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Inside ‘Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant’ with the Film’s Stars

John C Reilly and Chris MassogliaJohn C Reilly and Chris Massoglia in ‘Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant.’

© Universal Pictures

If playing a vampire does for Chris Massoglia what it’s done for Robert Pattinson, then Massoglia needs to prepare himself for lots of attention. Vampires are hot right now and Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant is the latest in a string of projects with the fanged ones as central characters.

Massoglia is a relative newcomer to the big screen, but he was joined by film veterans John C Reilly and Salma Hayek, among others, on the PG-13 film based on a popular book series. Reilly plays an older vampire who mentors Massoglia and Hayek gets to, once again, don facial hair to play the Cirque du Freak’s bearded lady. Together for a press conference to promote the Universal Pictures film, the threesome talked about working on what could be the first film of a franchise.

John C Reilly, Salma Hayek and Chris Massoglia Press Conference

John, were you familiar with these books prior to being cast in this role? How cool was it to play the head vampire?

John C Reilly: “I was not familiar with the books before I was offered the movie, but it was great. This whole vampire tidal wave that’s happened lately wasn’t quite cresting at the time we made the movie. The first Twilight movie hadn’t come out or anything. My favorite vampire movie was Shadow of a Vampire. I thought that was really great. And, we were lucky enough to have Willem Dafoe in the movie.”

“I became aware of the books through the script, and then eventually read all of them. I was always the one on the set going, ‘You know, but the books say…’ I came to really enjoy them.”

Salma, what do you think about the vampire explosion and what do you like about vampires?

Salma Hayek: “I don’t have a fascination for vampires. It’s quite ironic. I’ve actually been a vampire in a movie, and I’ve been in love with a vampire in another movie, and yet I have no fascination whatsoever with vampires. But, I did love this script. It wasn’t the fact that it was vampires. I actually found the concept of the circus freaks a lot more interesting than the vampires, maybe because there’s been less movies done about that. But, it doesn’t matter what I like because they were interesting characters.”

“I also liked that it was a film that is for young people, but it doesn’t treat young people as a cliche. It’s respectful of their uniqueness. It doesn’t tell them exactly what they’re supposed to think. It gives them space to take different things in different ways. I thought it was quite smart and refreshing, so that’s what attracted me to it. It just happened to be a vampire project. It also just happened to have facial hair, and it’s the third time I’ve done some kind of freak facial hair in a movie.”

This movie ends in such a way that is very open for a sequel. Have they already talked to you about doing more films? Are you signed on for more?

John C Reilly: “We’ve been filming now for about three months. We’re almost done. It’s a big gamble on Universal’s part. No. If the movie does well, I’d assume there will be another one.”

Chris Massoglia: “Yeah, I’m signed on for some more projects, and I’d love to do more. What I’ve heard is that if the fans really come out and support the movie, then everybody is really interested in making another one.”

Salma Hayek: “We did sign a contract. We don’t know if it’s going to happen or not, but they made sure that we cannot just escape that easily – if it does well. I think it’s going to do really well, and I think it’s going to surprise many people.”

Salma, what sort of tips can you give for growing and maintaining a beard?

Salma Hayek: “I think it’s very important to steam so that you get the root of the hair. It’s important not to drink a lot the night before, so that your hands don’t shake and you don’t cut yourself. And, at some point, it’s important to just let it grow and accept yourself with all the hair you have.”

How did you like the fabulous red dress you wear during the Cirque du Freak performance?

Salma Hayek: “There were some amazing costumes in the film. [Judianna Makovsky] did a fantastic job. It was a really challenging movie for them. What I liked the most was that she really worked with you. We were all very picky about the character. It wasn’t just, ‘Oh, I want to look cool.’ We were all very intense about really creating a character. I know John was. You have to be. So rarely do you get a character that you can create something big and theatrical, that has a look and a world of its own. It was really exciting to work on.”

Salma, your character in the film can see the future. Do you have any powers of prophecy?

Salma Hayek: “Do you know a woman that doesn’t have them a little bit? But, I don’t have them any more than the average.”

How long before you let your daughter see this movie? Did she see you with the make-up and beard?

Salma Hayek: “Yeah, she saw me with a beard. She understands it’s make-up. She was seven months old and she was not freaking out. I explained the process to her, and she saw it and was fascinated looking at it, but she knew not to touch it because it was fake. She was with me the whole time and I had to show it to her or I wouldn’t have seen her the whole day. I couldn’t put it on and take it off.”

Was it weird for you to see yourself like that, or are you just used to it?

Salma Hayek: “I’m not totally used to seeing myself with a beard.”

John C Reilly: “You look good with a beard, though.”

Salma Hayek: “John made me feel really good about it. He’d say, ‘Oh my God, you look so hot with a beard,’ and I’d be like, ‘Really?’ It was like when I was a whale and swollen from the pregnancy, and I’d never looked worse in my life and people said, ‘Oh, you glow.’ They have no words to tell you how bad you look, so they tell you that you glow, and then you feel like you glow. It was the same with the beard. They made me feel good about it.”

John C Reilly and Salma HayekJohn C Reilly and Salma Hayek in ‘Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant.’

© Universal Pictures

Chris Massoglia: “This was my first movie and my first chance to really act in a movie. There are a lot of things about acting that are really fun, but at the same time, it is work and it is a job. We were on set for 12 hours a day, for three and a half months. I was away from my friends and family, and I wasn’t playing sports. So, while the whole experience was really interesting and fun and I learned a lot, there were days that I had to work, like anybody has to do.”

John C Reilly: “It was a real special time to get to work in New Orleans. Some parts of the city were totally coming back, and other parts were shockingly still neglected and seemingly forgotten, so that was hard to see. Once you get outside of the French Quarter, it was tough to see how hard people were still struggling in New Orleans. That theater that we shot in hadn’t really been touched since the storm, so it was filthy and you felt like it was dangerous just to be in there. But, ironically, that was exactly why we picked it. It was so atmospheric and had so much decay going on. It was a challenge to work in that place, but overall, New Orleans was a pretty delightful place to be.”

Salma Hayek: “For me, it was a dream job because I had a very small part and everybody in the movie was amazing and fun to be with. For me, it was just a lot of fun. I would go in and talk with nice people and play a crazy character. It was not a lot of work. I spent a lot of time with my child. But, at the same time, everybody took this very seriously. The movie has a lot of comedy and they are fantastic characters, but part of the fun was working with such professional people. And, I was very impressed with Chris. He’s young and it’s his first movie. It would be very easy to get distracted. But, all the young kids were shocking. They were like machines. They were professional, focused, took it very seriously, really paid attention to the directions and really tried to understand and learn. They were always watching John.”

Chris Massoglia: “We had good examples.”

Salma Hayek: “Everybody took it very seriously, and that was part of the fun.”

Chris, it seems like playing a young, handsome vampire is the fastest way to becoming a star. Do you feel pressure to become the next teen sensation?

Chris Massoglia: “I don’t really think I feel pressured to become a teen sensation because that’s not really my goal in life. It’s not really about being star, being popular or having lots of girls. It’s really about continuing to be able to act and have fun, and do what I like to do. For me, it’s just about learning and being there, understanding and developing my acting abilities, and being able to look for the next project so I can act in it. It’s not really about being a teen star, so I don’t really feel pressured in that way.”

John C Reilly: “I feel pressured to become the next teen sensation. I don’t have a lot of years left, so I’m really counting on this one.”

With the way that actors and celebrities are treated now, with the paparazzi and everything, do you feel like you are part of the Cirque du Freak?

John C Reilly: “Only when cornered by people that make me feel that way. I stay away from a lot of that stuff, and I think you can create your own reality, to a certain extent. Yeah, it can be a real freak show sometimes, but I have it easy, compared to some people so I’m not complaining.”

Salma Hayek: “I don’t think that we are the freaks. What’s freaky is the guy behind the camera desperate and so excited because he’s seeing you walk into a supermarket. I think that’s freaky. They’re the freaks. I’m not the freak. I’m being attacked by the freaks, sometimes. That’s the strange part.”

John, you’ve done so many different types of roles that there’s not really a typical John C. Reilly role. But a sexy vampire who gets to romance Salma Hayek is very different for you, isn’t it?

John C Reilly: “It’s a personal high.”

What was your reaction when they offered you this role? Were you surprised?

John C Reilly: “Well, I was thrilled. I had been doing a lot of comedies in a row, and I was getting known only for that – especially among younger audiences. I thought, ‘Wow, I’ve done almost 50 movies and these kids only know me from these two movies, and they think that’s all that I do.’ So, I thought maybe it was time to do something different. I had always wanted to do a fantasy movie. This kind of movie is the kind of movie I like to see. I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter movies and The Lord of the Rings films. I like a good fantasy adventure story, so I was thrilled when it came along. And then, to have such a detailed, textured character… This guy has been alive so long and seen so much and gets to be a mentor character, which has been an important relationship in my life at different points. So, I’m thrilled to just keep surprising them. Of course, in two years, it will be, ‘John, why are you always playing vampires, always kissing Salma Hayek? Why?'”

What was it like to kiss her with the beard on?

John C Reilly: “I didn’t have to kiss her with the beard on, actually. That was a special effect that came later. But, a lot of people want to know what it’s like to kiss you, Salma. All day long.”

Chris Massoglia: “I got pretty close, I got pretty close. I think it was six inches. She was like six inches away from my face.”

Salma Hayek: “In the sequel.”

John, you’re a lot taller than Salma so how did you work out that height difference during filming?

John C Reilly: “Quality and quantity are not the same thing. There is a lot of me, but she’s more valuable, like a diamond. They would dig a small pit, and then I would stand in it. No. We had a picnic scene where we sat next to each other on the ground, and we sat on a bed together. It wasn’t a problem. I was just delighted to be with her.”

Salma Hayek: “He’s very flexible.”

John C Reilly and Chris MassogliaJohn C Reilly and Chris Massoglia in ‘Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant.’

© Universal Pictures

Chris Massoglia: “Yeah, definitely. One of the best things, for me, about doing this movie was just working with all these guys. Being able to do your first movie with a bunch of Oscar nominated actors and actresses, and director, is a really big privilege. I remember the first day I was working with John, I was a little intimidated. And (director) Paul [Weitz] came up and just started talking to me, and we got my mind off the subject. And then, John came up and we had a really cool conversation and it was fine. It was a lot of fun. Yeah, I asked John a lot of questions throughout filming, like, ‘What was it like for you? How would you deal with certain situations?’ The biggest thing for me was just being able to observe how he worked with the crew members and different cast members that would come and go. It was fun, not only because I got to see how he acted professionally in what he does, but I also got to see how he related personally with all the other cast and crew. It was really awesome for me.”

What was it like to work with Michael Cerveris?

John C Reilly: “He’s about 100 pounds lighter than he appears in the film, first of all. I can’t tell you how many people I know who have seen the film, have said, ‘Where did they get that fat guy from? He was amazing!’ And I say, ‘That’s not this fat guy. That’s this actor.’ When Michael and I would act in scenes together, I felt like we were trying to out-arch each other [with our eyebrows]. ‘Oh, Mr. Tiny.’ ‘Well, Mr. Crepsley.’ Both trying to out-sinister each other, but I think he had me beat. He’s got that sinister quality in the bones. He’s just a fantastic stage actor. That’s what I know him from. So, I was really happy that he played the part. He really made the movie very rich. He’s the puppet master, through the whole thing.”

Chris Massoglia: “He was really fun to work with. He was really nice. It was weird because he’d walk around set normal. He’s really skinny and pretty short, and then he had this huge, fat head on, so it was a little man with a really fat head, which was weird. But, yeah, he was really fun. It was really cool. He’s a huge fan of New Orleans and he did a lot to help out when he was there. He played shows there. I think he has an apartment there. It was cool to see how much he cared about New Orleans too.”

When you were young, would you have wanted to leave and join the circus?

John C Reilly: “I almost became a clown, actually. My plan was to go to Clown College after I finished acting school, and then somebody who was a clown talked me out of it. They were like, ‘No, man. It’s a five-year contract and you have to ride in the worst compartment of the train. It’s a nightmare.’ So, I reconsidered it. But I think I joined the circus when I started doing theater at eight years old. That’s when I found my people, my fellow freaks.”

Salma Hayek: “I did dream a little bit about being a contortionist or a trapeze acrobat. I would have loved to have done that. Have you ever heard, this is not the circus, but have you ever heard with Up with People? I had a dream about going away with Up with People and going from town to town, doing this show for world peace. That was my kind of circus.”

One of the things that makes this vampire movie unique is the flitting that the vampires do. How did that actually work?

John C Reilly: “That involved Chris getting on my back, and me trying to run with Chris on my back. My knees used to be able to do that much better than they’re able to now. But we only had to run a few feet and then the effects would kick in. That’s one of my favorite parts of the books, actually, the fact that they can travel so quickly.”

Chris Massoglia: “I liked being able to be on John’s back. It was fun.”

What happens when you don’t hold your breath?

Chris Massoglia: “You get the air knocked out of you. I had that experience in the movie. I thought it was cool. At first, I was like, ‘What is flitting? What are you actually doing?’ I understood it to be a combination of slowing down time and running really fast. But, I think it’s a really cool concept and it’s probably my favorite supernatural power that we get to have in the film.”

Salma, do you currently have any projects that you are looking to produce with your company?

Salma Hayek: “Yes, I have some plans. We are developing some movies and some television shows with my company. I was actually just talking to John about a project where he might be playing a Mexican soap star and Diego Luna will be his manager. We’ve been talking about that project since we were shooting this film. And, I think I’m going to have to write a part for Chris because I am convinced that he’s going to be a huge star because he’s very, very talented, and I think I can get him very cheap right now.”

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October 23, 2009 - Posted by | 1

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