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Earlier this summer the casting news on John Carter of Mars, to be directed for Disney by Pixar’s Andrew Stanton, starting pouring out. Now we’ve got three more great names for the cast — well, two more and one confirmation.

THR reports that Thomas Haden Church will in fact appear in the film, as Tal Hajus, described by the trade as “an ambitious and vicious Thark warrior who is biding his time to be a ruler.” The Tharks are a tribe of four-armed green martians, among whom Confederate army Captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) finds himself after being transported to Mars (which is called Barsoom by the races there.) The Tharks kidnap Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), Princess of the red martians whose society Helium is the dominant group among the warring inhabitants of Mars.

The fantastic Mark Strong, new to the cast, will be Matai Shang, a godlike leader of the Holy Therns, called in the novel The Gods of Mars “that ancient cult which for countless ages has been credited with holding the secret of life and death in their impregnable fastnesses upon the hither slopes of the Mountains of Otz.” He’s a serious badass, basically, at least from the perspective of holding unrivaled power. And James Purefoy will be Kantos Kan, the captain of a Helium warship.

Sadly, the November start date we’d previously reported isn’t happening; the trade report pegs ‘early next year’ as the production’s beginning. Not too surprising, since Thomas Haden Church had previously said he’d be shooting John Carter in the spring of 2010.

The names and relationships between characters in this series can seem pretty archaic at first, but there’s an easy way to research the whole story: because the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novels are in the public domain, they’re available in full at Project Gutenberg and other online sources. Read the original text of A Princess of Mars here, and The Gods of Mars here.

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