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Isabelle Fuhrman Is Back as 'Orphan' Esther 13 Years Later: 'I'd Be Pissed If Anybody Else Played' Her

·4-min read
Orphan First Kill
Orphan First Kill

Steve Ackerman/ Paramount Isabelle Fuhrman in Orphan: First Kill (2022)

Isabelle Fuhrman feels ownership over her killer horror-movie role — and 13 years later, she's ready to reclaim it.

The actress was 10 when she made her first-ever movie Orphan, the thriller with a much-talked-about twist: her character Esther, who tormented her adoptive family with increasingly disturbed outbursts, is actually a scheming adult woman with a condition making her appear childlike. It was a shocker for audiences in 2009, and Fuhrman hopes to top it with the new prequel, Orphan: First Kill.

"I definitely didn't think I would ever be wearing those pigtails ever again," the now-25-year-old star tells PEOPLE, adding, "I also don't think I wanted to when I was a kid. I was terrified everyone was going to only see me in one way, that I was going to get typecast and I wouldn't have any sort of career."

Fuhrman says she took the role very "seriously" as a kid (she even referenced the "comprehensive" notes she had written in preparation for the big-screen debut). Taking a stab at the character again, she took the opportunity to have more fun with the part.

"I had so much excitement and love for Esther that coming back to this weirdly felt like going home. It was the first movie I'd ever done, so it felt like this chapter in my life, and I got to revisit who I was when I was 10 years old playing this role," says the actress, who also appeared in The Hunger Games 10 years ago and scored an Independent Spirit Award nomination as the lead in last year's The Novice.

"I had to lean into the fact that it wasn't going to be exactly the same, but that I could find something new and fresh that would still be what it was and would have the same essence. Because if I played her before, of course I could do it again," she says.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Silver Pictures/Kobal/Shutterstock (5884039c) Isabelle Fuhrman Orphan - 2009 Director: Jaume Collet-Serra Silver Pictures CANADA Scene Still Esther
Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Silver Pictures/Kobal/Shutterstock (5884039c) Isabelle Fuhrman Orphan - 2009 Director: Jaume Collet-Serra Silver Pictures CANADA Scene Still Esther

Silver Pictures/Kobal/Shutterstock Isabelle Fuhrman in Orphan (2009)

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"I felt like I would be stupid not to come back and play this role — and I would be pissed if anybody else played Esther!" she jokes. "I mean, I created her, she's mine. Obviously I had so much help on the first movie with the look and all sorts of stuff, but her emotions and the essence of who she was was something that I created as a kid."

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 06: Isabelle Fuhrman attends the 2022 Film Independent Spirit Awards after party at The Victorian on March 06, 2022 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 06: Isabelle Fuhrman attends the 2022 Film Independent Spirit Awards after party at The Victorian on March 06, 2022 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)

Amanda Edwards/Getty

The actress recalls turning down horror offers post-Orphan: "I had to say no to a lot of scary movies that have done really well over the past couple of years because I've wanted to do something different and I've wanted to forge my own path in my career."

She adds, "It's been a struggle, honestly, at times, as I've grown in this industry to really kind of say no to projects that I would love to work on because of the fact that I know it would just keep me in that same world. I want to grow and stretch myself as an actress, as a person, and I can only do that through doing things that scare me or are uncomfortable or different."

Directed this time by William Brent Bell, Orphan: First Kill also stars Julia Stiles and Rossif Sutherland as a new set of unsuspecting parents welcoming Esther into their home. Prior to the events of the first movie, Esther manages to escape from a psychiatric facility in Estonia, making it to America by impersonating the missing daughter of a wealthy family.

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The cast and crew got creative to make a now-grown Fuhrman appear like her younger self again onscreen, including relying on forced-perspective camera angles, costars with platform shoes, and a pair of child actresses serving as body doubles. Fuhrman says she made sure her Esther counterparts Kennedy Irwin and Sadie Lee enjoyed themselves on set between scenes.

"It's a movie. It's fun. I told that every single day to Kennedy and Sadie. I was like: 'This is supposed to be fun. If you're not having fun, then we're not doing it right,' " she says. "I think we all had a really good time making this movie, especially considering the fact that there was so much going on in the world when we were filming it."

Fuhrman says, "I feel really proud of what we did together as a team, all of us."

Orphan: First Kill is in select theaters, on demand and streaming on Paramount+ on Friday, Aug. 19.