While it's somewhat overshadowed by his Dark Knight trilogy and sci-fi epics like Inception and Interstellar, The Prestige stands tall as one of Christopher Nolan's best films. The 2006 adaptation of Christopher Priest's novel of dueling magicians in late 19th century England is a gripping, complex tale of magic, mystery, science, the paranormal, and obsession, and features a hell of a cast that included David Bowie as a fictionalized version of the great inventor Nikola Tesla.
Writing now in EW weeks after Bowie's shocking death from cancer at the age of 69, the director recalled that Bowie initially turned down the role and Nolan had to keep lobbying him to accept it:
As someone who was the biggest Bowie fan in the world, once I made that connection, he seemed to be the only actor capable of playing the part. He had that requisite iconic status, and he was a figure as mysterious as Tesla needed to be. It took me a while to convince him, though -- he turned down the part the first time. It was the only time I can ever remember trying again with an actor who passed on me. I petitioned to let me explain why he was the right actor for it. In total honesty, I told him if he didn’t agree to do the part, I had no idea where I would go from there. I would say I begged him.
Nolan then described what it was like to work with one of his heroes:
The experience of having him on set was wonderful. Daunting, at first. He had a level of charisma beyond what you normally experience, and everyone really responded to it. I’ve never seen a crew respond to any movie star that way, no matter how big. But he was very gracious and understood the effect he had on people. Everyone has fond memories of getting to spend time with him or speak to him for a little bit. I only worked with him briefly -- four or five days -- but I did manage to sneak a couple moments to chat with him, which are very treasured memories of mine. Normally when you meet stars, no matter how starry they are, when you see them as people, some of that mystique goes away. But not with David Bowie...I loved the fact that after having worked with him, I had just the same fascination with his talent and his charisma. I thought that was quite magical.
Bowie is indeed quite spectacular in his brief screen time in The Prestige, and his portrayal of the enigmatic Tesla is unforgettable even a film that boasts the likes of Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman and Michael Caine. Nolan's poignant tribute only emphasizes what a loss the death of Bowie will continue to be, but at least through the magic of cinema, that loss will never be total.