Set Visit Preview: Cirque du Freak

Based on Darren Shan’s book series

“These are all creatures of God, ladies and gentlemen, not man. They are authentic and they are alive. Alive, alive, alive!” – Conrad Straker, The Funhouse

The freaks are in town. Not those you see navigating the empty beer bottles, street performers and scantily clad hustlers trying to lure you through the doorway of a strip club (does anyone else smell STDs?) on Bourbon Street. No, sir, these are bonafide walking, talking center stage showstoppers who go by monikers like Hans Hands, Gertha Teeth, the Wolf Man, the Snake Boy, the Bearded Lady, Alexander Ribs, Larten Crepsley and Madam Octa. To fans of the twelve-part young adult novel series Cirque du Freak, by 35-year-old UK author Darren Shan (a.k.a. Darren O’Shaughnessy), these names bring about mixed emotions of wonder, fear and curiosity.

The macabre myriad of misfits are currently being realized on a soundstage just twenty-five minutes outside of the French Quarter in New Orleans where director Paul Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy) is lensing a big screen adaptation of Freak.

Written by Brian Helgeland (Payback, Mystic River) and Weitz, the narrative covers grounds in Shan’s first three books: Cirque du Freak (published in 2000), The Vampire’s Assistant and Tunnels of Blood. Chris Massoglia plays the story’s protagonist, Darren Shan, a 14-year-old who’s life drastically changes when he sacrifices his life for his friend, Steve (Josh Hutcherson of Zathura), and becomes not only one of the undead but an assistant for the aforementioned Crepsley, a vampire (John C. Reilly, here taking a step back from the comedy schtick). Shan becomes a part of the traveling Cirque du Freak family and ultimately upsets a balance between the vampire race and their more evil counterparts, the vampaneze. The cast also includes Salma Hayek, Kan Watanabe, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Fugit and Ray Stevenson. spent a day on the set of Cirque du Freak, which offers more for the horror fan than one might expect (a PG-13 rating is in the cards). Shan’s novels are surprisingly threaded with grim themes of death, loss and violence and with Amalgamated Dynamics on “freak” duty, your peepers are guaranteed to see some outlandish characters. Our trip found us lunching with Weitz, touring the set with production designer William Arnold and sitting down to chat with Reilly and Hutcherson.

Like any main attraction, however, we’ve got to keep a full set visit under wraps for the time being. Freak is due in theaters sometime in early ’09 from Universal Pictures; we’ll lift the curtain on our write-up then, so hold onto your admission ticket.

Source: Ryan Rotten


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