’s ever done frozen in a block of ice before.” His girlfriend, 22 year old model Josie Maran, was with him at the time and wasn’t thrilled about his epiphany. ”I try not to let him be in a place where he’s creative,” she says. ”When he thought of it, I went, ‘Aaagh, why couldn’t I have said something so he didn’t have to think of it at that moment?”’

Blaine says he’s been training for this event for months, starting off by soaking in ice water in his tub. ”I started alone in my bathroom so nobody would know about it, because I was afraid at first I wouldn’t even be able to do it,” he says. Then he moved into extended dunks in ice water filled tanks, from which he’d emerge with bright red skin. He also practiced grabbing catnaps standing up in his apartment. If he slumps over in the cage, he risks a fate far worse than sticking your tongue against a lamppost in winter. ”If my face presses into the ice, they’ll have to cut my face off,” he says dramatically. If he does lean against the cage, his support team has the ultimate wake up call planned: They’ll give his external catheter a tug. ”If I fall asleep, and I’m in trouble, it’s ‘YAAAAH!”’ he laughs.

Ahhh, yes — the catheter. It was the question everyone wondered during his coffin stay: How does he, well, you know? The answer: He’ll be fasting for five days before he’s sealed in, so his colon will be out of business. He’ll be provided drinking water through a hose, and can urinate through his catheter, something it took time to master while underground. ”It’s weird, you’re exposed and open and people are waving and smiling at you,” he says. ”In the beginning, it was so hard, I had to close my eyes and pretend I was in the bathroom. The first time I had to pee it took two hours. But by day three, when my back was hurting, I could be smiling, reading a sign, and pissing all at the same time.”

After the bathroom query, the second most obvious question is, ”Okay, after he’s thawed out, what’s next?” Blaine’s already got some plans for future stunts (beyond the drowning, which is still on the roster), of which he intends to do one a year. ”One is a bridge drop. No further discussion,” he says. ”Another is called the bullet catch. But not into the teeth like the magicians do it. I’m talking about no shirt, catching it in the chest for real. I’m also gonna do some hanging off buildings. It’s all performance art; that’s how I look at it.”

Plus, see EW magazine’s sneak peek at Blaine’s stunt.