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THE VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT

Casting the Fantasy-Adventure
Darren's journey begins the minute he makes a pact with Crepsley to join the traveling freak show. For Weitz and the other producers, bringing together the right combination of actors for the young vampire's adventure was as important as creating the exact production design for the film.

To play Darren's mentor, the legendary vampire Larten Crepsley who can run at the speed of light (i.e., "flit”), the filmmakers made an unexpected choice: They cast John C. Reilly, a performer primarily known for his comedic roles. "Crepsley is supposed to be this weird, eccentric dude,” explains Weitz. "He is not your conventional image of a brooding, studly vampire. I needed a really wonderful character actor to play that part, and John fit the bill.”

Reilly was quite serious about understanding the universe of Larten Crepsley, so over the course of production, he read 12 books in Shan's series. "After reading the books, I could relate to the fans,” he offers. "I was very conscientious when we were making the movie about not changing things that were vital to the structure of the world of Cirque Du Freak.”

When it came to playing Crepsley, Reilly found little difficulty bringing the two-centuries-old vampire to life. "He just evolved in the way all my characters evolve,” the actor notes. "I read the script and research materials, and Crepsley started to come to life. I didn't make any big changes in my mind from the book.” He also found playing a nonmortal freeing. "It's not often you get to play someone who is 220 years old. That got me really excited about the character… how cynical you'd be after living all those years.”

Cast as the mysterious Mr. Tall, the Cirque's owner and operator, was Japanese actor Ken Watanabe, known to most Western audiences from his Oscar®- nominated turn opposite Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. Mr. Tall remains a strong-willed mediator between the vampires and the vampaneze, and his kindness is matched only by his fierce protection of his own. From rescuing Evra the Snake Boy when he was a baby to his long-standing tolerance of Crepsley's bending the rules, Mr. Tall runs the Cirque with a kind, yet iron fist.

Leslie explains that with Mr. Tall, Weitz chose to go in a different casting direction than many would expect for a circus barker. "The books are extremely popular in Japan, and Ken is such a huge star in that country, so I'm glad we're reaching out to that fan base,” Leslie says. "As it's a circus that travels the world, the Cirque should be multinational.”

For the roles of Darren and his best friend, Steve, the filmmakers looked to, respectively, young performers Chris Massoglia and Josh Hutcherson. As he has done in such films as American Pie, About a Boy and In Good Company, Weitz again selected young actors who are not widely famous. He explains: "It's always fun for me to take kids who haven't really been seen widely before, and give them a huge part and lay all my chips on. From the first day, Chris and Josh seem to be building a natural friendship with each other, and that's a big part of our story: two kids who are really close friends who are going in totally different directions.”

Seventeen-year-old Massoglia found himself getting deeper into Darren's personal journey—as he moves from the ordinary life of a schoolboy to the world of vampires and their darker counterparts, the vampaneze. "I was excited when I heard about the audition,” says the actor. "I heard the story and thought the concept of being mentored by a vampire and then becoming a half-vampire was really cool. After I met Paul and realized I would get to work with him, that was a bonus.”

Cast in the role of Darren's longtime best friend and eventual enemy was 16-year-old Josh H

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