Sunday, April 19, 2009

Not Your Average Creepy Kid Movie? [Starfest/Fangoria]

Orphan director Jaume Collet-Serra

The only overlap in programming from my whirlwind weekend of conventions was the summer horror film, Orphan. While I'd seen the trailer before, and it's plenty creepy, I wasn't really planning on seeing the film when it opened until I saw its panels with director Jaume Collet-Serra and today, writer David Johnson.

Both panels, one at Starfest, one at Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, featured a really creepy clip that involved Esther, the titular Orphan, smashing a pigeon with a brick. Both times the clip showed, the convention crowds seemed to go from sort of interested to VERY interested in the film, which is exactly how I felt. Doesn't hurt that the unassuming Collet-Serra was so oddly charming & funny on stage. Another big thing that's piqued my interest in the film was the way Collet-Sera talked about the actors - how great they are, what made them sign on, what got them cast, etc. I loves me some good actors.

In case you haven't seen it, here's the official Orphan trailer,

Here's what we learned from the panels,

- According to Collet-Serra, this isn't your every day creepy-kid film. "This one is'll be very surprised." It was more inspired by the "enemy inside your own home" aspect, less the "creepy little kid movie" genre.

- Specific inspiration - Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt

- A 10 page treatment was brought to Johnson and he was asked how he'd end it. He couldn't say what his response was, but it got him the screenwriter position!

- The film focuses a lot on the psychological and has a lot of thriller in it, not just horror

- The deaf-mute little sister is played by Aryana Engineer, who is deaf-mute herself. It was important to Collet-Serra that a deaf-mute play the character and he fought for Enginner in particular to get the role. She brought a specific innocence and gave a very real performance in the audition. (Sidenote: Where was Collet-Serra at Wondercon?? There was a big group of deaf con-goers who were asking about using the deaf in film and would the filmmakers consider it, etc. Would have been interesting to see their interaction with a director who actually fought for a deaf-mute over an actor playing a deaf mute.)

- Jimmy Bennett, the little boy in Orphan, also plays young Captain Kirk in Star Trek!

- Collet-Serra's favorite directors are Hitchcock & Polanski

- To Collet-Serra, making horror films is "like a food fight...really playful, fun."

- Someone asked what the most disturbing thing is Collet-Serra ever shot and would he be topping it? His response: "It's in this movie...cannot tell you what it is. [It took] lots of rehearsal. I don't know if I can top it, it's pretty bad."

- Great script is what brought Collet-Serra & the actors on board. Main character (played by Vera Farmiga) really spoke to Collet-Serra, thought he could do something great with it.

- Once Vera signed on, the rest of the cast fell into place.

- Isabelle Fuhrman, who plays Esther, brought such a great intensity to her audition, while staying totally natural yet spooky, she blew the rest of the competition way. Esther was originally supposed to have blond & curly hair, but they altered their vision of the character so they could cast Fuhrman.

- The role of Sister Abigail was specifically written for actress CCH Pounder.

- His dream project is "The Alchemist", but would be thrilled to bring any great Spanish property to life

For more photos from Starfest's Orphan panel, click here.