Last summer, 12-year-old Isabelle Fuhrman went from unknown young actress to star almost overnight with her role in Orphan -- a performance that's gotten her compared to Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed and Linda Blair in The Exorcist. This very flattering, informative article and interview from Digital City reveals who this Isabelle is and where she came from.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you know Isabelle Fuhrman. You may not think you know her, but after her face graced the posters for one of this summer's big horror thrillers, Orphan, you undoubtedly have the image of her sinister visage burned into your brain... and if you saw the movie, she likely stars in your nightmares, too.
But Fuhrman isn't your average child star. In the game since the age of seven, Fuhrman's star has been on a rapid rise since lending her voice to the Cartoon Network's Cartoon Fridays. She's made memorable guest turns on shows like Ghost Whisperer, done comedy skits for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and then owned the silver screen with her portrayal of Esther in Orphan.
And she's not slowing down, either. Whipsmart and ambitious, driven and determined, there's no doubt Fuhrman is going to have a long and storied Hollywood history. This is only the beginning.
Were you prepared for the reaction you got when Orphan came out this summer?
It was so amazing to see the posters and billboards going up everywhere! And when the movie came out, I went to see it at the theater and people asked me to take pictures with them and sign autographs! I was so happy when I got my first fan letter as well. I feel so fortunate!
How do you feel when you look back on the experience of playing Esther?
You know what's funny is that I don't really remember much any more. But what really helped me bring Esther to life was my intuition. That's when I really began to trust my gut. It guided me through every decision because I really didn't know anything about the kind of problems Esther had. But I wanted my performance to be honest and I wanted to stay true to Esther's emotional state of mind. I had to become her. It was scary and there were times when I had to force myself into a place outside of my comfort zone. But that's why I wanted to be an actress.
What was it like to see your face on billboards across the country?
AMAZING! It was so funny too. And completely surreal! I loved seeing where the billboards were and my friends would send me pictures of them. One of my friends was on vacation in Bali and she saw a huge billboard, it's incredible!
Of the TV work you've done -- Ghost Whisperer, Justice, The Cleveland Show -- what's been the most fun and why?
I have a hard time choosing between Ghost Whisperer and Justice. Justice was my very first show when I came to Los Angeles and it is very dear to me. That was the first time I was on a Hollywood set, the first time I had a trailer. I will never forget that! And I loved Ghost Whisperer because it was a great role and I got to play a ghost of an eight-year-old girl. I loved being in the hair and makeup trailer and playing with different looks. Hair and makeup people are my favorite! I always end up spending the most time with them. I loved getting to know Jennifer Love Hewitt and I got my puppy while I was filming that episode.
((Notice that glaringly absent from this interview is any mention of Isabelle's only other film, Hounddog, where she played a friend of Dakota Fanning's character. This is a pattern that I've noticed among young actresses. If they're not well-known, they can work with other young actresses and talk about them, but if they become famous, they have to pretend that any other young actresses in Hollywood don't exist. I'm not blaming Isabelle, here, or anyone else; that's just the way it is.))
Aside from the obvious, how does acting and voice acting differ for you... or does it?
Voice acting is really cool! It is very different and yet very similar, because you still have to act and be in character but you are in a booth all by yourself. Most of the times, you are saying the lines alone. So in that sense, it is more difficult, because you have to use your imagination and create a whole other world in that booth.
How did you wind up doing skits for The Tonight Show?
I was asked to read for a skit a few years ago and ended up taping it the following day. And then they just kept calling me back. I missed one, though, because I was on vacation. I love comedy and Jay Leno's skits are very funny.
And you just got some exciting news... tell me about your latest role.
I will be playing a princess! I am so excited! It is a remake of A Little Princess, based on the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett. But it is set in a modern day and has elements like Facebook and texting. It is one of my favorite books and I'm thrilled to do it. ((This is such exciting news! I really hope that this movie actually happens and doesn't fall through the way some do. There are already several film versions of A Little Princess, my favorite being the 1939 film with Shirley Temple. A new version, set in modern times, with Isabelle putting her own unique spin on the role of Sara Crewe -- that would be so awesome!))
Is it hard to play other people, and then have to let go of them to find your way back to who you are? How do you do it?
It can be really hard not to take your character home with you. Once you click with your character, they want to hold on to you but you have to let go and move on. Because if you don't, you'll have a hard time being yourself and also morphing into a different character for another project would be impossible. When I was filming Orphan, we were in Canada in the winter, so the setting and location helped me with my character. When we got back to LA, it was another world; it was warm and sunny. That helped a lot! I also had to stop thinking like my character because it would freak me out and go back to being myself; and very soon the character I played was gone.
How do you balance having a normal teenage life with having a Hollywood career?
I love acting so much and I also love my school and my friends. Both are very, very important to me. So I try to fit everything in. Sometimes it's hard and I stay up past my bedtime so I can finish a script or a book, but I love going to bed knowing the ending.
So is this it for you? Do you want to act for the rest of your life, or do you have other plans?
I do. I feel really lucky that I found my passion and am able to pursue it. And that my parents are supportive of me and my dreams. But it would be limiting to say that this is it. There are so many other things that interest me: I love music, literature, writing; I love traveling and learning about other cultures. I love cooking, painting, designing outfits. I'm hoping to be able to help others who are less fortunate. And one day, I will produce and direct films, too!