Watanabe joins U’s ‘Cirque’ troupe

Paul Weitz writing, directing vampire film

Ken Watanabe has signed on to join John C. Reilly and Salma Hayek in Universal Pictures vampire pic “Cirque du Freak.”

Paul Weitz is helming the film, which is based on the bestselling 12-book children’s series by Darren Shan. Weitz penned the screenplay while Brian Helgeland (“Mystic River”) wrote an earlier draft.

Reilly will play a vampire who drafts a 14-year-old to serve as his assistant. The youth is turned into a half-vampire and becomes the catalyst in a battle between vampires and the rival Vampanese. Hayek will play Madame Truska, the bearded lady.

Watanabe will portray Mr. Tall, the barker for the Cirque.

Shooting is set to start next month. Film marks Watanabe’s first studio role since Clint Eastwood’s “Letters From Iwo Jima.”

He is repped by Endeavor and ROAR.

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