Chris Massoglia, John C. Reilly Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

Chris Massoglia, John C. Reilly Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant


Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

Cast: Chris Massoglia, John C. Reilly, Ken Watanabe, Salma Hayek, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Fugit, Orlando Jones, Jane Krakowski, Josh Hutcherson, Ray Stevenson, Michael Cerveris, Frankie Faison, Kristen Schaal
Director: Paul Weitz
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
Rated: M
Running Time: 109 minutes

Synopsis: The Vampire's Assistant tells the frightening tale of a boy who unknowingly breaks a 200-year-old truce between two warring factions of vampires. Pulled into a fantastic life of misunderstood... The Vampire's Assistant tells the frightening tale of a boy who unknowingly breaks a 200-year-old truce between two warring factions of vampires. Pulled into a fantastic life of misunderstood sideshow freaks and grotesque creatures of the night, one teen will vanish from the safety of a boring existence and fulfill his destiny in a place drawn from nightmares.

14-year-old Darren (Chris Massoglia) was like most kids in his suburban neighborhood. He hung out with his best friend, got decent grades and usually stayed out of trouble. But when he and his buddy stumble upon a traveling freak show, things begin to change inside Darren. That's the exact moment when a vampire named Larten Crepsley (John C. Reilly) turns him into something, well, bloodthirsty.

Release Date: 11th of March, 2010

About the Production

Darren Shan is Reborn: 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 Shan'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 Shan 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 Darren 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.

Lauren Shuler 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. Ewan Jack Leslie, 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 Shan is turned. "I felt that, in the guise of entertainment, the books had a lot to say about friends and family," notes Lauren Shuler Donner. "The author explores the question of 'What is the price of loyalty?' and I found that Darren Shan 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."

Ewan 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 Shan gets?"

After the rights to the books were secured, Lauren Shuler Donner and Ewan 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.

Lauren Shuler Donner explains the process with which the first three books in Darren 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 you translate three novels into one film, you triple the difficulty. "Taking three books and distilling them into under two hours of a movie is extremely hard," adds Lauren Shuler Donner. "You must establish the characters, establish the world and then tell your story."

For director Paul Weitz, Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant was just the sort of project he had been looking for: big, creative and skewed toward both the comic and darker sides of life. He enjoyed Darren Shan's skill at allowing young readers to identify with the freaks, as well as the manner with which the author bucked conformity and allowed his characters individualism. And while it was important to keep many details that the fans of the books loved, he knew he wouldn't need to be slavish to them.

"Oddly enough, I wanted to do a story where a kid gets a vampire as a mentor, then I was sent these books and they happened to have that relationship in them," recounts Paul Weitz. "The books were also full of dark, grotesque stuff-the kind of funny, weird material I was obsessed with in childhood. There's something about starting to become an adult that feels like you've entered a moral gray area?where things aren't good or evil. That is what sucked me into this: Darren Shan's story is a metaphor for growing up."

Paul Weitz was also intrigued by the source material's take on creatures that have been part of our nightmares for centuries. He explains: "There is so much lore and there have been a lot of vampire films, but what appealed to me about this one was the father/son relationship Crepsley and Darren Shan have. In their world, vampires don't actually kill the people they drink blood from the vampaneze do. The vampaneze try and draw the vampires into battle, and our kids are pawns in their war."

From the beginning, Paul Weitz's vision for creating Darren Shan's dark world would be to blend visual effects and stunning costumes with state-of-the-art animatronics and old-school stunt work. To accomplish this feat, Paul Weitz surrounded himself with a talented creative team to bring his ideas to reality. "I felt it was essential to work with people who could jump right in and invent things, many who had collaborated with me before," says the writer/director.

Along with his longtime producer, Andrew Miano, Paul Weitz joined with Ewan Leslie and Lauren Shuler Donner to begin production. Andrew Miano sums up what the production team felt distinguished Darren Shan's story: "At 16, we want to break away from our parents. That's the reality of being a teenager: We want to get away. So, how awesome is it that this kid gets an opportunity to get away into this crazy, alternative world? He doesn't realise that he's now a half-vampire. I don't think the consequence of that sinks in for a while."

With a script and a behind-the-scenes team in place, it was time to cast the vampires and freaks that make up the world of Darren Shan.

Freaks of the Cirque: Casting the Fantasy-Adventure
Darren Shan's journey begins the minute he makes a pact with Crepsley to join the traveling freak show. For Paul 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 Shan'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. "Larten Crepsley is supposed to be this weird, eccentric dude," explains Paul 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 C. Reilly fit the bill."

John C. Reilly was quite serious about understanding the universe of Larten Crepsley, so over the course of production, he read 12 books in Darren 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, John C. 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.

Ewan Leslie explains that with Mr. Tall, Paul 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 Watanabe is such a huge star in that country, so I'm glad we're reaching out to that fan base," Ewan 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, Paul 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 Massoglia and Josh Hutcherson 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 Chris 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 Weitz and realised 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 Hutcherson. The actor has a longer resume than Chris Massoglia, having played characters in Bridge to Terabithia and Journey to the Center of the Earth. While he has often played the good kid, Josh Hutcherson was excited when he heard he would be showing his bad side in The Vampire's Assistant. Josh Hutcherson explains his character's motivation: "With Steve, it's part of his destiny to become a vampaneze. He's obsessed with vampires, and he's always wanted the life of a nomad living by his own rules."

For the filmmakers, it helped that both young men were professionals on and off set. "Chris Massoglia and Josh Hutcherson are great guys who became fast friends," Miano says. "They're sports addicts, so from the get-go they were playing basketball by themselves and with other guys on the crew. Their friendship translates to the screen, and so we got very lucky with two excellent teens."

When Darren and Steve first enter the world of the Cirque Du Freak, they find humans and humanoids unlike anything they've ever seen. The fact that they'd dare flaunt boringness and normality infuriates one of their teachers, Mr. Kersey (Christmas With the Kranks' Patrick Breen), mortifies Darren's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Shan, played by Ocean's Thirteen's Don McManus and Four Christmases' Colleen Camp, and fascinates his kid sister Annie, played by newcomer Morgan Saylor.

Lauren Shuler Donner gives us a look inside the world of these freaks. "The characters are wild," she says. "We have the beautiful Madame Truska, played by Salma Hayek, who grows a beard, and Alexander Ribs [Orlando Jones], who is one of the world's thinnest men. There's Corma Limbs [Jane Krakowski], who can take off her arm and it'll grow back. We meet Gertha Teeth [Kristen Schaal], who can hang onto a flagpole by her teeth and Rhamus Twobellies [Frankie Faison], who can eat anything and put together anything in his stomach. My favorite is Evra the Snake Boy [Patrick Fugit], who is just as he sounds.

"There are all really fun characters, which is another reason I was drawn to this movie," she continues. "I knew we wanted the film to incorporate the Cirque, and not in a pathetic, sad way, but in a way that you understand these people who are born with deformities. If you take it one step further, everybody has a little something wrong with us?we just take it to the nth degree."

Madame Truska not only portrays Crepsley's frustrated girlfriend, the bearded lady of the Cirque is also a powerful psychic who warns Darren of the looming war between the vampires and the vampaneze. Of her casting, Paul Weitz explains, "I wanted someone who is conventionally voluptuous to be able to sprout a beard at will. Salma Hayek fit the bill, and she's really fun."

The actress agreed to the role because she read Madame Truska as someone who "is strong and knows what she wants, but at the same time she can be very sweet and vulnerable." Salma Hayek agreed with Lauren Shuler Donner that one of the most curious aspects of the Cirque performers was not their peculiarities but their humanity. "She is madly in love with a vampire. You definitely recognise in her a lot of the longings every woman has. She just wants this man to love her for who she is and to settle down. To see these very strange women deal with such common problems was fascinating to me."

Salma Hayek's on-screen love interest, John C. Reilly, explains the complexity of Truska and Crepsley's relationship. "One of the recurring things in these vampires' lives is, 'Don't mess with mortals because they get old a lot faster and they're eventually going to die in front of you,'" he says. "If you fall in love with someone, then you have to watch them grow old and die while you age much more slowly. That's the pain of their love."

Little does Darren know but he has been destined for the war between the vampires and the murderous vampaneze since before he was born. The leader of the vicious sect is the ironically named Mr. Tiny, played by character actor Michael Cerveris. His second-in-command is the vampaneze killer Murlaugh, portrayed by Ray Stevenson.

Ewan Leslie explains the motivation of the sociopath who tries to snatch Darren the minute he becomes undead: "Murlaugh is a good foil for Crepsley and is ultimately whom Crepsley ends up battling. The result of this battle changes the course of human and vampire history in this film." Of Ray Stevenson, he commends, "Ray Stevenson has a wicked sense of humor. He's from Ireland, but he's doing a Northern English brogue. Even though he's this menacing, terrifying creature, there's a bit of a twinkle in his eye."

To play Crepsley's longtime friend and fellow vampire Gavner Purl the filmmakers cast award-winning actor Willem Dafoe. Paul Weitz had worked with Dafoe on Paul Weitz's last film, American Dreamz, and was excited to bring back the man who'd hilariously played the Machiavellian U.S. vice president in that comedy. To create the signature look of the timeless Purl, Weitz and costume designer Judianna Makovsky drew inspiration from a '30s photograph of Salvador Dali, complete with Salvador Dali's signature slicked-down hair and pencil-thin mustache.

Astonishing Powers: SFX for the Performers
Inspired by beautiful artwork the team created in preproduction, visual effects supervisor Todd Shifflett of Rhythm & Hues sat down with Paul Weitz and the production designer to discuss the look of the film. Paul Weitz gained inspiration from 1920s and '30s German Expressionist painters to help create the feeling for the world that Darren Shan would enter?and the one that Larten Crepsley had been living in for decades. With the help of prosthetics, countless hours of makeup and integrated CGI, the cast of freaks that author Darren Shan imagined was born.

The effects team wanted the mysterious and sexy psychic Madame Truska to quickly sprout facial hair, which had to appear to grow as naturally as possible?with a little help from CGI. The team considered every detail, including how quickly the beard should come out of her follicles, if it should spread evenly down her face, and whether the mustache or the muttonchops would grow in first. The team worked off of the actress' facial expressions as a guide.

Laughs Salma Hayek, "There was a lot of work and hours in the trailer, but I was excited to see myself with a beard. It's fun to be able to change and become someone else."

Her director would find there were many times when he wondered just how he'd gotten his talent to agree to such a tough shoot. Recalls Paul Weitz, "Every few days on the set, there would be something I was shooting, and I'd think, 'Oh my God. I can't believe I'm doing this it's so bizarre.' I would think I'd constantly gone too far."

In order to create the eerie look of Orlando Jones' Alexander Ribs, the team wanted to design a shot to show off his body-as well as his almost nonexistent waist. DP Muro, Todd Shifflett and Paul Weitz set up shots that were specifically backlit in order for the dynamics of his body to stand out. Comments Todd Shifflett: "We have this lovely organic form that almost appears to be wrapped in Saran wrap. You get to envision the peristalsis, the gurgling and the moving around of all the organs. We've taken some liberties with what organs actually go where to make him so tight."

Jane Krakowski's Corma Limbs has the fascinating gift of regrowing limbs after they've been destroyed or, in several cases, eaten. To prepare for Jane Krakowski Corma's close-ups, Todd Shifflett's team took a full-body cyberscan of the actress. To add more detail, they made a cast of Jane Krakowski's arm and hand, which was used in the scene in which her arm is torn off by the Wolfman.

Because he was more interested in his audience being fascinated and creeped out by the freaks than horrified by gore, Paul Weitz didn't want Jane Krakowski Corma's arm to appear terribly bloody. Sticking with this theme, the effects team had Jane Krakowski Corma's limb grow back in a twisting, almost spaghetti-like unfurling of the limbs, which ultimately evolve into hands, fingers and fingertips. As love is apparently both blind and hungry, the Jane Krakowski re is a scene in which Corma's boyfriend, Alexander Ribs, takes a bite out of her finger. To capture the bizarre moment, the filmmakers used a hard piece of chocolate for the tip.

The look of Frankie Faison's Rhamus Twobellies was achieved through the use of a prosthetic mold featuring two bellies with two belly buttons. The actor had to withstand five hours of hair and makeup-as well as countless gallons of glue-to put the look of his character together. In one scene, Rhamus is seen swallowing a retractable torch in its entirety. With the help of some quick cuts, editing and SFX from R&H, it appears he is able to swallow the torch whole.

The filmmakers considered every detail when deciding how to portray each character on screen. About Twobellies being able to swallow almost any object, Todd Shifflett says, "We asked ourselves, 'How big do we really want to make his mouth, regardless of how real we might be able to make it look? Does it start looking grotesque on a more psychological level?' We can be successful with the effects, but it may lose its plausibility for the audience. We did some photo mock-ups in which we stretched out the mouth and then tried to animate it a little bit. But it started with just asking Paul how creepy he wanted to make it look."

Whenever possible, it was important to the team to incorporate practical effects into the production. Tom Woodruff, an actor who is also part of the special effects and creature effects team, was part of the crew that brought to life the Cirque's Wolfman. To create the animatronic character, Tom Woodruff was placed inside a full head-to-toe bodysuit and asked to stand on eight-inch stilts. Four others, who had all worked on creatures together for years prior, operated the outside radio-controlled mechanisms. These included making facial expressions for the Wolfman by moving the eyes, brows, cheeks and lips.

When Darren is made part of the Cirque family, he is given duties by both Crepsley and Mr. Tall he has to pull his own weight. As he gets to work with Rebecca to tidy up, he realises they will be cleaning out the very intimidating cage of the Wolfman, who would just as soon rip Darren from limb to limb. Miano sets the stage: "The Wolfman is sitting at the back of his cage on his hind legs, drooling and spitting. It takes four puppeteers to work him, with one guy on the eyebrows, one on the mouth, one on the furrowed brow and one for the drool. They did amazing work."

Facial appliances, a bodysuit and silicone hands were used to make the plump Mr. Tiny out of a smaller actor. Explains Paul Weitz: "I decided not to have an overweight actor and, instead, took a relatively thin actor and put prosthetics on him. Michael Cerveris is a wonderful Broadway actor, and it's great to have somebody who hasn't been exposed in film all that much in prosthetics. Usually, when you see prosthetics, you think, 'That's so-and-so in a fat suit.' But with Michael Cerveris, it's just this odd character who, in the story, goes back and forth between life and death."

Some of the only completely VFX creatures in Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant are the strange two-and-a-half-feet-tall tiny people who are dead souls. Mr. Tiny, the mastermind of this world, has cobbled together these creatures out of dead vampires. In an odd truce, they've been allowed to temporarily stay at the Cirque under the supervision of Mr. Tiny.

Darren is faced with the choice of leaving his family behind and becoming a vampire when Steve is bitten by Crepsley's mesmerizing spider, Octa. Chris Massoglia explains: "Darren and Steve go to this freak show, and Darren decides to steal Octa. Octa ends up biting Steve, he's in the hospital dying and Darren doesn't have any way to save him. He has to go back to Crepsley and admit that he stole the spider and beg for Steve's life. Crepsley takes advantage of this, and Darren has to choose to become a vampire or let his best friend die."

To create the computer-generated Octa, the filmmakers imagined what she would be like if she were part of a real species. Says Todd Shifflett of the arachnid: "We wondered what the spider's color pattern would look like and thought about what a bunch of them would look like. Are they social? How did they evolve, and why do they have these color patterns? Animals in nature are vibrant and colorful for a reason. We wanted to give Octa some character, but she also has to have enough venom to show she's a very deadly thing."

Ewan Leslie was wowed by the seamless integration of CG and practical effects with Octa. "It's a credit to Todd Shifflett's team that they've made Octa look not only like a spider, but also given her personality. Though she never speaks, there is this dynamic between her and Crepsley, as well as her and Darren, that develops. Paul Weitz was very clear when we introduced CG creatures how the cast needed to react. For example, when Octa's running down the high school hallway, the extras' reactions are priceless."

Darren's love interest, Rebecca, is affectionately known as a "Monkey Girl." Jessica Carlson was outfitted with a belt that was connected to a robotic tail (which moved up and down) to complete Rebecca's look. In some scenes, the tail was also added in postproduction. For example, when Rebecca is tied up and hanging from a rope in the theater with Darren's parents and little sister, the filmmakers gave her a tinfoil tail so that it would make a shadow against the curtains. They used wires to move the ropes. In doing so, it appeared as if her tail were undoing the knots and aiding the escape.

Sideshows and Cemeteries: Shooting in LouisianaAs the filmmakers scouted locations for the production, they decided they could get exactly the look they needed by shooting the majority of the fantasy-adventure in Louisiana. Discussing their choice, Paul Weitz says, "It's cool to be in a city that's getting on its feet after being socked in the jaw. There's this beautiful old run-down theater in New Orleans that we used for various scenes. We used it for the freak show in the beginning of the movie, and this is where Darren's parents are kidnapped and then strung up-in silent movie fashion-by Mr. Tiny."

Production designer William Arnold notes that Louisiana offered amazing visuals of which the team could take advantage. "With the great live oak trees that are here-on Darren's street, for example-we wanted the film to feel somewhat Middle America," he says. "These oaks were able to become a throughline in The Vampire's Assistant. In the cemetery scene, the graveyard looks so spooky at night with those great old oak trees. With the Cirque campground, it was the same thing. We were able to create oak trees, as if they were out in the country. We wanted to shoot under these old living trees that offered the canopy and the beautiful light underneath."

Early on, Paul Weitz decided that he wanted a theater that was on the outskirts of town and falling apart to be Darren and Steve's introduction to the mad world of the Cirque's stage show. "There is something very secret about this freak show," explains Lauren Shuler Donner. "We found a very downgraded theater that was in disrepair and had a lot of flood damage from Hurricane Katrina. It had the parameters we wanted: the elevated stage and very ornate designs. It fixed up perfectly."

Bridges at the City Park in New Orleans were used to take Darren into the Cirque, but when it came to designing the traveling show and the actual grounds where the freaks lived, the team transformed a Winn-Dixie grocery warehouse into the home camp. Because much of what the audience sees are night exteriors, it had to look dark and mysterious. But shooting a film with actors who were under 18 provided challenges with timing there were certain hours in which the team couldn't shoot. Rather than filming at night, it proved much more feasible to build the traveling show as an interior. That way, production designer William Arnold could light it for night or day and have much more control of the situation and shooting hours for cinematographer James Muro.

William Arnold worked with Paul Weitz and conceptual artists to imagine the world of the Cirque Du Freak. They knew they wanted each tent, hut or house to reflect its unique occupant. For the team, it was important that the audience could walk with Darren and discover an otherworldly place.

Ewan Leslie notes that, for Darren: "It's like discovering Brigadoon. The Cirque is tucked away, out of sight. You put the wagons in a circle, and everywhere you look there's some interesting detail. Whether it's the merman's little house where you actually see water running or Evra's tent, which looks like it's covered in scales, the attention to detail is amazing."

"It's like nothing you've seen before," adds Lauren Shuler Donner. "There is a roundness to the way that all the tents are laid out that encompasses them as a family. Each tent is per the character. Evra's tent is snakeskin, and Mr. Tall's tent is, of course, very tall. Because of her beard, Madame Truska's has many items hanging. Each tent is very elaborate in the Cirque, and Paul wanted bright, saturated colors. When Darren gets there, he realises it's an exciting, fun place to be."

After Darren is first turned into a vampire, he is six feet under in a grave at a cemetery, about to be rescued from the ground by Larten Crepsley. To shoot that scene, the production needed to travel about an hour and one-half outside of New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Miano explains the reason for the move: "New Orleans is essentially at sea level," he says. "If you go past the cemeteries, all of the graves are above ground they're all crypts. We were tasked with digging eight feet into the ground to do some of our work, but you can't do that in the city of New Orleans because it will flood, even without rain. In Baton Rouge, however, you can dig eight or nine feet before you have water issues."

While it was odd for the cast and crew to be working in a cemetery at 3 a.m., they knew they had to get the shots. "You can build certain aspects of it on the set, and we've done that," continues Miano. "But to have the scope of the actors running through the cemetery and past gravestones, you need the real cemetery. It would be too difficult to re-create that in a set and give it that space."

Flitting with Harnesses: Stunts of The Vampire's Assistant
From rapidly climbing up the sides of buildings to being thrown out of open graves and battling across a decrepit theater, there were a number of wild stunts for the performers of the fantasy-adventure. The vampires and vampaneze of this story are extremely fast, can fight with their enemies by using sharpened nails and throw any opponent with terrific speed.

One of the pivotal scenes in the film is the cemetery fight between Crepsley and Murlaugh over the possession of "the chosen one," Darren Shan. Filmed in Baton Rouge during a long night shoot, part of the fight was actually done in a graveyard. The other portion was shot on stage. When Crepsley and Murlaugh come into the grave, Darren is trying to get out of the way as fast as he can. At the pivotal moment when Crepsley rescues Darren by throwing him 15 feet into the air (and out of harm's way), Chris Massoglia was lifted by a harness and "tossed" into another part of the cemetery.

This is the first time the audience sees what "flitting" is actually like and the vampires move into super speed. John C. Reilly explains: "Flitting is how vampires travel when they need to get somewhere fast. It's essentially like The Flash. You take a deep breath and start moving, and you quickly turn into a blur. The perspective you have while you're doing it is that the world seems to slow down?even though you're going fast."

Early into production when the performers were getting to know one another, Chris Massoglia and John C. Reilly were tethered as Darren and Crepsley climbed the wall into Steve's hospital room to save him from Octa's venom. Though they were on separate harnesses, they were pulled by the stunt team at the same time?inseparable for hours.

To simulate Octa's attack on Steve in the high school hallway, the filmmakers used a single laser light to stand-in as Octa?before she jumps on him after he tries to catch her. "When the spider is actually underneath my shirt," Hutcherson says, "this machine with a bunch of little servers and motors was used. They stuck it on my shirt with strings that ran down my back and legs. The puppeteer stood behind me and worked it so it looked like Octa's legs were crawling around. The hardest thing for our cast wasn't necessarily reacting to it, but getting everyone's reactions at the same time."

The climactic fight between Darren and Steve happens in the same theater where the teens first see the Cirque Du Freak perform. As the two former best friends attack one another, they were held on harnesses and spun toward one another. Again and again, they were pushed together in a wrestling match to the death and pulled apart. Of the experience, Chris Massoglia laughs, "There was a lot of being thrown up in the air and being dropped. I was basically a tool for most of the movie. I was the guy getting beat up and thrown in the air and thrown off buildings. But it was a lot of fun."




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