John C. Reilly has definitely raised his profile by going completely goofball with Will Ferrell in hit comedies like Talladega Nights and Step Brothers, but this guy is an Oscar-nominated actor with a wide variety of roles in intense dramatic films like Magnolia, Chicago, The Thin Red Line and The Hours, among many others. Now, he’s taking a step back in the dramatic direction in Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, although it’s not without a bit of comic flair here and there. He stars as Larten Creplsey, a flame-haired elder vampire centuries old who has taken the peaceful road, running a mysterious freak show full of various impressive vaudevillian stage acts. He’s withdrawn from the war between benevolent vampires and murderous Vampanese, who love killing their victims. However, when a young man named Darren begs him to save the life of his friend Steve, the resulting conversion draws him back into the age-old conflict against his will.
“I was thrilled,” Reilly said of being offered the role of Crepsley. “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, and then, to have such a detailed, textured character… this guy has been alive so long and seen so much. And, I got 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.”
Yet he’s well aware the novelty could wear off. “Of course, in two years, it will be, ‘John, why are you always playing vampires and kissing Salma Hayek?’”
That’s right. Salma Hayek stars opposite Reilly as the Bearded Lady and resident clairvoyant in the freak show, not the sort of love interest that a guy like him usually rates. “It’s a personal high,” Reilly quipped of the on-screen relationship, even though he remains a little cagey about it. “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 Salma.”
So how did he swing this part? Probably because he’s wanted to be a freak all his life. “I almost became a clown, actually,” he revealed. “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 fellow freaks.”