Robert Angier (born Caldlow) was a magician's assistant and later stage magician who lived in London. Born into a rich family, he wished to become a magician but that career would've been a shame to his family. He pretended to be an American by the name of Robert Angier in order to preserve his family's reputation, and began working for the magician Milton.
Angier became close to Milton's assistant Julia McCullough and eventually married her. During the performance of a water cell trick, Julia was unable to free herself from her bonds and ended up drowning on stage. Milton's career was over and Angier blamed Alfred Borden, another assistant, for tying the wrong knot during the trick. Angier formed his own stage act with Milton's ingénieur John Cutter.
In revenge for his wife's death, Angier went to one of Borden's performances and shot him during a bullet catch trick. In return, Borden visited Angier's performance and ruined a disappearing bird trick, killing the bird on stage and forcing Angier to cancel his show.
Cutter hired Olivia Wenscombe as Angier's female assistant, and soon afterwards Borden released a new show: "The Transported Man". Believing he could perform the trick better, Angier created his own version using a double, but he always ended the act below stage, and Borden revealed the secret to his audience. Angier then sent Olivia to work for Borden in an effort to discover the secret of how it was done. She couldn't find the answer, and began falling in love with Borden, but gave Angier his encrypted diary.
Angier failed to break the encryption, so captured Borden's ingénieur Bernard Fallon and traded his life for the key. The key turned out to be the word "Tesla", so Angier travelled to Colorado Springs to visit the physicist Nikola Tesla. After meeting his servant Mr Alley, he asked Tesla to design him a machine that could transport him. Tesla demonstrated his skills with electricity, but the machine he made did not work as Angier wanted. However, Angier noticed that it created duplicates of whatever was put into it, so took the machine back to London.
He then performed "The Real Transported Man", using the machine to duplicate himself into another location, while dropping the original version of himself into a water chamber and killing it. He saw Borden in the audience of one of his shows, who sneaked backstage and saw the killing of the old Angier. Angier decided not to reveal himself, instead dressing as Lord Caldlow and letting Borden be put on trial for his murder.
As Lord Caldlow, Angier then tried to take custody of Borden's daughter Jess. Borden was executed, however he appeared at a warehouse where Angier stored the corpses from his act. Borden shot Angier, revealing that he had a twin who was executed and they disguised themselves as Fallon. Angier died, and Borden burnt the warehouse and all the evidence of Angier's acts.