In casting the titular role in Warner Bros.' terrifying suspense thriller Orphan, producer Susan Downey notes, "The character of orphan Esther starts off a sweet, angelic girl who's had a difficult past, but is excited to be part of this new family. Then you realize, she's pretty evil, and she has intentions. So we needed an actress who could pull off all those things."
Relative newcomer Isabelle Fuhrman was cast in the key role of Esther. "I read the script and it was so thrilling, it made me sit on the edge of my seat, thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what happens next?'" says Fuhrman. "I knew I wanted to play Esther because she would be such a challenge and a lot of fun, so I dressed up in an old-fashioned dress and put ribbons around my neck and wrists, and went to the audition trying to make myself feel what Esther was feeling like."
Director Jaume Collet-Serra points out, "Because of the subject matter, we needed a really young, but at the same time really strong, actress. Isabelle, who was only 11, had such confidence. She came in and owned the character."
Child star Fuhrman says about her character, "Esther is very complex. She is sweet and happy one moment, and then in a minute she's crazy and upset and angry. She feels that she was never loved by anybody, like she's a good little girl in a world that is just against her. She feels like she is the victim. I tried to bring all her different sides—her shy side, her sweet side, her menacing side and her weird, kind of crazy side—and mesh them into one person and add my own twist to it. If I make people love Esther and hate her at the same time, I've done my job."
Producer Joel Silver was taken aback by the young actress' ability to comprehend the part. "During the casting process, we all felt very strongly about Isabelle," he says, "and I have to say, I think we were right. She is fantastic in this role."
Downey attests, "Isabelle brought all these different layers—there's such a sophistication about her, and yet also a wide-eyed innocence when she wants to play that. At the beginning of the movie, you completely buy that she's this sweet little girl. Then, as Esther evolves during the story, Isabelle was able to pull off all the harder, edgier stuff, as well."
Opening across the Philippines on July 29, Orphan is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Entertainment Company.