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Michael Goorjian had an idea 4 years ago – to make a film based on a modern retelling of Pierre Corneille's 17th century play L'Illusion Comique. Goorjian first became aware of Corneille's classic tale while searching for plays to be produced with his Los Angeles-based theater company, The Buffalo Nights. L'Illusion Comique tells the story of an old man who seeks out a magician to help him find his estranged son. With regrets of having rejected the boy many years ago, the old man now wants him back, or at least wants to know what has become of him. The magician tells the man he cannot find the son but is willing to conjure up visions of the young man's life, to be replayed for the father in a cave. Along with the father, we watch these plays-within-the-play and learn of the son's adventurous life.

Imagining that the basic premise of the play could be adapted into a compelling modern drama, Goorjian was particularly interested in the segmented structure of the story. “I thought that showing the episodes of the son's life could be done like short films within the film,” Goorjian recalls. “That way they could each be shot separately; then later tied together with the story of the father.” Not having the funds to shoot the full feature-length movie, Goorjian thought it would be possible to use each segment he shot to raise money for the next one. Potential financiers could view the previously filmed material and thus be enlisted to support the production. Just as importantly, well-known actors, seeing previously shot footage, would be more likely to trust in Goorjian's vision.

Shooting commenced in January of 2001, with the first segment of Illusion, the son's “teenage” film. Segments two, the son's “20-something” film, and three, the son's “30-something” film, were subsequently shot in June and September of 2001. Though each segment was executed according to its own style or genre, the recurring theme throughout the son's life is that of tragic love. Goorjian and cinematographer Robert Humphreys designed each piece to have its own unique "look” and “feel” to best portray what love is like at various stages of a person's life. The first or “teenage” segment was shot very simply with a set of old lenses, which helped to give a nostalgic feel. Goorjian's intent was to depict a heightened experience of youthful love -- without complexity, almost embarrassing uncomfortable, honest, and awkward.

The "20-something" segment was filmed in a darker, complex, artsy, moody and lush style, portraying a search for love in the face of discovering who one is at that age. The final "30-something" segment was intended to portray love in a more mature way, simple and honest, and Humphreys shot this in a naturalistic style, the beauty of the locations and simple framing of the camera work being a reflection of what love can be like at a more mature age.

Shooting with limited financial resources necessitated a great deal of ingenuity to create what was essentially a much larger film than the budget allowed for, and there was a unique and fortuitous circumstance on Illusion. Because line producer Anahid Nazarian was a long-time employee of director and winemaker Francis Ford Coppola, she was able to obtain a large supply of his wines, which she then bartered for equipment, locations, and labor. In addition, Coppola lent the production his fine Arriflex 35mm camera, as well as other equipment and facilities.

Dan Fried, an Executive Producer on Illusion, brought a ten-minute presentation reel to entitled entertainment. Entitled entertainment, a very new company, was looking for films that had a point of view, were distinctive, and needed help fulfilling their vision. “We were immediately struck by the potential of the film and by Michael's enthusiasm, dedication, and most importantly his abilities as a director,” remembers Scott Disharoon, partner at entitled. "When we first sat down with him we knew immediately that as a director he had a vision for a film that would be both cinematic and heartfelt without being sentimental. What we didn't know was that he would be able to bring such a remarkable performance to the character of the son." James Burke, partner at entitled entertainment, concurs. "It is a rare talent that can play a role that asks him to age from a teenager to an adult and Goorjian did it seamlessly,” he says.

It was a difficult one and a half year process to find an actor to play the leading role of the father, Donald Baines. Burke and Disharoon wanted to go to the other end of the spectrum from Goorjian. “We wanted to find an older icon who one might not expect to do an independent movie and that would lend some gravitas to the film,” said Disharoon. A number of names were considered, and then the legendary star Kirk Douglas was suggested. Douglas was sent the ten-minute trailer of scenes, as well as the script. Douglas recalls, “I didn't intend to do the part of Illusion because I had just finished a picture with my son Michael and my grandson Cameron, called It Runs In The Family. But when I read the script of Illusion I knew I had to do it. It was a very intriguing script, and the role was very appealing to me; it was a challenge. The character is an old director, a very famous director who has spent his life in the world of make-believe. And he has a problem facing reality. That's the theme of the picture. And I was intrigued because I think that many people in my profession have the same problem. We're always playing another character. And sometimes it's difficult for us to find ourselves. So that was one of the aspects of the character that appealed to me very much.”

Goorjian went through an intensive rehearsal period with Douglas , meeting at Douglas 's house in Beverly Hills two to three days a week for six weeks. Goorjian would read the other characters, they'd work through scenes, rewrite dialogue, and change story lines. “Kirk would come up with ideas all the time, we tried all sorts of things, we would improvise in his study with a Chagall above his couch, surrounded by his awards and art and memorabilia. It was fantastic and surreal,” Goorjian recalls. After a few weeks, Goorjian brought in Ron Marasco, who was to play the role of “Stan,” and more script changes were made. Douglas was very determined that his role be rehearsed intensively, and in fact requested that the filming start date be moved later by two weeks because he wanted more time to prepare. It was a rare privilege for a young director to work with an actor of Douglas 's magnitude, and Goorjian was amazed by his vitality and enthusiasm. “Working with Kirk inspired me, in that you don't have to be young to still be excited about acting. He was just as excited as I was doing my first play.”

Shooting for the final section of the film took place over two weeks in February of 2003. Douglas enjoyed himself and entertained the cast and crew with reminiscences about famous filmmakers and actors he'd worked with. All were impressed with his unaffected personality and seemingly effortless acting ability. Recalls James Burke, "While watching Michael work with Kirk Douglas we immediately felt the presence of the extraordinary talent of a legendary actor working side by side with a brand new director whose gifts are exceptional." The filming went very smoothly and finished on schedule. Douglas enjoyed working with Goorjian. “Michael is a very, very talented guy. I'm very impressed with him. He wrote a beautiful script, and also his direction is immaculate. He's very good, very easy to work with. I thought maybe the picture I just finished, It Runs In The Family, would be my last picture. That was my 86th picture, but now, Illusion is my 87th. So I don't know. Something may come up and I could have a new career because now, since my stroke, if they need an older guy with sloppy speech, they have to come to me. I have the monopoly.”

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