By EW Staff
Updated August 11, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

After successfully doing the big-budget superhero extravaganza thing with Batman Begins, the director of Memento says he was looking to get back to his indie roots before revisiting the Caped Crusader with the forthcoming The Dark Knight. Something intimate. Stripped-down. Everything that The Prestige — a star-studded drama about the rivalry between two turn-of-the-20th-century stage magicians, one a brilliant showman (Hugh Jackman), the other a brilliant technician (Christian Bale) — actually doesn’t seem to be. Yet either appearances are deceiving or Christopher Nolan really is some kind of cinematic wizard: Sprinting away from the methodical precision shooting of Batman Begins, Nolan used handheld cameras, natural light, and existing locations. ”I didn’t want to shoot this in any way like a conventional period piece,” says Nolan, who spent seven years adapting Christopher Priest’s acclaimed 1995 novel with his brother, and Memento co-writer, Jonathan.

The director calls Prestige a ”puzzle film,” with a narratives-within-narratives structure that mirrors the dramatic arc and tangential misdirections of a magic trick. (”The prestige” is magician jargon for an act’s denouement.) Translation: Nolan wants to keep the plot hush-hush. But we can tell you that Batman and Wolverine bonded over comparing the perks of their superhero contracts. ”We both have the same agent, so that was kind of interesting,” laughs Jackman. So…whose compensation, er, package was bigger? ”I can’t reveal that!” Like magicians and movie directors, apparently actors also never give away their secrets.

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