Helmer uses noodle for family dramedy

'Negotiator' thesp Maria starring in pic

TOKYO — Helmer Katsuyuki Motohiro and Fuji TV producer Chihiro Kameyama, who have worked together on three films of the smash hit “Bayside Shakedown” franchise, are partnering again for “Udon,” a dramedy about the vexed relationship between an aspiring comic and his bull-headed noodlemaker father.

Starring as the comic is Yusuke Santa Maria, who headlined the Motohiro/Kameyama thriller “The Negotiator,” which grossed $35.6 million last year.

Shooting starts in mid-March in Motohiro’s native Kagawa prefecture, on the island of Shikoku, and will wrap in May. Manami Konishi (“Bayside Shakedown 2”) plays a young food reporter who discovers the father’s tasty udon noodles.

Motohiro is a lifelong fan of udon — a noodle made from wheat flour that’s considered a Kagawa delicacy — and has long been mulling a movie based on it. The greenlight came in the wake of a craze for Kagawa udon, with fans flying in from all parts of country to slurp 85¢ bowls of noodles in local eateries.

Motohiro’s staff has sampled their share of the stuff, visiting nearly 200 of the prefecture’s 900 udon shops hunting for locations. “Udon” is skedded to open Aug. 26 in Japan, with Toho distributing.

Recalling the international success of Juzo Itami’s “Tampopo” — a 1985 comedy about the quest for the perfect noodle — Kameyama is also eyeing overseas sales.

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