Thesp joins Fraser in family pic

New Line Cinema has tapped Paul Bettany (“The Da Vinci Code”) to star opposite Brendan Fraser in its family fantasy “Inkheart,” to be directed by Iain Softley.

“Inkheart,” which spent 19 weeks on the New York Times Children’s Chapter bestseller list, revolves around a girl whose father has the power to bring characters from books to life by reading aloud.

When a villainous ruler and his band of rogues from a children’s fable kidnap the man, his daughter and her friends, both real and imaginary, must rescue him.

Mini-major’s in talks with Bettany to portray Dustfinger, a fire-eating performer. Fraser’s playing the father. Auditions for the part of the girl, Meggie, start Sept. 9 in England.

Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire penned the bigscreen adaptation of German author Cornelia Funke’s fantasy novel, the first of a trilogy. “Inkspell” was published last fall, and “Inkdawn” will be out next year.

“Inkheart” is viewed as a potential multi-installment fantasy franchise for New Line, along with “The Golden Compass,” which begins shooting next month in London.

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