She Did What?!? Director Jaume Collet-Serra on 'Orphan'

by Lawrence P. Raffel
April 28th, 2009

He's a nice guy, so mild-mannered and unassuming! These are the words we've heard used to describe House of Wax and Orphan director Jaume Collet-Serra. So we wanted to find out what it's like encouraging children to do the unspeakable and how 'heavy' Orphan actually gets. We have our priorities. And according to Jaume, 'We're talking very heavy', which to be honest, is just the way we like it. Hit the jump for our full interview!

Did you look at other creepy kid movies for inspiration?

I don't generally look at other films from the same genre or sub genre, for me the script was great and I just wanted to stay true to it. I know there are certain clich├ęs that are associated with the evil kid subgenre of horror, if anything I play with it a little bit at the beginning of the movie. I play with what you expect to see and give you a little bit of a twist The script speaks for itself because it is so original. For me, what was interesting was the main character of the mom (Vera), the movie is from her point of view and how she feels her family is breaking apart. And this little girl is the cause of it, but you know it's a little girl - so how can you accuse a little girl of doing anything?

Orphan appears to have a distinct 70's vibe, was this intentional?

Yes, the winter environment which is great for horror movies - because it brings out the isolation to it - really helped determine the look of the movie. What happens when you do a movie where you focus a lot on the characters and you let the characters speak out without having the camera do anything crazy, you naturally tend to fall into that 70's look. The thing with 70's movies is that everyone recognizes that they are really focused a lot on the characters and camera wise they were interesting but they were more about the story. That's where the comparison is. I intended to be fair to the characters and show the family as a normal family and try not to overuse the style.

Were there any doubts about working with children considering the subject matter?

The only trouble with the kids is that they are in situations that are heavy and you just have to speak with the parents. The parents have read the script and you make sure their kids understand that they are just playing and at the end of the day they have a lot of fun. Because you know, making a horror movie for a kid is like Halloween all day every day!

How heavy do things get? Would you say Exorcist heavy?

(Laughs) We're talking very heavy. Exorcist heavy is probably out of the ballpark. But I think you're going to see things that people are going to talk about. And I think fans of the genre are going to be very satisfied.

Do you have any concerns about what your friends/family might think?

No, because I think ultimately it's a good movie and people will see that everything we do is for the good of the movie. There's nothing that's gratuitous or just for exploitation or anything. Everything makes sense. Whether we cross the lines here or there, I'm not the judge. I'm sure some people will think we crossed the line. Since film is often about breaking boundaries you must want people to leave affected. I think that is going to happen. Luckily Joel (Silver) is a brave producer and he's not afraid of what people might say or might not say and he's 100% behind the movie and what it is.

Have you had any run-ins with the MPAA?

I haven't heard yet, so I don't know if the MPAA has it yet.

There's a lot of buzz online about that poster!

We did a lot of tests with wardrobe and hair to find the look for Esther. It was a very important process for us. Maybe she was blonde, maybe she had blue eyes, maybe she had this or that. What was her clothing? Everything was designed, so when you put so much work into something like that with a good crew and good people you wind up with something good. So it became apparent early in the film that she had to be the image of the film. Even though nobody knows her and that [her parents] Vera and Peter are maybe [images] that would have attracted more people, the right move was a close up of her face with that intensity that she naturally has. That was the right thing to do.

We've heard that there are multiple endings?

The couple endings we have don't really affect the movie; they don't change the movie entirely. The two endings are very different but that doesn't mean it changes the movie. At the end of the day we picked the ending that I think people will enjoy the most. Either ending is right. The one that we have chosen is probably a bit more right but the other one, there's nothing wrong with it either. And we're only talking about the last minute not the last half hour.

What's your biggest fear?

Spiders! When I was doing House of Wax in Australia, there was a spider as big as my hand in my house and I had to call someone, those things were hairy and they jump. And I shot with spiders on House of Wax. I was nowhere near the camera. I'm usually near the camera, but I was directing from far, far away.

What can you tell us about your next film?

It's called Unknown White Male, very thriller, very Hitchcock and mature. It's a good script based on a book called Out of My Head, hopefully we're shooting in the next 3-4 months