Michael Grandinetti is one of the country’s best magicians – and he’s been able to translate that across many mediums. Learn how in the latest Deeper Cut.
When we think about entertainment, we think of movies, music and television. Audiences don’t automatically consider magic—but Michael Grandinetti is changing the conversation. Meet this talented entertainer in this week’s Deeper Cut.
The Los Angeles-based Grandinetti is a magician, and an excellent one. You may have seen him when he performed at a Golden State Warriors halftime show, or when he was featured on The CW’s magic TV series Masters of Illusion, or when he appeared on FOX Sports.
If for some reason you haven’t, then you’ve been missing out. Like any good magician, he’s adept at a wide variety of illusions, from the biggest levitations and escapes to more intimate sleight of hand and close-up tricks. Viewers would be hard-pressed to find something he can’t do, and do well.
But where Michael Grandinetti truly separates himself from the pack is how he’s pushing magic back into the national entertainment conversation. He’s not only brought his magic into the sports and TV worlds; for him, those other forms of entertainment are part of the act. As what we watch and how we watch it changes, he’s the performer who has evolved along with it.
And it all started when he was five years old in his hometown of Pittsburgh.
“I got a magic kit for Christmas when I was five and that was it,” he told FanSided. “I was hooked. I can remember running down the stairs that Christmas morning and seeing that under the tree, and it just pulled me in.
“I remember trying out this magic and people reacting positively to it,” he recalled. “I took that magic kit in for show and tell in my kindergarten class, very shy and I was a little scared to get up there. But the kids reacted and the teacher smiled and they clapped and that was it. Knowing that I could affect people in a positive way—when you’re shy and nervous to talk to people, but you can get up to do magic and make them respond positively it has a tremendous impact, especially for someone that young.
“Then I really wrapped my head around the creativity of it…Finding new pieces of magic was like each one was a new experience and you learn something, and it was just tremendously exciting. I’ve still never lost that love of developing new magic; when I bring new magic into our show, I still get that same kind of pure excitement.”
Everything Grandinetti has done since comes from that same place of pure joy and enthusiasm for his craft. It’s not hard to find a magician who loves what they do, but it’s rare to find someone who has that heart shine through so clearly. Whether you see him at a halftime show, one of his many live shows, or in a TV show, it’s impossible not to smile.
“Without the individual personality of the performer, the magician really isn’t going to stand out as an individual,” he explained. “Even in fields outside of magic, I think it’s really important for them to put their own personality across because that’s what’s going to connect with audiences. That’s really what’s going to make them care and become involved in whatever it is that’s going on. For them to suspend their disbelief and just relax and enjoy the magic, I think they have to be engaged by the person performing it.”
Michael Grandinetti is unmatched at engaging the audience, and that’s because it not only comes easy to him, but it comes first and foremost in his act. He genuinely wants to connect with every single person in the room (or the arena or the theatre). Watching him never feels like watching someone perform; it feels like watching an old friend.
But underneath that sparkling personality is someone with a tremendous work ethic and a very long to-do list. For every illusion he performs, an incredible amount of work is required from both Grandinetti and his entire crew. He’s built a wide variety of pieces for an equally wide variety of mediums.
This is where he’s changing the game; where most people think of magicians as stage performers, he’s not waiting for them to get to a live show. He’s bringing the magic to MLB, NBA and NFL games, and national TV audiences. Where others have those appearances as just part of their act, he’s embraced these massive platforms and he thrives on them.
What would Michael Grandinetti consider to be his greatest hits?
“I love each of the illusions that we do for different reasons,” he said. “The spike escape I did for NBC is a very special piece to me, not only because it was my first piece I performed on national television, but it’s a very dangerous piece. It’s the most dangerous piece I’ve ever gotten involved with.
“I’m six feet in the air, chained to a platform above two walls of spikes. Those spikes are a foot long and they are razor sharp—and these are real, they’re not fake spikes. And to make it more dangerous, [they] light the spikes on fire and they cover me with gasoline. The spikes are controlled by an hourglass. When the hourglass runs out, the spikes come in at 50 miles an hour, and if I’m not out of the way, it gets pretty bad. It’s a really exciting piece and that’s one of my favorites.
“Another piece that I really enjoy is where I float up in the air. We’ve done that on television, we performed it at NFL halftime shows, outside surrounded by 60,000 people, we take it to these basketball arenas and 20,000 people watch us at every angle. When I was a kid one of my dreams was to be able to float…I said someday I want to float in the air so having a chance to do that is never lost on me. I don’t take being able to do that for granted.
“Another piece is where I walk through a steel wall. That’s a piece that I designed at Universal Studios, and that piece took about seven years from coming up with the idea to finally putting it in front of my audience. There was so much work that went into that—not only how do you physically do the illusion but the presentation, the music, how big do we make the steel wall? How tall? What orientation do we have; do we have it upright, sideways? What do we want the storyline to be behind it?
“I really wanted that piece to be perfect…When we finally put that in front of an audience and they reacted to it, it was completely thrilling. All of the illusions take a lot of work, all of them take years, but that one took particularly long—only because I wasn’t going to settle for anything less than what I hoped it could be.”
Michael Grandinetti has been a magician for more than 20 years, and in that time he’s seen a lot. From the ESPYs red carpet to the White House Easter Celebration and the Hollywood Christmas Parade, he’s become something of an ambassador for magic. He’s putting it in front of audiences who might otherwise never experience it.
And he’s doing it in exactly the right way. A Michael Grandinetti performance represents all of the wonderful things about magic, and why it still has a place in entertainment. He’s able to perform fantastic illusions and mind-blowing tricks—but those tricks are the exclamation point on an act that’s about people. It’s about connecting with people, and for a few moments enabling them to see and believe in the impossible. And getting them to understand that the impossible comes from a very possible place.
“I would love for people to know how much time and care and attention and thought goes into magic, when you’re really trying to make the magic right,” Grandinetti reflected. “It’s not about getting a piece of magic and putting it in front of an audience; it’s not about that at all. It’s about making sure that every element of it is right, so that it really has a profound effect on the audience. When all those pieces come together, it has an effect on our audience that no other art form can have.
“It’s a very deep, very rich art form. Anybody can buy a piano, but to make that beautiful music you’ve got to really work hard and really care and put the time and effort into it. And I think magic is really easy to do poorly, unfortunately. I would like more people to see well-done magic and that will help the art grow continuously.”
“The key is just doing really good magic and always trying to push the envelope a bit and come up with things that are different,” he continued. “The art needs to be constantly growing. Every art form tends to evolve over the years and if you look at magic from even 20-30 years ago, there are tremendous changes in the magic being done. Magic needs to continually grow, enhance, [find] new illusions, new ways to engage the audience…I think you always have to try and go a little bit beyond.”
Michael Grandinetti is going above and beyond in the field of magic. He’s making magic a bigger part of mainstream entertainment. And for that, we’re all better off.