Q&Amp;A: Just Blaine Crazy?

David Blaine wants to be alone. How else do you explain the guy's increasingly intense exercises in isolation?

In 1999, he spent a week buried in a glass coffin on New York's Upper West Side. In 2000, Blaine remained inside a giant block of ice for three days. Then last year, he stood atop an 80-foot pillar for more than a day. Now the 30-year-old's taking on a challenge that will have him in solitary confinement for six weeks--and also turn a lot of people's stomachs.

Next week, Blaine will lock himself in a Plexiglas box and will spend the next 44 days hanging over the Thames River in London, with no food and only a journal. He'll subsist only on tap water and he'll urinate through a tube. (He'll also be armed with a backpack full of diapers.)

The big question: Why? Well, there's the publicity, of course. Sky One and Channel 4 in London will televise him entering and exiting, the entire event will be streamed live on the Web and director Harmony Korine will shoot it for a future documentary. Other than that, well, we're unsure--Blaine himself won't clarify much. What meaning is there in starving yourself for a month and a half? NEWSWEEK's B. J. Sigesmund tried to get Blaine to explain. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: So talk to us. Why are you doing this?

David Blaine: That's real simple. Because I want to. That's the truth.

But there's more to it than that, isn't there? You're starving yourself. It's going to be really painful and so lonely.

If people paid attention to the amount of pain that really existed in their lives, I think many more people would be walking around insane. That's why we distract ourselves, to hide from the pain. But the struggle of life is continual with that. That's how we were created. We struggled out of the oceans and on to the land. The human organism was built on struggle and adapting. So anytime everything becomes simple, it becomes mundane. That's why the easy life is sort of empty.

You started out as a celebrity magician like David Copperfield; now every public feat you perform is an endurance test. How did you evolve to this?

My biggest endurance test is life. This is my entertainment.

The longest you've ever spent in solitary confinement was one week, when you were buried alive in 1999 in New York City. What will you do with yourself for 44 days?

I'm going to be doing astral projection and zipping around the galaxy. [laughs]

OK. So what if you hate it inside there?

I'll keep zipping.

What sorts of truths are you hoping to get at with this feat?

My own. That's all I can come up with.

What about truths for people in the audience? What are you trying to explore?

You guys have to come up with your own things, I dunno. I can only search for my own truth.

You're Jewish, and you've studied the Holocaust very closely.

That's true, 100 percent.

What connection is there between the Holocaust and this endurance test?


Are you trying to explore what those in concentration camps felt?

I think it was really difficult for them because they never knew whether they were going to get murdered or not. The only similarly I can come up with is hunger.

Did you see the recent New York Times piece about you?

Nobody would read it to me. ... Not to sound annoying or anything, but I've been so busy I haven't had a free two minutes. It's hard for me to even get food down and I need to be bulking up.

You've said you think you're going to lose 50 pounds doing this. How much weight have you gained in preparation?

Not much, because at first I thought I was going to use glucose in the water. But then less than a month ago, I decided against it. I was bordering, in between decisions. Then a month ago I decided to go just with water. Because of that, I haven't been able to bulk up much. I've put on about 10 pounds actually, maybe 12 or 13 pounds. It's not that easy to just eat real quick and get bulky. Plus, I have to start my fast six days before. So it's actually a 50-day fast. The first six days I'm going to be loading up with liquids and electrolytes. But once the feat begins, that's 44 days. So it's a 50-day fast from food, and it's 44 days of just water. But there are hunger strikers that did it longer. [Imprisoned IRA leader] Bobby Sands lived 65 days. [He died on the 66th day of his 1981 hunger strike.]

Did you choose to stay in the glass for 44 days because your birthday's on April 4?

I believe that's my survival limit.

Filmmaker Harmony Korine, who wrote the controversial 1995 movie "Kids," will make a documentary about your endurance test. Why did you pick him?

He is the only artist that could possibly understand this.

What do you say to critics who say this is not an endurance test, but that you're just torturing yourself, and it won't be entertaining to watch you get skinnier and skinnier.

I don't answer the critics.

Also, what do you say to critics who say you're just in it for the publicity? Why does the world have to be watching?

Same as above.

So ... why again are you doing this?

I don't even understand why. It's because I have to. That's the best I can answer that. When someone climbs a mountain, they don't know why, it just calls to them. This is calling me.