Benedict Cumberbatch will make tanks invisible from the air in ‘The War Magician’


Well, at least we get one Sherlock episode in before Benedict Cumberbatch’s schedule gets tied up with yet another very intriguing film role. Whether his new project will cause a delay in the targeted April 2016 start of filming on the fourth series of Sherlock is not clear but everyone is, understandably at this point, laser-focused on the New Year’s Day premiere of Sherlock “The Abominable Bride”.

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The War Magician is a fact-based World War II thriller is based on David Fisher’s fact-based book of the same name. According to Deadline, Cumberbatch will play Jasper Maskelyne, a world famous magician who turned his skills toward creating sleight-of-hand stunts that fooled the Nazis and helped Allied fighting forces defeat the Nazis in World War II.

The subject matter reads right out of Hollywood so it’s no surprise that the film has been in development since 2003, with Tom Cruise originally set to play the part now going to the Sherlock star. Maskelyne used his talent for illusions by making tanks invisible from the air, hiding whole buildings full of ammunition and supplies. He was part of a dirty dozen-type collection of illusionists, nicknamed the “Magic Gang”, who were pieced together for the expressed purpose of subterfuge and counterintelligence.

Among other stunts, they created fake tanks and soldiers to give the illusion of troop movement to Nazi spy planes overhead. They used mirrors to shield machine gun nests, disguised tanks as supply trucks, and even managed to create illusions that concealed sites like the Alexandria harbor and Suez Canal, to keep Luftwaffe bombers from blowing them up. Maskelyne’s stunts vexed Gen.Rommel and his unstoppable forces in North Africa and gave the Brits a fighting chance using what the master magician termed “the mass production of tricks, swindles and devices.”

While I know that Doctor Who showrunner and Sherlock co-creator/writer, Steven Moffat has said that Sherlock Holmes and the Doctor would never cross paths, it’d be kind of cool to see the collective mind palaces of Sherlock and Maskelyne work together in a future episode. Just a thought.