Orphan: First Kill was a hit in cinemas and on streaming, inspiring the people who made the horror prequel to reveal all on Twitter this week.
Orphan: First Kill is a belated prequel to 2009’s Orphan, about a woman with a growth disorder who pretends to be a child, then murders the family who adopts her.
The new film plays out before those events, so we meet Leena at the Estonian institute where she’s imprisoned, and follow her to America where she becomes Esther, and begins the US portion of her killing spree.
Over the weekend, star Isabelle Fuhrman, director William Brent Bell, and writers David Coggeshall and David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick hit Twitter to tell all about the movie. So beware of Orphan: First Kill spoilers ahead.
David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick said “the idea that Esther is actually an adult sprung from my fear and revulsion towards child beauty pageants. I just imagined one of these kids with a big knife and voilà: Esther was born.”
ORPHAN trivia: the idea that Esther is actually an adult sprung from my fear of and revulsion toward child beauty pageants. I just imagined one of these kids with a big knife and voilà: Esther was born. (1/3) #OrphanLiveTweet pic.twitter.com/sIO54nAOM0— David #OrphanFirstKill in theaters now! Johnson (@bravecarrot) September 11, 2022
Johnson-McGoldrick then posted a page from his original Orphan script, where Esther is described as looking like “JonBenet Ramsey by way of Angelina Jolie.”
Johnson-McGoldrick then posted a series of Tweets featuring classic horror movies that inspired both Orphan films. Starting with The Bad Seed, wherein Patty McCormack played murderous pre-teen Rhoda Penmark.
Over the course of the evening, I’ll be posting about the movies that inspired ORPHAN. First up: THE BAD SEED (1956). By any metric that matters, 8-year-old serial killer Rhoda Penmark is Esther’s mother. Thank you, Patty McCormack! 🙏 #OrphanLiveTweet #OrphanLiveTweet pic.twitter.com/6g1UmA3tNs— David #OrphanFirstKill in theaters now! Johnson (@bravecarrot) September 11, 2022
Other films name-checked by the writer include a trio of domestic thrillers: Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, Joseph Ruben’s The Stepfather, and Curtis Hanson’s The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.
Isabelle Fuhrman is more than 10 years older than when she first played Esther, while the character is supposed to be younger in First Kill. But the filmmakers all agree that she was the driving force behind the prequel happening, and as Johnson-McGoldrick puts it, Fuhrman was adamant that “not only COULD she do it, she was the ONLY one who could.”
We had assumed we would have to recast Esther for any sequel and offered @isabellefuhrman a cameo, but she refused — she was going to play Esther or she wasn’t going to be in it. She was adamant — not only COULD she do it, she was the ONLY one who could. (4/5) #OrphanLiveTweet pic.twitter.com/0Eqnuc1ai2— David #OrphanFirstKill in theaters now! Johnson (@bravecarrot) September 11, 2022
The filmmakers therefore worked around her age via make-up, child stand-ins, and a series of in-camera tricks.
David Coggeshall revealed that the film was written as a springtime movie, featuring pool parties, rowing sequences and the like. First Kill then shot in Winnipeg in winter.
So the pool party happened around a fire-pit. While Esther’s rowing brother became a fencer, a talent that now plays into the film’s finale.
In the original Orphan: First Kill script Leena was watching Jerry Springer on TV in the Estonian institute, and the words he said would have mirrored what Esther says to her new Dad in the 2009 film.
In the script, Leena was watching Jerry Springer in her cell (not a Shirley Temple movie). Jerry was going to give the same speech Esther gave Peter Saarsgard when she first met him in ORPHAN, an easter egg of how she learned to talk that way. #OrphanLiveTweet— David Coggeshall (@DavidCoggeshall) September 11, 2022
That changed to a Shirley Temple movie however, which Leena is now watching to learn how to act like a little American girl.
In an early version of the script, when Esther is driving on her own, she’s singing along to ‘Man I Feel Like a Woman’ by Shania Twain on the radio. That tune wasn’t ultimately used, and when they were shooting the scene, Isabelle Fuhrman was asked to pick some music, and chose ‘Maniac’ from Flashdance.
MANIAC – the song was chosen by ME! @WmBrentBell asked if I wanted some music while filming the scene and I chose Maniac because I LOVE the song and thought it suited the mood… I was SO SURPRISED when I saw the movie and there it was! #OrphanLiveTweet #OrphanFirstKill— Isabelle Fuhrman (@isabellefuhrman) September 11, 2022
Fuhrman explains: “I LOVE the song and thought it suited the mood. I was SO SURPRISED when I saw the movie and it was there.”
Leena had her issues – clearly – but Johnson-McGoldrick believes she didn’t arrive in America fully formed. Rather she learned from the best, in the shape of Julia Stiles’ Tricia.
The Albright home was Esther’s psychopath finishing school. She was still a little rough around the edges when she arrived, but under Tricia’s tutelage, she becomes the fully realized monster that we meet in ORPHAN. #OrphanLiveTweet #OrphanLiveTweet pic.twitter.com/MTlNcIkwVK— David #OrphanFirstKill in theaters now! Johnson (@bravecarrot) September 11, 2022
As the writer puts it, “The Allbright home was Esther’s psychopath finishing school,” and where she becomes “the fully realized monster that we meet in Orphan.”
We’ll leave the last words to Esther herself, Isabelle Fuhrman…
Orphan: First Kill is still in some UK cinemas, while it’s currently streaming on Paramount+ in the States. You can read our review of the movie here.