A filmmaker whose unyielding obsession with the concept of truth versus illusion resulted in one of the most highly praised independent features of 2002, Neil Burger studied fine arts at Yale University before transitioning from painting to experimental film in the late '80s. In the years that followed, the aspiring filmmaker would develop his screenwriting skills before getting his big break as the director of a series of MTV advertisements created to promote literacy. Following a productive stint with Ridley Scott Associates, it was finally time for Burger to take a crack at directing his first feature film. A remarkable mockumentary detailing the confession of a former Marine who claimed to be the mythical "second gunman" in the Kennedy assassination, Burger's Interview with the Assassin took the spirit of The Blair Witch Project and effectively infused it with a healthy dose of modern conspiracy theory. Of course, after such an auspicious debut, fans and critics were bound to be curious as to what the imaginative director would come up with next. Although his sophomore feature, The Illusionist, seemed to share little in common with his previous effort on the surface, a closer inspection reveals that Interview's primary themes of illusion and reality are still very much in tact in the stylish tale of a turn-of-the-century Vienna magician who uses his powers to unmask the hypocrisy of the aristocracy. With a budget 20 times that of his impressive debut and a trio of talented actors including Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, and Jessica Biel at his disposal for only his second full-length feature, it appeared as if emerging filmmaker Burger would be using the magic of cinema to explore the unknown for many years to come.
by Jason Buchanan biography