Here is the text of an article I wrote for the current Radio Times about Apocalypse – the first episode of which airs this Friday, C4 at 9pm. (It’s a little longer than the published version which was edited down a bit)
Well, hello there. This is my brand new website. Brighter, shinier and more absorbent, it was designed by Pixel Dandy (@pixeldandy, creator of Horrorgami) and built by the brilliant team @abeodbart and @drigodwin. It has taken a while to buffet and pummel it into the shape you see now, so do forgive the delay. However, as they say, those who abandon themselves to delayed gratification often accrue commodities of a desirable nature.
Firstly, a few quick things to point out:
1 – After much concern, the ‘store’ is remaining a ‘store’ and not a ‘shop’. I would like it to be a ‘shop’ but ‘Derren Brown Shop’ just sounds a bit lame. Either way, we will now globally ship (what’s wrong with ‘post’ for the love of God?) the few items we keep for people who would like to have a little piece of me across their chests (T-shirt) or entirely inside them (postcard pack). We have a limited number of signed Svengali brochures for sale too.
2 – If you are in the UK and perhaps due to mental illness would like to own one of three massive pictures of me taken from the front of the Novello theatre this year, feel free to enter our half-arsed competition to win one. But really, ask yourself slowly and repeatedly if you genuinely want it. What the hell are you going to do with it? Ok, it’s probably wipe-clean. But then what? If you’re really sure, email us at <<competition now closed>> and say what you’re planning to do with it and we’ll pluck three of our favourite answers out of a fruit-bowl and get it (the picture) to you. Here are some photographs so you get the idea. We can’t guarantee which one of the three we’ll send you but do say if you prefer one and we’ll do our best.
3 – We’re hoping you might spot a few bugs or glitches that we’ve missed. If you do (or if you want to send us any feedback that you think might be appreciated), please be kind enough to email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll deal with any errors discreetly and sensitively, ensuring that no liquid escapes onto your clothes and giving you complete peace of mind.
There you go. Experience, user.
‘Michael Sheen’ – acrylic on canvas 2011
I have known Michael for a little while, and recently went to see his Hamlet, directed by Ian Rickson and currently running at the New Vic. It’s phenomenal. Afterwards we had dinner and Michael spoke at length about what he and Ian had done with the play and why. A couple of weeks later we met again, I cooked an appalling piece of chicken and we asked him about his Passion, a mammoth modern unfurling of the Christ story spread across the streets and beaches of Port Talbot (an industrial port and market town where he grew up, and which has also produced Rob Brydon, Anthony Hopkins and Richard Burton). Michael is deeply energised about his work, and if the formula for success is TALENT + ENERGY (as noted by my manager, who added wisely that the formula for stardom is SUCCESS + ATTITUDE) then Michael radiates them powerfully. He’s surely one of the most extraordinary actors of our generation, and possesses a phenomenal creative drive without any of the exhausting ego that normally accompanies mere dull ambition.
So, as I tend to paint people that I know and find extraordinary, I asked if he would mind awfully. A bit over a week later, interrupted by Christmas of course, and tweeted in its various stages, the large (it’s five foot high) portrait above was completed. For those who do not tweet, or for those who do but who might like to see the sequence together, and above all for those who give a jot because they paint and are interested in the process, I shall set it out as best as I can. Here then, is how it came together:
I’ve been spending a bit of time in my painting studio. I thought I might update you. Twitter followers will have seen a shot of me painting the pianist James Rhodes. Here we are:
And here’s a better shot of the painting itself:
They’re acrylic on canvas. I’ve also been back and worked on the portrait of my father. Here it is, about the same size (5ft high) as the one of James:
and, for those who enjoy such things, a bit of detail:
Next up is actor friend Michael Sheen. I’ve taken a few shotsÂ and I’m about to get started.Â (I always take my own photographs and work quietly from them in my own time, as I only get a few hours here and there to paint). I’ll let you know when it’s done. What a great guy to paint. I can’t wait.
There are a few more pictures of portraits (including some of the older caricatures of Rufus Wainwright, Tom Waits, Clint Eastwood et al) on the artwork page of the main site. I’ll let you know here next time I have an exhibition: should be one next year somewhere.
Right, Merry Christmasses or just Happy Holidays, depending on whatnot. Ta-ta for now.
Every now and then I have a conversation with someone who has seen a couple of my shows, but hasnâ€™t read my books or writings, and believes I claim to do all sorts of things that I really donâ€™t. As I had such a discussion last night, and as Iâ€™ve been talking about the importance of testing psychic claims that could be fraudulent, I thought I would clarify a few points regarding my own work for anyone in any doubt.
Firstly, regarding the â€˜tricksâ€™ as performed in the older shows:
1. I have never used stooges. People generally imagine I must do if they can find no other explanation. But I donâ€™t: it would be artistically repugnant, totally unnecessary, impractical, and would spell career suicide.
2. My techniques are rooted in conjuring magic and hypnosis. All else is most likely misdirection and should be taken with a hefty pinch of salt.
3. I have never claimed to use NLP to achieve my â€˜tricksâ€™. On the contrary, I have written very critically about it inÂ Tricks of the Mind. I reserve the same scepticism for subliminal messaging, as well as a lot of body-language reading and the like.
Now, I have largely moved on from performing those sorts of tricks. So, as regards the specials, such asÂ The Experiments and others:
1. Again, the people used are never stooges or set up in any way. They generally apply through an open audition process, whereby we meet or interview them and look at various qualities they possess which would be useful (for example their jobs, beliefs, or how suggestible they are).
2. The contributors are always psychologically screened if they are going to go through a â€˜toughâ€™ experience. Without giving away what the show is, or giving them any clue that they will be used in it, we arrange for our preferred participants to have interviews with an independent psychologist who ensures that they will be â€˜robustâ€™ enough for the show. This is an important part of our duty of care, which we take very seriously throughout the entire process of making the programmes. And the â€˜heroesâ€™ of these specials always emerge exhilarated and delighted to have been part of it.
3. If I make a statement on these shows, it will be true. Nowadays, the Channel 4 lawyers check every word to make sure there is no misleading of the viewer: this is a huge issue in the TV industry at the moment. The joke in the office is that a magician canâ€™t even say â€˜this is a normal deck of cardsâ€™ on TV nowadays if it isnâ€™t, and I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s an exaggeration.
I know that fans will know all this already, but itâ€™s always worth repeating. Have lovely days and enjoy tonightâ€™s show if youâ€™re watching.