One of the most prolific and successful producers in the history of motion pictures, Joel Silver has produced over 50 films, and his company, Dark Castle Entertainment, has released a string of successful Horror movies including House on Haunted Hill, Ghost Ship, Gothika and House of Wax. His new thriller Orphan comes out this week. In it Vera Farmiga plays Kate, an alcoholic mother of two, who recently had a stillborn baby she’s still grieving over. At her husband John’s (Peter Sarsgaard) urging, they go to a local orphanage and are immediately attracted to a 9-year-old named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), whom they bring home to devastating results.
It’s been suggested that classic Horror films in the 30s flourished because of the depression, what do you think?
I don’t know, there were a lot of Westerns then too. I think this is a genre that has always been kind of a date movie. But I think it’s always been a very viable genre, there’s always been Horror movies coming in and out of vogue, different kinds, different versions, and I think we’re challenged to try to come up with ideas that are fresh, original, different and new, and I think this one is and I challenge all of you not to tell the end of the story. I think people will enjoy this movie more if they don’t know.
It’s an interesting take on the killer kid movie, I think it’s the best Dark Castle movie, what attracted you to it, because it’s got such a great spin in the third act?
That was the hook of the movie. Leonardo diCaprio who was our partner, his company Appian Way, had the idea for the movie. He wanted to do an interesting Horror movie. It was his idea for that twist. That idea got us, I read the script, you didn’t see it coming, and I think that’s the special thing about it. And the key just to get the verisimilitude, you have to believe all these things that are happening, and I think you do.
And Isabelle had a grandparent from the old Soviet Union, so she was actually able to have the accent. It was natural because she [was around] her grandmother all the time. So it never felt like it was a put-on kind of play-acting accent. You believe that that’s who the girl was. She played her very well and the script was very good. The opening scene where she’s painting when she meets Vera and Peter, I mean, you buy it, and you always know there’s something weird. You don’t know what it is. And then when you find out it’s good.
What’s the challenge of making something really scary for today’s audience?
Look, it’s hard to find a good idea that’s fresh. You make remakes or sequels and you know where you’re going, but it’s hard to have an original [idea]. That’s why The Matrix was so incredible when it came out, because it was an original idea. It didn’t come from anything. [Our next film] Whiteout is a graphic novel. There are things that we’re doing like Sherlock Holmes that have a familiarity to them. But this one really is unsequelable.
You mentioned the importance of familiarity when putting out movies, it seems like now reboots are replacing sequels, do you think sequels are still more viable than that, or are reboots going to be the way of the future?
If you go back in time and look at the Forties, Fifties, the golden age which I think we are in a golden age of Hollywood now, but it’s always been vault haven, they reframe stories and have gone back to the beginning and redone them. They’ve continued stories, they’ve had franchise stories, and I think it’s just the way we do these movies.
Sometimes people reject remakes, or they reject an idea that has been done too many times if it’s not fresh or unique enough. But we all have to try to find ideas and find things that (people) may want to see and try to make the best movies we can. And I think that when something original comes along like this, and it is good and it is fresh, that’s why we have Dark Castle, because maybe Warner Brothers might not want to make this picture by themselves, but we were able to do [it with them]. But they believe in it and they’re [doing a great job] promoting it.