Orphan: First Kill is an absolute blast of a movie that brings back everyone's favorite homicidal, adolescent-looking Estonian: Esther, as played again by actress Isabelle Fuhrman, reprising her role from the original 2009 film. However, the concept of an Orphan prequel was something that even the most hardcore fans were skeptical of, including the new film's director, William Brent Bell. PopCulture.com has a chance to speak exclusively with Bell, ahead of the film's forthcoming release, and he shared with us his "initial reaction" to being presented with the idea.
The script for Orphan: First Kill was written by David Coggeshall, from a script by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Alex Mace. Bell confessed that, prior to reading the screenplay, he was not too keen to take on the project. "My initial reaction was like, as a fan I'm like, 'Guys, I'm excited to read it.' But as a filmmaker, I was like.. Or I guess maybe as a fan as well. I was like, 'I mean, I'm not going to do this. Like, I don't see it working.' And then I read the script and I was like, 'Oh s—.'"
He continued, "Like I knew that something was coming because they said, 'Well, there is a twist though, but we don't want to tell you.' So it was on my radar and I know how movies work and stuff. And I don't know if it was just because I was lost in the story. I know I was expecting it. But anyway, I was like, 'Oh. S—. Okay. This is great.' And I immediately reached [out], I emailed everybody. I was like, 'You guys, I'm so impressed. You really... It's not easy to do this....' And we started working on the movie immediately and it became about how do we bring Esther back to life with Isabel, really."
One of the most impressive, and respectable elements of Orphan: First Kill, is how Bell and his filmmaking crew used practical effects to capture the illusion that Fuhrman is small than she actually is. In addition to having the other actors stand on platform shoes and occasionally having the Esther actress set lower, they also used two young stand-in actresses to help achieve the visuals. Speaking about the decision to avoid CGI, Bell revealed that "at the very beginning, it kind of wasn't even discussed much."
He continued: "It was just, okay. We had a couple script meetings and then I met with Isabelle and immediately was like, 'Wow, we can do this.' Because she looks the same, she's just a little bigger. Yeah. And I had done a lot of the similar things like making a guy who was like six feet tall with like seven feet tall. And so I had done a lot of those types of tricks before and they were totally successful and they worked and I knew how to do that or whatever. And so I just started talking to a lot of my collaborators, and everybody was pitching in different ideas, and there were so many ways to do it."
Bell went on to share, "So for me immediately, it was that and all the producers, everybody was supportive and they wanted that to work. I think some of them just thought, there's no way that ever will, or not for, this was 100 million movie or something, but, and over the course of the better part of a year, we did all sorts of tests and stuff. And then ultimately, yeah. I mean, like everybody was like, 'Oh, s—." But it was touch and go like until the last second of whether or not it like everybody would pull the trigger on doing this."
Elaborating on why they chose to skip heavy CGI, Bell explained, "I don't really think that the technology is exactly there." He later added, "It's a whole different thing. And even the scenes where we use a double and the double's not doing a whole lot, Isabelle's right there off camera doing all the dialogue with the actors. So to do a movie where you have that actor on camera with the mask on their face, and then Isabelle's recording it all, there's a lot of different ways to do that CGI face replacement stuff."
Bell admitted, "I think that technology will become better and easier to use as time goes on, but it just took away the human element of ... I think it would've taken away the human element of what she looked like, even though it's not an exact replica of original. But certainly, for the actors, it allowed them to play with the psychology of the characters more freely because they just bought into what we were doing and they're just making a movie." He then quipped, "They just have to shift their eye line down a foot."
Orphan: First Kill will begin streaming Friday, Aug. 19 on Paramount+. It will also be playing in select theaters and will be available to rent or own through certain streaming and VOD services. Fans can relive the original 2009 film, as well, on Paramount+ where it is currently streaming. Those interested in trying out a free trial of Paramount+ can do so by clicking here. See more of our interview with William Brent Bell in the video above!