Actor Kristen Connolly from “Houdini”
Talks to Rocking God’s House
Behind every great man there’s a great woman, and that old saying certainly rings true of Bess Houdini, the wife who labored beside Houdini to make his show and career such a stunning success. Bess was the one true love of Harry’s life — his assistant and closest confidant who stood by his side during his most amazing feats.
The History Channel recently aired a Mini-Series in two parts about the life of Houdini. According to The History Channel’s press release:
The two-night scripted miniseries HOUDINI follows the epic tales of Harry Houdini as he emerges as America’s first Boniface world-renowned superstar. From humble beginnings at circus sideshows to sold-out concert halls, Eastern European immigrant Ehrich Weiss rose to become a household name across the globe. The Great Harry Houdini as he finds fame, engages in espionage, battles spiritualists and encounters the greatest names of the era, from U.S. presidents to Arthur Conan Doyle and Rasputin. A thrilling ride throughout Harry’s psyche, HOUDINI delves deep behind the curtain into his life through his stunts, his visions and his mastery of illusion.
Although the show has already aired you can watch the episodes online here.
Academy-award winner Adrien Brody (The Pianist) played Harry Houdini. Bess Houdini, the woman beside Houdini, was played by the great actor Kristen Connolly (House of Cards, Revolutionary Road, The Cabin in the Woods), who gave a head-turning performance alongside Brody. I had the wonderful privilege of speaking with Kristen about her role in the movie:
What was it like to research your role of Bess Houdini for the movie?
What I did was I ordered a bunch of biographies and research books and most of them were over 600 pages long. Luckily, I have a friend who is a writer and a huge Houdini fan named Michael Mitnick who helped me and has an incredible knowledge of the lives of the Houdinis. Michael was kind enough to put me in touch with Tom Interval, who is a magician based in California and is a Houdini expert. He put together a packet for me of information on Bess that covered every aspect of her life. It was so helpful, and it was 40 pages long. It had information on her personal life as a child, how she grew up, information from people who really new her, and her relationship with Harry. So I was really lucky to have some great friends and knowledgeable experts of the Houdinis helping me out. I could not have done it without them.
How would you describe the actual relationship between Harry and Bess Houdini compared to how it was presented in the TV series?
Well, she was also a performer, and I think it is very important to remember that. She was in show business when they met. I think she loved him truly and was happy to let him take center stage. In all of the research that I did, there doesn’t seem to be any sense where she is competitive with him at all. They had a really wonderful and supportive relationship, and I think she was happy with letting him be the star.
Did you learn any magic while on the set?
Not really. Adrien and I have one trick together in the movie. It is called the Metamorphosis, and Harry and Bess performed it together for a long time. We did have a guy on set named David Merlini, who is a professional magician, and he showed me a couple of tricks. He showed me a trick where he would bend spoons and forks without touching them, just using his mind. I asked him how he did it, but he would never tell me.
Do you think Harry Houdini was a religious or spiritual man?
I would say yes. His father was a Jewish Rabbi and the leader of their faith in Appleton, Wisconsin where his family migrated to the United States from Budapest. I would say you would have to be spiritual to perform the feats that Houdini accomplished. [laughs]