Isabelle Fuhrman is attempting a feat that no other actor has done before in the upcoming Orphan sequel Orphan: First Kill. The now-25-year-old actress is reprising her role as the nine-year-old Esther in the prequel to the renowned 2009 horror film.
During an interview with THR, she shared that she ‘loved the challenge of being able to play a kid because that’s never historically been done in cinema’ – after learning from her research that ‘an adult has never reprised the role that they played as a child.’
Shockingly enough, Fuhrman took on the role without any CGI or de-aging – having to rely on solely her acting skills and youthful look.
‘We didn’t use special effects, we didn’t use any crazy makeup tricks,’ Fuhrman – who was 24 years old while filming – explained.
The actress continued: ‘And I think that’s what makes the movie work, is because you really can’t figure out how I look like a [9-year-old], but I do. And it’s really creepy.’
Director William Brent Bell told Boo Crew Podcast said having Fuhrman reprise the role ‘was a whole process to get approved.’
However, for Bell, the process was worth it.
‘That’s a character that I love so much [and] I really want to be respectful to the audience who love that first film, and expand on who she is as a character,’ he explained.
‘To be able to kind of understand her. But at the same time have as much fun with her as we did in the first movie… and then some. And to have it be Isabelle again… it’s so cool.’
Fuhrman played nine-year-old Esther in Orphan in 2009 at age 12 (pictured left) and is now reprising the role in the 2022 prequel Orphan: First Kill ate age 24 (pictured right)
Forever young! Fuhrman took on playing a child without any CGI or de-aging – having to rely on solely her acting skills and youthful look.
The now-25-year-old actress (pictured right) learned that no other actor has ever played the same role they played as a child (pictured left) as an adult
Fuhrman’s ambition and performance in Orphan has allowed her to continue having a successful career in acting, pictured above in 2022
The director also explained that they used camera and lighting tricks to create forced perspectives. Additionally, they used three children body doubles throughout filming.
One of her co-stars, Julia Stiles – who only appears in the 2022 prequel – was equally excited for Fuhrman to return to the role.
‘I was floored. Because they didn’t use CGI,’ Stiles told Collider.
‘The tricks that they did with the camera and different perspective tricks that they had, plus her costume and prosthetics and all that, she looks like a child.’
‘And her performance is stunning, because she embodies a child too in the way that she talks and the way she walks.’
Back in the 2009 film, Furhman, who was 12 at the time, had to play an adult with a muscular condition that made her look younger pretending to be a kid – but this time, the roles were literally reversed.
‘I was like, “How do I revisit this part and then also convincingly play a kid?” Because that was the easy part last time — the hard part was trying to be an adult! Now the hard part is I have to be a kid.’
That is the challenge indeed. And based, on the trailer and her co-stars’ commentary, it seems like she handles the challenge seamlessly thanks to her efforts.
Hard work has seemed to be a common thread in Fuhrman’s career. Here’s how she landed her first groundbreaking role and used her ambition to carve out a successful career.
A bloody good job! Fuhrman’s breakout role in Orphan at just 12 years old prepped her for a successful acting career
In Orphan, Fuhrman was 12 years old when she played Esther – a 33-year-old with a medical condition that caused her to look perpetually child-like
Fuhrman was just 12 years old when she landed the intensely eerie role of Esther in the original 2009 Orphan.
When Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John (Peter Sarsgaard) adopt Esther, they see her as a unique yet sweet little girl. Eventually, the family learns that Esther is really a 33 year old from named Leena Estonia with a medical condition that causes her to perpetually look like a child and that she has murdered all of her past adoptive families.
Such a complex role was an extremely big feat for a 12-year-old but that didn’t deter her, revealing in a 2009 interview with Movieweb that ‘the script really drew me to it.’
Her mom had her read the script to get her thoughts on it before she went on the audition and Fuhrman was immediately intrigued.
‘I read the script and I told her, “I have to do this. I have to do this. This the role I’m going to go all out for,’ Fuhrman explained.
She added: ‘I wanted to have the challenge of being a two-faced character. And have the challenge of being happy and too sugary sweet one minute and so evil the next.’
In 2007, when she was first auditioning for the role, Fuhrman knew that Esther was a role she ‘had’ to play
Fuhrman said she was ‘excited to have the challenge of being a two-faced character’ and connected to Esther’s desire to be loved
Horror icon! Fuhrman’s success in 2009 allowed for her to continue having a fulfilling career
Reflecting on the role in 2021, the actress had come to realize that she empathized with Esther’s desire to be loved.
She explained: ‘When I auditioned for [Orphan] when I was little, I honestly think the only reason that I booked it was because I understood her deep, primal desire to find love, which I don’t think a lot of people brought into the audition.’
‘It’s very easy to play a creepy kid or creepy person, but it’s very hard to find, like, what is the reason why this person is doing all this, and it was like, she wants love,’ she added.
It was this deep understanding of the role that earned Fuhrman the title of a horror icon and critical acclaim for years to come.
The odds were ever in Fuhrman’s favor! While the actress yearned for the role of Katniss in The Hunger Games, she killed it as Clove
Fuhrman landed the role of Clove in the 2012 film The Hunger Games
The actress’ next big role was in an adaption of one of the most popular young adult series of all times – The Hunger Games. She played the ruthless tribute from District 2, Clove.
When her agent told her about the 2012 film adaption, she read the first book in one night and did the same with the second book for the following night. In total, she ended up reading the entire series nine times.
Naturally, Fuhrman had her sights set on the lead role and wrote a letter to director Gary Ross asking if she could audition for the role when she was 14 years old but was ultimately told she was ‘too young.’
‘So I thought there was no way I was going to be in this movie,’ she told Entertainment Weekly. ‘But they called asking if I wanted to audition for Clove, like a week later.’
While speaking to Glamour, she explained that she did a monologue from the epilogue of Mocking Jay.
‘The casting director said that’s what made her think of me for Clove,’ she shared. ‘Because Clove has this huge monologue, as every villain does when you’re trying to kill the heroine.’
The then 14-year-old actress initially wanted to play Katniss but was told she was too young for the role
Fuhrman – pictured with The Hunger Games co-stars Alexander Ludwig, Jack Quaid and Leven Rambin – trained in throwing knives and combat for the role
The actress put just as much hard work into preparing for the role as she did when auditioning for it.
The casting team initially wanted her to through an extreme physical transformation and gain 10 pounds of muscle.
Since the actress only had two weeks notice, it wasn’t feasible. However, she did bulk up as much as possible and did what she could to present herself as a more intimidating Hunger Games competitor.
‘The way Clove is described in the book is this big and burly character, and I’m so not,’ she said in her EW interview.
‘I really tried to compensate for that with my acting ability and become her physically as much as I can, do all my stunts, and learn how to actually throw knives and combat training and all that.’
All the while, the actress continued her education through online schooling. She was even elected to speak at her graduation – which she joked only happened because she was in The Hunger Games.
Stepping away from herself: Fuhrman felt that she and her Masters of Sex character Tessa were ‘very different’
Fuhrman landed the role of rebellious teenager Tessa in the TV series Masters of Sex
The actress took on yet another role that was far from her own identity when she landed the role of rebellious teenager Tessa in the TV series Masters of Sex.
Fuhrman was just barely an adult at just 18 years old when she played the role and had recently gone through her teenage years herself.
However, the always-ambitious and level-headed actress knew she was ‘very mature her age’ and ‘never wanted to have regrets’ which is why she didn’t ‘act like other young people.’
During her Glamour interview, she noted that she and Tessa are ‘very different people.’
Even though Tessa was far from her true self, pictured on the red carpet in 2015, it helped her learn to be more ‘impulsive’
She played Tessa on season three up until the show’s finale in season four
‘She’s very sexual and very wild, and that scares me,’ she shared. ‘But that’s what makes it the perfect part for me. It’s helping me grow as an actress, and it’s helping me feel more free in a way.’
‘It’s been good for me to play a character who does things so impulsively,’ she continued, adding, ‘Even though I don’t like going to parties, I’ve gone to some now, to people-watch, and I can understand why Tessa finds this stuff fun.’
She joined the show in season three and finished it out for its final season – season four – and earned praise for how she handled an especially difficult scene during which her character was sexually assaulted by her boyfriend.
Fuhrman tapped into her ‘grit and ambition’ for her intense role in The Novice
In the 2021 psychodrama The Novice, Fuhrman places Alex – a college freshman who is unhealthily obsessed with joining the top varsity rowing team
One of Fuhrman’s most finely-crafted role is Alex Dall in the indie film The Novice.
The psychodrama directed by Lauren Hadaway features Alex as a college freshman who is unhealthily obsessed with joining the top varsity rowing team and will stop at nothing to achieve her goal.
‘Part of the reason I was so attracted to this movie is because Alex is the villain. And she also is the hero of the story,’ she told Vogue.
This role was finally something Fuhrman could connect with to the core.
‘I have my own relationship with grit and ambition, which sometimes gets a little messy, and I felt, in my bones, like I had to play this part,’ she explained.
She also was drawn to the challenge of ‘being able to transform myself into a rower.’
Fuhrman tapped into her own ‘grit and ambition’ to land the lead role in The Novice
Fuhrman would row for six hours a day in order to train for her role in The Novice
Even though she can connect to her role in The Novice, Fuhrman, pictured on the red carpet in 2021, still wasn’t able to ‘recognize herself’ in the indie film
Much like her Hunger Games experience, the actress wrote a letter to the film’s director, Hadaway, describing her physical abilities and how often she ran.
However, the real training didn’t begin until she landed the role.
‘I rowed the entire movie. I didn’t have a rowing double at all, so my preparation really began once Lauren cast me,’ she shared.
Over the course of six weeks, Fuhrman rowed six hours a day and worked with a personal trainer on top of that in order to prepare for the role.
Even though she saw some of her personality in the role, she transformed into the role so aptly that she even fooled herself.
‘For Novice or for Orphan, or a couple of other films I’ve done, I don’t recognize myself when I watched them,’ explained Fuhrman.
With all the transformation tricks implemented for Orphan: First Kill, it’s likely that this will be the role she’ll have the hardest time recognizing herself in.