The Impossible Sawing is the latest variation of the illusion of sawing a woman in half, and fits into the family of "box-less" sawings along with the Buzz Saw. In this version of the illusion, the assistant is sawn through and her halves pulled apart without any coverings being placed over her body at any point during the illusion.
The Impossible Sawing was designed and built by Creative Illusions, and first performed by Siegfried and Roy on February 1st 1999.
The performance usually begins with the introduction of a low table, designed to be split into two halves. On either side of the division in the table are low arched metal bands, hinged to the table at one end with the other end designed to be fastened to the table, and with a narrow gap between them. The magician then introduces the assistant who is to be sawn in half. Two more assistants lift the main assistant onto the table, placing her waist in line with the break in the tables. The magician then closes the metal bands over the assistant's waist, securing them to the table. With the assistant secured to the table, a large metal framework carrying a circular saw is attached to the table, with the saw blade lined up with the gap between the metal bands.
The saw is then started and pushed through the gap between the bands, clearly sawing the assistant in half. Having cut through the assistant, the saw is then removed and the framework moved away. The magician then inserts two small divider blades, usually shaped to match the profile of the metal bands, into the gap between them. With the divider blades inserted, the magician then moves to by the assistant's head and, taking hold of them below their armpits, pulls backwards. As the magician does this, the assistant's torso moves upwards on the table, separating from their lower half. They then move to the opposite end of the table and, pulling on the assistant's feet, slide their lower half downwards, increasing the separation of their halves. The catches holding the two table halves together are then released, and the table halves are separated. As the assistant has been in full view of the audience throughout the performance, they can clearly see that the assistant actually has been cut in half and separated. The table halves are then moved back together and the assistant's torso is slid back down the table. The dividers are then removed, the metal bands unlatched, and the assistant is then lifted down from the table and shown to be completely unharmed.
The Impossible Sawing is generally considered to be the version of the sawing in half illusion that has the greatest audience impact, even greater than Clearly Impossible. This is due to the fact that the assistant's body is never covered at any time, and remains in full view of the audience all through the performance. As a result, the audience can see that the assistant has no way of moving out of the way of the saw, and that the legs and feet they see really are the assistant's own. This continuous visibility proves to the audience that the saw is indeed passing right through the assistant's waist and that they really have been separated into two halves. Some magicians increase the audience impact even further by having a member of the audience hold on to the assistant's legs during the sawing, to further reinforce the fact that they are real.
Although the original version of the illusion used a circular saw to divide the assistant, some magicians have found this to be too unwieldy. As a result, some have replaced it with a large two-person cross-cut saw or a chainsaw, while others use a large scimitar-style sword to accomplish the division. In some other versions of the illusion, a large industrial laser is used to make the division.
In some performances of the illusion, metal stocks are used to secure the assistant's neck and ankles to the table to hold them in place, although most performances do not include this feature.
In most versions of the illusion, the assistant is placed on the table in a face-up position. However, some versions have the assistant placed face down, while a small number have the assistant on their side.
Italian magician Erix Logan performs an unusual variation of the Impossible Sawing in his stage shows. In this version, Logan's assistant, usually singer and actress Sara Maya, is sawed in half in a variation of the Big Box sawing using boxes made to look like drums and wheeled off stage still divided. Later in the show, she is wheeled back on stage still divided, but this time in Logan's Impossible Sawing, and restored back into one piece.
One variation of this illusion replaces the two-part table with a medical trolley, and rather than the assistant's halves being completely separated, they are simply pulled apart and slid along the trolley.
Another variation on the illusion is Criss Angel's "Pulling a Woman in Half", in which he simply pulls a girl apart on a wooden bench. This version of the illusion was also used as a special effect in the 2010 3D remake of the classic horror movie Piranha, for the scene in which a girl being carried out of the water after being attacked by the piranhas is torn in half. An early version of this variation, which actually predates the development of the Creative Illusions version, was used in the 1986 horror movie The Hitcher. It featured in the scene where the female lead character of Nash, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh is tied between a trailer and a truck, which is then driven away, ripping her in half at the waist. Another variation on this version was used in 2010 on the TV show 1000 Ways To Die for the feature "Blade Sunner", which depicted the 2008 incident when a young housewife in Reno, NV, died by being cut in half by the flying blade of a malfunctioning concrete saw. The illusion was used to graphically show the woman, played by actress Christina DeRosa, being sliced in half through the waist by the flying blade while standing up, and her severed halves laying on the ground afterwards.
Due to the special requirements placed on the assistant, this illusion is usually performed using professional assistants. However, it has on occasion been performed on guest celebrity assistants, although these are comparatively rare compared to other versions of the sawing illusion. As one (unnamed) magician who performs the illusion has stated, "Very often, I've approached celebrities about guesting in my show and they've been all in favor of me sawing them in half. But then they see the illusion itself, realise that instead of curling up inside the box like they've seen on the Masked Magician shows, they'll actually be getting cut in half for real, and that's it, they just don't want to know anymore. It really does take a very special and very brave woman to assist in this sawing, and there aren't many of those around." As a result, there have only been a few performances of this sawing using celebrity assistants.
- In a 1999 magazine interview, Claudia Schiffer revealed that in late 1998 she had been only the second women to be divided in two in the illusion when she accompanied her husband, magician David Copperfield, on a visit to the Creative Illusions workshops to view one of the early prototypes of it. To prove to Copperfield that the illusion could be performed on anyone without any special preparation, such as an audience member, the Creative Illusions team persuaded Claudia to let them divide her in the prototype illusion.
- During one of her earliest fashion shoots, model Doutzen Kroes took part in a performance of the illusion. This version of the illusion was chosen over other more common sawings so as to give a clear view of the outfits she was modelling.
- The illusion had it's UK TV première in 2005 when magician Scott Penrose performed it on host Fearne Cotton during the BBC's annual Children in Need telethon.
- In 2007, actress Mischa Barton appeared as a guest assistant for magician Brandon Silverfield in a number of performances of his Las Vegas show. One of the illusions she took part in during this show was his version of this sawing. She has also taken part in other performances of the illusion while working as a special guest assistant to other magicians that she is friends with.
- When Amanda Holden performed as a magician's assistant in an episode of her 2010 TV series Amanda Holden's Fantasy Lives, the show culminated with her being sawed in half in this version of the illusion.
- In 2012, Italian magician Antonio Casanova performed this sawing on Italian Olympic Bronze Medal-winning swimmer Martina Grimaldi on the TV show Striscia La Notizia. In this performance of the illusion, Antonio used a petrol chainsaw to divide Martina prior to her separation.
- In the 2013 comedy movie The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, the character of Jane, played by actress Olivia Wilde, is sawed in half in the Impossible Sawing by magicians Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton, played by Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi.