Isabelle Fuhrman © Warner Bros

Twelve-year-old Isabelle Fuhrman began her career at the age of seven appearing on Cartoon Network’s Cartoon Fridays. Well, she’s not in a cartoon now – in Orphan she gives a chilling performance as Isabelle, the orphan adopted by John and Kate Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard, Vera Farmiga), who has more on her mind than family unity.

Did your parents have any reservations about you playing this role?

Isabelle Fuhrman © Warner Bros
Isabelle Fuhrman © Warner Bros

No, they were really all for it because I really wanted to do this film. Before I went on the audition, I was talking to my mom and I was like, “If I get this, I really want to do this.” And she was like, “Alright, well let’s do it.”

So, after I got it, my mom was actually in Africa on a press trip. She’s a journalist. She does Travel & Life Style. She gets a call in the middle of the bush riding an elephant in the morning saying, “Your family needs to speak to you right now.” And my mom’s thinking “What the heck happened? What’s going on?” She picks up the phone [and hears] “She got the part!” and then she’s like, “Oh my Gosh!” So it was very exciting. I was just so happy. After I got the call, I went to my computer. I was doing my homework and my dad said “Why are you doing your homework? You should be celebrating.” I said, “I’m finishing so I can go celebrate. Hello!”

What was the biggest challenge for you playing this role?

Isabelle Fuhrman © Warner Bros
Isabelle Fuhrman © Warner Bros

The challenge that I saw when I read the script was very large, The challenge of playing a conflicted, complex character who can be happy one moment and then turn her head and just be thinking of a diabolical plan of something to do. What will be next on the list to check off that can make this family even more miserable. But I had such a great time and it was such a great experience and I really learned a lot from this, from Vera and Peter and from Jaume (Jaume Collet-Serra, the director). I learned a lot about myself through this like I can do it. I can actually do this.

What was it like playing someone so evil?

A lot of fun, but it was challenging playing someone evil because I’m so different from that.

Did you stay in character between scenes? How did you work, because you were scary?

Isabelle Fuhrman © Warner Bros
Isabelle Fuhrman © Warner Bros

Thank you. I could dip in and out of character but I mainly stayed in character during the week. When I had days off, I would monkey around; sometimes I’d go and talk to Vera and Peter about advice on acting because they’re just amazing actors and I’m new to this.

Did you worry about keeping in character after you were through shooting this movie?

Not really because I’m really different than my character. I’m not evil at all, I promise you that. I go to school, and all my friends are really excited for me so it’s been great.

Are you allowed at the age of 12 to see movies like this in theaters?

Not other movies, but this movie I’m allowed to see but my sister is going to be sitting next to me at the premiere and during some scenes that Vera and Peter have she’s going to put her hands over my eyes.

Your director Jaume Collet-Serra said that in some of the more intense scenes it wasn’t you and that it would only be close-ups of you and he did not ask you to do a lot of the stuff. Is that true?

It’s very true. Yeah. I did a lot of stunts in the movie but I didn’t do a lot of the scenes that were more intense. It was like Halloween. Of course, I’d never do this in real life. Never. Never, never, never. But it’s fun to play evil. It’s very fun.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.

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