The Guardian

Derren Brown: 'I was a terrible attention seeker'

For 20 years, the psychological illusionist has delighted TV audiences. He explains why he’s ready to give it all up and paint caricatures – and how magic made him question his religious faith
Just an illusion … the many faces of Derren Brown Photograph: Seamus Ryan

A mounted moose’s head looms over Derren Brown’s right shoulder. A black crayfish – “exploded” and expanded for display, its pincers reaching toward the ceiling – sits in the cabinet to his left, flanked by other unrecognisable curios. “I acquire a lot of shit, as you can probably tell,” says Brown over Zoom. His comfortable red fleece, draped over a blue shirt, is at odds with the macabre surroundings. He claims to have acquired more than 200 pieces of ethically sourced taxidermy, displayed throughout his home. The only way he can dust the moose’s head is to blow it with his cordless leaf blower. “Is that weird?” he asks.

“I like things that look real and aren’t. I quite like painting. I like my taxidermy. I like magic,” says the psychological illusionist (his term), mentalist, conjuror, writer, painter, photographer and performer. Even explaining the grim process of taxidermy, he manages to be charming and approachable – and to use the same, assured rationality with which he analyses his tricks.

“They’re not dead animals; they’re statues, really, because it’s an artificial body that has the skin stretched over it. So, as long as that skin is from something that’s passed away naturally, then to me that’s fine. But yeah, it is creepy,”

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