Why does Robert Angier choose to die everyday instead of using the machine just once to create his clone?

Here are some reasons that I don't think justify his act.

  • Ego issues: It didn't work well between Robert and the previous double (Roote) that he had hired but that shouldn't be the case with a clone as they both share same personalities.

  • Double going rogue / blackmailing: It's a clone and inherits the same personality, highly improbable.

  • Keeping it a secret: Alferd Borden did it. Much less stressful than literally preparing to die everyday and ensuring proper disposal of those tanks that only increase in quantity everyday, IMHO.

Also why does the public not accuse Robert Angier for using a double, as it does with Alfred Borden's act?

  • 2
    Good question. As to the last sentence, I don't think the public ever accused Borden of using a double.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Oct 23, 2013 at 20:23
  • 1
    Regarding the stress of preparing to die every day: the Angier who performs the trick has, from his own point of view, survived every performance. The deaths all happened to other people.
    – Nefrubyr
    Oct 24, 2013 at 14:28
  • @Nefrubyr I strongly disagree, the death monologue at the end explicitely states how hard it is going in the box knowing that you die
    – avalancha
    Dec 16, 2019 at 17:16
  • Regarding the last sentence: In the book, the public actually does suspect Borden is using a twin brother (there's a reporter working on the story and interviewing magicians who all believe this). When Angier develops his version, to show it's better than than Borden's he actually lets someone from the audience cover his fingers with paint etc. so the audience can verify that it is not just a double that appears. This doesn't appear in the movie but it is mentioned a few times the reviewers found the new version was better than Borden's.
    – Morty
    Jul 16, 2021 at 21:49

2 Answers 2


In addition to iandotkelly's already good answer, I'd say it just doesn't fit to Angier's nature. One of the major differences between Borden and Angier is, that Angier couldn't ever imagine to devote his entire life to "just a magic trick", and always wanted to go the easy way, whereas Borden took his art as serious as to only live half a life for his entire life, which in fact was "his real trick and shows true dedication to his art".

That is the reason why Angier couldn't imagine Borden to use a double, since his own fast experiences with this were rather unfruitful (yet, he was lucky enough to find his exact double in London, but nevermind ;-)) and why he couldn't get behind the old Chinese magician's trick, while Borden undertsood it immediately. And this is also the reason why he doesn't want to use a double. As you say, both Angiers would have the same personality and as iandotkelly says, there wouldn't be any one who had more right to be the "real" Angier. So in order to not share his whole life with another Angier to keep the trick secret, he went the fast and easy (and pretty dirty) way of a forced move operation instead of a copy. On the longer perspective Borden's way of keeping the secret wasn't really "less stressful" than Angier's if you consider what Borden had to sacrifice in his non-stage life in order to keep up his trick.

And an additional factor is also, that I for myself think that Angier didn't just do those tricks to do a good show and win against Borden success-wise, but also in order for the supposed "murder" to happen one day and to ultimately win against Borden. And for this one Angier had to die.

  • Great answer - but I think I missed the "supposed murder" bit when I watched the film. Are you sure about it? I'll watch it again anyways.
    – saurabhj
    Oct 30, 2013 at 11:03
  • @saurabhj It wasn't explicitly stated that he planned the whole "murder" to happen, but I think it is implied, especially given that he knew not to reappear on exactly this night (because he saw Borden walk back-stage). Otherwise he would have just appeared as usualy and everybody would have wondered about a dead and an alive Angier. But interpretation is still a free good, of course. This is covered in some related questions to some degree: movies.stackexchange.com/q/3693/49 and movies.stackexchange.com/q/11444/49.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Oct 30, 2013 at 11:59
  • Very nice take on the supposed murder.
    – Kalissar
    Dec 29, 2014 at 15:33

I think the problem as Angier sees it is 'which one had the right to get his life'. If he were to allow the other Angier to live, would it end up killing him to replace him. Just because someone has the same personality as you doesn't in my opinion make it less likely that they would feel threatened by you, actually with shared memories and understanding, your doppelgänger might be more dangerous than another person.

I think Angier decides that it doesn't particularly matter which one of them survives, as long as there is only ever one. He even prepares for this in his first experiment with the device, by having the gun available.

Its kind of twisted logic, because for each clone created by the machine, one Angier dies - but he doesn't know which one he is going to be each time. But I think he believes only having one survivor is cleaner .... no chance of "going rogue" happening, or his secret being found out.

Finally, its a dramatic demonstration to himself (and ultimately Borden) that he's finally willing to "get his hands dirty" to perform the ultimate illusion.

  • Downvoter, care to comment ?
    – iandotkelly
    Sep 10, 2019 at 15:48
  • I like this answer because of the "first cloning" scene. Jackman does a great job of conveying this wordlessly, where he uses the machine, sees the clone, and with facial expressions alone, conveys the train of thought going through both of their minds. Basically, it's: "hey this worked! There's two of me?!? Oh shit, now what? Did he just look at the gun? He wouldn't, would he? Would I? Of course I would, which means he would, which means I've got to get him before he gets me." He realizes that if he ever let both of them walk away form the trick, he'd always be looking over his shoulder.
    – James B
    Jul 27, 2020 at 14:11

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