Teller, former Latin teacher:
“Doing beautiful things is its own reward,” he says, when I ask what enjoyment he can still derive from a trick he has pulled off many thousands of times before. “If you do something that you’re proud of, that someone else understands, that is a thing of beauty that wasn’t there before – you can’t beat that.” He gulps suddenly, like a snake trying to swallow an egg, and when he speaks again his voice has a wobble to it.
“There is that great line in Sunday in the Park with George,” he says, referring to Stephen Sondheim’s 1984 musical about Georges Seurat, “ 'Look, I made a hat where there never was a hat’.” He falls silent again and, as unexpectedly as those coins turn to fish, big fat tears start rolling down his cheeks. “I can’t say that line without choking up, because it states, in profoundly poetic terms, what I have always wanted to do with my life. It’s so simple and so funny, but boy it hits me deep.”
Penn, one time juggler:He couldn’t care less what they think. “I have always hated magic,” he says. “I have always hated the basic undercurrent of magic which Jerry Seinfeld put best when he said: 'All magic is “Here’s a quarter, now it’s gone. You’re a jerk. Now it’s back. You’re an idiot. Show’s over”.’ I never wanted to grow up to be a magician. It was never my goal.” He would rather have been a rock star, he says, but the business seemed already saturated with extraordinarily talented people. “So my thinking was, and I will say this outright, music is full of people I absolutely love. I don’t have a chance. They are all better than me. Magic has, ooh, nobody in it that I like.” He rocks back in his chair, cackling. “This is the field for me!”