Since the first broadcast of his Channel 4 television show in 2000 he has become increasingly well known for his "mind-reading" act. Derren Brown makes no claims to possess psychic ability. He claims to achieve his results by making use of deep psychological insight. Using his knowledge and skill he claims that he is able to predict and influence people's thoughts with subtle suggestion, manipulate the decision making process and read the subtle physical signs or body language that indicate what a person is thinking.
On October 5, 2003, Brown performed his most controversial stunt to date, playing Russian roulette live on Channel 4 (though with a slight delay in case the stunt was not successful). Because of the British gun laws banning the possesion of handguns, the stunt supposedly had to be performed outside of Britain, at an undisclosed secret location. A volunteer, chosen from 12,000 who applied for the task, and whittled down to 5 by the day of the stunt, loaded a single shot into a revolver with six numbered chambers, then counted from one to six. Attempting to predict the location of the bullet, Brown pulled the trigger on chambers 3 and 4 with the gun aimed at his head, before aiming away on chamber 5 and again pulling the trigger (though the chamber was empty). After a very long pause, he aimed at his head again for chamber 6, before quickly firing the (supposedly) live round in chamber 1 away from him.
The stunt was condemned by senior British police officers, apparently fearful of copycat acts. Several commentators also suggested that the show was a mere hoax. It later transpired that the stunt had occurred in Jersey, where gun laws are as strict as in Britain. Furthermore, even before the stunt, the police there, who had been in contact with Channel 4, were "absolutely satisfied ... that no-one was in any danger whatsoever". The Jersey police also said "a prop company brought a number of props to the island" and the BBC reported that "there was no live ammunition involved".