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The Show Begins
In 2000, U.K. author Darren Shan introduced the world to the first novel in his "Cirque Du Freak” series, titled "The Saga of Darren Shan.” Written in the first person, the book chronicles the struggles of a teenage boy who becomes immersed in the world of freaks and vampires after he saves his friend's life by being turned into a creature of the night. It became an instant global sensation and scored legions of fans.

Known for its wicked humor and dark thrills, the series has been published in 37 countries and in 30 different languages and celebrated by authors and audiences alike. "Harry Potter” author J. K. Rowling lauded the first book in the series, "A compelling book...a plot full of twists which leaves the reader hungry for more.”

Similarly, young readers couldn't get enough of Darren's immersion in a world just under the surface of their own. The very grown-up stories of creepy magic that mingled with teenage angst felt by Darren and other members of his adoptive family at the Cirque Du Freak transfixed them.

In 2005, blockbuster filmmaker Lauren Shuler Donner was brought into a world of misfits and freaks of another sort. Producer Ewan "Jack” Leslie introduced her to Shan's books, and she was quite moved by the stories that challenged young audiences with their powerful narrative. She was impressed by the author's spot-on tone in describing a boy who was growing up much too fast…soon after he became undead.

Donner explains her interest in material she feels takes readers on an "epic voyage.” She offers: "I have always been intrigued by vampires, but ‘Cirque Du Freak' was a completely different take on them. Jack, who runs our company and who also is a producer, brought the books to my attention. They were real page-turners. Every chapter ended with a cliffhanger.”

What most attracted the producer to the story was the unlikely friendship born out of necessity between Larten Crepsley, a 220-year-old vampire who ages ten times slower than humans, and the series' protagonist as Darren is turned. "I felt that, in the guise of entertainment, the books had a lot to say about friends and family,” notes Shuler Donner. "The author explores the question of ‘What is the price of loyalty?' and I found that Darren has to pay a big price to remain loyal to the friends and family he loses. The Cirque becomes his family, and Crepsley becomes a surrogate father.”

Leslie knew that if they were to tackle this project, the popular book series had to be digested into a screenplay. He remarks: "We knew there was something about the books that would make a great film. There are a lot of aspects of the series that are appealing—the everyman becoming the hero, the wish fulfillment, the fantastic creatures—especially for teens. Who wouldn't want the to have those vampire powers that Darren gets?”

After the rights to the books were secured, Shuler Donner and Leslie began the search for a filmmaker that could bring this story to the screen. The producers approached accomplished writer/director Paul Weitz, known for such comedy fare as the blockbuster American Pie—as well as critically acclaimed films including About a Boy and In Good Company— and award-winning writer Brian Helgeland, who has written such powerful screenplays as L.A. Confidential, Mystic River and A Knight's Tale.

Shuler Donner explains the process with which the first three books in Shan's series became the source material for the fantasy-adventure: "We had a draft by Brian Helgeland in which we adhered closer to the books, which made it a bit more serious, a bit darker. Paul Weitz came on and his take was to make it more comedic.”

Adapting a novel for the big screen is always a challenge, but when y

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