Orphan's Jaume Collet-Serra

by Ryan Rotten, Managing Editor
April 20th, 2009

Some horror films could arguably be labeled as the first line of defense in birth control. Who would want to have or raise a youngster after seeing The Omen, The Bad Seed, or most recently Joshua? You would think no one, however, the human race continues to procreate and Hollywood, fighting the good fight, continues to put a new spin on the ol' "creepy kid" formula.

The latest is a film called Orphan from Warner Bros. and Dark Castle. Director Jaume Collet-Serra directs this story of parents (Very Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard) who lose an unborn child and adopt Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a little girl who is not at all what she seems.

Collet-Serra met up with for a brief chat at the Los Angeles Convention Center where he was previewing Orphan, his second horror effort after 2005's House of Wax, before a crowd at Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors. Between House of Wax and Orphan, what have you been up to and how did your latest collaboration with Dark Castle come together?

Jaume Collet-Serra: After House of Wax, Joel [Silver] and I really loved working together and he offered me a couple of things. I was trying to stay away from the genre because I didn't want to do only horror movies. There was nothing interesting at the time and we started to develop something that never came to fruition. Then I did a soccer movie in Spain [Goal II: Living the Dream] just because I'm a big soccer fanatic. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. How many soccer movies are done every year? I just had to do it. When I came back, they had [Orphan]. It was just an excellent script and that was basically what got me. It's not a sequel, it's not a remake and it's very fresh even though you might see a lot of things you think you've already seen, but the movie is very different.

Shock: Sure, we've seen a lot of creepy kid movies come along.

Jaume Collet-Serra: This movie will speak for itself. There's a lot of uniqueness about it I can't talk about just yet because it will give it away. Just to put things in perspective, when you have such quality actors, like Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard, that are willing to do a genre. They didn't do it for the money, it was because of the script. They saw something that was fresh, new and worth doing. They will bring a lot of credibility to the movie.

Shock: Especially for Vera who did Joshua.

Jaume Collet-Serra: When I met with her that's what I said. I told her she was one of my favorite actors and I wanted her to do this. But the movies are 100% different. Her character is really different. In Joshua, the father is the main character but here the mother is. It's a different movie and Joshua, as good as it was, didn't really have that much exposure and I think this one might have a lot more.

Shock: How did you find Isabelle Fuhrman who plays Esther?

Jaume Collet-Serra: We just went through the process and we wanted to find someone who was unknown. Her face is fresh, new and creepy. We just cast pretty much everywhere. When I saw Isabelle Fuhrman, she just had a great intensity to her performance. In places where kids had to over-act to get there, she was very natural. She just had that very strong presence. And it made us change the concept of Esther. In the script, she's blonde, curly hair, blue eyes. A different image. Fuhrman blew away the competition and we were very surprised to find her.

Shock: Whenever you introduce children to a horror film, you find yourself balancing a delicate line in regards of how far you can show a child in peril. Did you find that difficult?

Jaume Collet-Serra: It's always a weird situation when you do a movie with kids who are technically not allowed to see it. Obviously, the parents are involved in the process but making a horror movie is a lot of fun and harmless. It's not traumatizing at all and kids actually have fun with it, like Halloween. It's not weird for them at all. Regarding the MPAA and what we show, I haven't found any problems at all. This is R-rated. The moment you put a kid in a situation like this it becomes R-rated. There are a lot of wonderful kids in this movie. We found this little girl in Vancouver, Aryana Engineer, and the reason she's so special is because she's a deaf mute, that's her character too. She's a six-year-old girl who didn't know anything about movie and we captured that innocence which is rare these days.

Shock: How long have you been in post-production? For a while there I thought we'd see the film last year.

Jaume Collet-Serra: There was never really a release date, so when that happens you tend to drag things along. Then the studio set a summer release because they really liked it. That pushes you to finish it.

Shock: How would you say the visual language of Orphan differs from House of Wax? And would you say you evolved from Wax which was your first feature film?

Jaume Collet-Serra: Sure, sure...I've done many commercials, but there's nothing that will teach you how to make a movie except making a movie. I learned a lot. Specific to the horror genre, creating tension, I think in House of Wax, the nature of that movie was different, it's a slasher film. I've learned a few tricks to creating tension. In Orphan, it's more psychological, a bit more thriller-like. Those tricks came in handy for the tension where there's no real serial killer.

Shock: When do you start shooting Unknown White Male?

Jaume Collet-Serra: Hopefully we'll be shooting this summer in Berlin. Just a straight thriller, no creepy kids and no serial killers. Very good script, very mature. We haven't started casting yet.

Shock: Now that 3-D has been brought back to the fore in horror, you must kicking yourself over the fact you didn't have the technology to shoot House of Wax that way.

Jaume Collet-Serra: Exactly! I've done a lot of research on the technology, I've seen all of the cameras and I'd love to do a movie in 3-D. We were a few years early, but Joel is dying to do something in 3-D, when he does it I hope I'm there to make it happen.