‘Orphan: First Kill’ Star Isabelle Fuhrman on Reprising Esther Role Without VFX or Special Makeup

The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter

Isabelle Fuhrman is reprising her famous role of nine-year-old Esther from 2009’s Orphan in the upcoming prequel Orphan: First Kill. But instead of Fuhrman playing an older version of the iconic character, she will once again play the nine-year-old, without any de-aging work or CGI, which she calls “a challenge.”

“I love the challenge of being able to play a kid because that’s never historically been done in cinema — I was like looking all this up, because I love looking up old movie history and things like that, and I was like, ‘Oh, an adult has never reprised the role that they played as a child,'” Furhman, who currently stars in The Novice , tells THR . “Will Smith, for example, recently did that movie [ Gemini Man ] where they de-age somebody, but to reprise a role that you literally did as a kid as an adult has never been done before. It’s kind of impossible. And we did it. We didn’t use special effects, we didn’t use any crazy makeup tricks. And I think that’s what makes the movie work, is because you really can’t figure out how I look like a [9-year-old], but I do. And it’s really creepy.”

The 2009 film starred Fuhrman (now 24) when she was 12 years old. Jaume Collet-Serra directed the film that also starred Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard and — spoiler alert — followed an adopted girl who turned out to be 33 years old and appeared younger due to a rare hormonal disorder that stunted her growth.

Fuhrman says she felt some trepidation to reprise her role because she’s been trying to venture away from horror movies because that’s all people perceive her as. The script had been floating around for a while, and Fuhrman called writer David Leslie Johnson following a 2019 Dr. Phil episode in which a Ukrainian orphan is accused of lying about her age, and told him now is the time to get the movie made.

As a producer on Orphan: First Kill , Fuhrman “got to be a part of the creative process of like, how can we tell this story differently? How can we come back and make this cooler or more interesting and different?”

She adds, “I was there every day. I know how we did this. I know all the tricks, and I’m so thoroughly disturbed right now, because I somehow am nine years old again, and it doesn’t make any sense… I was like, how do I revisit this part and then also convincingly play a kid? Because that was the easy part last time, the hard part was trying to be an adult. Now the hard part is I have to be kid.”

Fuhrman currently stars in Lauren Hadaway’s The Novice , in which she plays Alex Dall, a collegiate rower who will stop at nothing to be the best at the sport. A psychological, Black Swan -esque thriller, Fuhrman says she saw similarities between Orphan and The Novice.

“For Novice or for Orphan , or a couple of other films I’ve done, I don’t recognize myself when I watched them,” explains Fuhrman. “And I can watch them over and over. And I’m like, that’s not me at all. Like, there’s not even a sliver of myself… Part of the reason I was so attracted to this movie is because Alex is the villain. And she also is the hero of the story.”

“The whole movie was basically like, how do I play both of these characters where you’re rooting for her and at the same time, you’re trying to get her to stop,” she continues. “With Orphan too, when I auditioned for that when I was little, I honestly think the only reason that I booked it was because I understood her deep, primal desire to find love, which I don’t think a lot of people brought into the audition, because it’s very easy to play a creepy kid or creepy person, but it’s very hard to find, like, what is the reason why this person is doing all this, and it was like, she wants love.”

Orphan: First Kill will be directed by William Brent Bell and is also set to star Julia Stiles. No release date is currently set.

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