We Spoke To Derren Brown About Zombies, The EU Referendum And What He's Up To Now
Derren Brown is one of my favourite people of all time. So when the opportunity for an interview came up, you better believe that I was all over that shit. But what do you ask a man whose achievements include a BAFTA, an RTS Television Award, a ride at Thorpe Park and countless sold out shows to an estimated one and a half million people?
I thought I'd start with the obvious. Zombies.
TheLADbible: Hi Derren. In one of your TV shows, Apocalypse, you convinced someone that zombies had taken over the planet. Do you have your own zombie plan?
Derren: I would probably do what I do when I play computer games that involve zombies. I'd just hide, I'd find a cupboard or room that doesn't have a zombie in it and I'd stay there.
We have very similar plans. I'd hide in a bathroom because then at least you have running water.
Yes and a toilet! A working toilet and some books to read.
Speaking of being scared, you're just about to open Ghost Train - an attraction at Thorpe Park. What made you want to move into this type of entertainment? Is there more in the pipeline?
I just got asked! It was a fairly random request from Merlin who asked would I do something and it was complete carte blanche; I could do anything at all. A ghost train just made complete sense. It sounded like a terribly exciting idea so I said yes. It's taken a few years of working on it and it hasn't quite opened up yet but we're getting there. I mean, it's just fun.
The only reason I'm doing it because its fun and it didn't have to have any agenda to it. Well, there is a message to it but it's ultimately to scare and thrill people which is a lovely one to begin. I don't know if there'll be any other rides or anything like that but it's nice to open up to a different kind of arena.
So yeah, I might. It might not necessarily be a ride in a theme park but maybe other forms of entertainment.
Will you be watching the reactions of people when they come off the ride? Through a TV or in disguise?
Annoyingly, I'm on tour when it will open. What I'd love to do is hide and see how people react because, like anything I do, it doesn't really exist until people take part in it. Plus, it's also their reactions that tell me what I'm doing right and wrong. Through that, I can tweak it accordingly (which is going to be a slow process because I'm not going to be around) so I'll jump in later.
In terms of touring, this is the last show you're going to do for a while after 14 years. What are you going to do with your time off?
Well I'm going to Broadway and doing a show there, it's not much of a break. What is a break is that I don't have to write a new show, I can use material that I've done here and form a new show out of stuff that's already familiar to me. That'll be really handy and lovely because the hard part is not actually touring per se, although it can be six months away every year and that can get a little bit tiring... but it's more writing a new show and then working it in. It takes a long time before it really feels like to me that it's really up to speed.
Doing that every couple of years... that's the main thing that I'd like a break from. Not the actual doing of it or being on the road, I quite enjoy that! So yeah, it'll be a year out in America and then I don't know. I imagine I'll come back and tour again or maybe I'll take a second year out... I don't know I'll see how it goes.
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Are you a workaholic? It sounds like you are.
No I'm not! I think I'm like a lot of people who work a lot... I'm actually quite lazy and I have to put these things in otherwise I know I just wouldn't do anything. I'd just sit and watch movies and read. It's also the nature of these things that they take quite a long time, so as long as they're fun then I'll happily connect myself to them because that's how I earn my living. If they have to take eight months then it could cross over with another project that takes a few months so it can look like a huge amount of work, but actually it's quite a small number of projects.
I have a production company now so I'll be looking at other things that I can do where I'm not actually the guy at the front doing it but where I can you know direct or write things that other people can do and that'll be kind of interesting. It'll be good to step back a little bit and get on with reading and hiding in the bathroom from zombies.
Whats the weirdest thing that's ever happened on stage? I know your shows themselves are quite unusual anyway but has there been anything that's actually taken you by surprise?
Without me intentionally doing anything to the audience, some people take it in strange ways. I had a guy come up on stage and stop the show in Swansea because he was convinced that the entire thing was an elaborate trick on him. The entire show, the staging of it, he thought that the audience were all there as actors and you know, it got quite aggressive and we had to stop the show and get rid of him. He came back again later and we had to stop the show again and it was extraordinary.
I met up with him the next day to check that he was alright, and what happened was he found himself slightly resopnding to something that I did over the whole audience. He was one of those people who was convinced that he'd never respond to these things, and then of course he did, so his reaction to that was that he panicked and decided the whole thing was this enormous stunt. So yeah, that was an unusual one.
What was your first email address? The more embarrassing the better when it comes to this one to be honest.
I think it was something like [email protected] - I haven't said that for 20 years or something.
It was funny saying that again because I haven't said that it so long. I don't know what happens if you email it? I lived in Bristol at the time and I used to wear a cape and I had long hair and a drop earring and boots... that takes me right back.
We definitely would have been friends then cos I was just as odd, I'm still a bit of a goth to be honest but it sounds like we would've been mates. Anyway! We're trying to encourage young people to vote in the upcoming EU referendum, so my final question to you is - are you in or out?
I'm definitely more in than out. I'm useless with politics. I always feel that the more certainty you have on a subject, the less you usually know about it. One of the things that defines an expert is that they're very aware of how little they actually know about their subject. There's certain people who mouth off on the internet forums about how much they know about something and how definite something is.
You see in on X Factor where someone is just really terrible, they're convinced on how great they are and they just cant understand why they've been rejected. So I just tend to keep out of politics because I feel that I don't know much about it. I feel that there must be some very good arguments for staying out of it, but at a gut level (which may not be the best place to make decisions) I'm definitely more in than out.
Thank you so much, Derren.
So, as you can see, Derren and I are now officially best mates.
He's currently touring the UK with his show, Miracle. Find out more here.
Words by Mel Ramsay
Featured image credit: Getty