Illusionist ignores critics to play Russian roulette on TV

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The Independent Online

Derren Brown, the "psychological illusionist", is determined to press ahead tomorrow night with a game of Russian roulette using a loaded gun live - more or less - on British television.

Howls of protest from anti-gun activists and senior police have failed to deter the British-born illusionist from a stunt that has proved fatal for magicians in the past.

At about 9.45pm, one of three people, chosen from 12,000 volunteers to assist, will load a live bullet into a handgun and hand it to Brown at a secret location outside the UK.

In the words of his publicity team, "he will then use his infamous ability to predict people's behaviour to determine which of the numbered chambers contains the bullet".

He will put the gun to his head, and pull the trigger until he comes to the live chamber, when he will fire the gun at the floor. He will shoot only if he is sure he has read the assistant's mind correctly.

"I will choose the person who I feel most comfortable reading and anticipating. They must have steady nerves and be the kind of person who isn't going to buckle under the pressure. After all, there is quite a lot at stake for me," he said.

David Beckley, a spokesman for the Magic Circle, the magicians' union, said, personally, he would not attempt this trick. "But Derren Brown is a professional. He's a very clever young gentleman and I'm sure he's thought carefully about doing this particular stunt. The thing I want to say to people watching is, for goodness sake, do not try this at home."

Jon Allen, a magician who specialises in close-up, refused to give too many tricks of the trade away. But he said he would be surprised if Brown attempted something so dangerous on psychology alone.

"All magicians use a little bit of psychology. But I don't think he will be using pure psychology to figure out which chamber has got the bullet in it.

"There are ways of making it easier. The fact that there are numbered chambers means it is not as pure as it could be - the pure way would be to stick a bullet in the chamber, spin it round and say, 'I'll tell you as you're holding it to my head.' It's not as pure as that."

Magicians killed doing Russian roulette stunts in the past include an American known as Chung Lee Su who died at the Wood Green Empire in London in the early 20th century.

Linda Mitchell, of the group Mothers Against Guns, which protested to Channel 4 yesterday, said she was worried at the example Brown was setting.

"The thought that he can get away with it might be enough to encourage young people to try it," she said. Channel 4 "are quite willing to admit they're going to push the boundaries to the limit".

A Channel 4 spokesman said there would be "strenuous warnings" reminding viewers that it was taking place in a controlled environment with the help of firearms experts. And if anything does go wrong, there will be a slight delay, as there is on shows such asBig Brother.