Meet Derren Brown:
King of Impossibles

Updated 20-07-2021 Tuesday 9:00

_He does not have magical powers, or have any psychic ability, he neither does he ever use stooges or plants to achieve his work. Audiences are always sworn to secrecy about his shows, and Brown never usually explains the material he performs.


The world's most outrageous hypnotist Derren Brown has been seen as a powerful figure ever since his debut 2000 C4 show Mind Control, in which he read the lives of complete strangers – their habits, mannerisms, verbal ticks and other hidden ‘tells’ – before bending them to his will.


Derren began his UK television career in December 2000 with a series of specials called Mind Control. In UK his name is now pretty much synonymous with the art of psychological manipulation.

His show, Something Wicked This Way Comes won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment Show 2006. Besides, his 2017 US debut show SECRET won the New York Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience and returned for a sell-out run on Broadway in 2019.


Derren began his UK television career in December 2000 with a series of specials called Mind Control. Has one brother, Dominic, who is nine years younger.


Brown’s father was a swimming teacher and his mother a former model.


As a youngster, his evangelical faith told him homosexuality was a sin and he even took part in a counselling course to try to ‘cure’ himself. He stopped believing in God at his age of 20, in 2007 he came out as gay.


Derren said at the time, 'I'm embarrassed that it took so long, but if I hadn't had a weird and slightly self-absorbed 20s, perhaps I wouldn’t be doing what I'm doing now'. He has one brother named Dominic who is nine years younger.

Derren developed his skills in hypnosis and magic whilst studying Law and German at Bristol University. After graduating, he lived there for ten years in a small flat with a parrot and an overstuffed library, developing his skills.


He liked to wear a cloak and, with the luxury of hindsight, suspects he was a bit of a dick. The unwitting participants on his TV projects are entirely genuine (and entirely unwitting).


Amongst a varied and notorious TV career, Derren has played Russian Roulette live, convinced middle-managers to commit armed robbery, led the nation in a séance, stuck viewers at home to their sofas, successfully predicted the National Lottery, motivated a shy man to land a packed passenger plane at 30,000 feet, hypnotised a man to assassinate Stephen Fry, and created a zombie apocalypse for an unsuspecting participant after seemingly ending the world.

A thread through Derren’s career has involved debunking charlatans, often by replicating their seeming miracles without recourse to special abilities. The clip here shows Richard Dawkins interviewing Derren for the renowned evolutionary biologist’s two-part documentary The Enemies of Reason, which sought to expose subjects such as mediumship, acupuncture and psychokinesis.


He has also written several best-selling books and, a first in the history of magic, has toured with eight sell-out one-man stage shows. The shows have garnered a record-breaking five Olivier Award nominations for Best Entertainment, and won twice.


This means Derren has had the largest number of nominations and wins for one-person shows in the history of the Awards.


Derren is also a keen photographer. A collection of his pictures is available in Derren’s book Meet The People With Love, and many are available for purchase on our Print Store. His pictures have been exhibited in London and he maintains an online gallery on Instagram.


Derren spent three years designing an immersive ghost train at Thorpe Park that blends 4D, grand illusion, live action and special effects.

To date it is the most expensive and ambitious attraction the Park has ever offered. He occasionally goes on it in disguise and likes to upset children.


Derren is an atheist and a sceptic of supernatural claims, but holds that too often disbelief can ‘narrow into a rigid and negative approach which can fail to get its message across. It can also disregard our vital search for meaning, which repeatedly trumps our need for truth’.


At home, Derren is a quiet 50-year old who paints, collects taxidermy, and keeps two (real) dogs and a parrot. He dislikes mushrooms and blue cheese, can’t drive, and wishes he could play the piano.


During free times, Derren like to paint portraits and occasionally exhibits. In 2009 Channel 4 Books published a book about Derren's caricatures titled in Portraits. A selection of original pieces and limited edition prints are available to purchase on his website.


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