Writer David Leslie Johnson is pretty new to a lot of people, but he plans to be making a name for himself this Friday, as his film Orphan hits theaters across the country. The film is about a married couple who go through an abortion and decide that adoption is their last chance at having a child.
They meet Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) who, on the outside, seems perfect, but later shows herself to be something “different.” We got a chance to sit down with David right before the hoopla at San Diego Comic-Con and talk about a few things.
The Flickcast: Given the premise of Orphan, would you call it more of a supernatural horror or more like a suspense thriller?
David Johnson: It has horror elements but it plays more like a suspense thriller. My mother actually compared it to films like Fatal Attraction and Cape Fear.
TF: So more of the human condition?
DJ: Yes, absolutely.
TF: A movie like this seems to stem from a history of horror and suspense thrillers, did you pick up a lot of influences from other films for the script?
DJ: I’d always been a horror fan. I actually started with suspense though, my family got me hooked on a lot of Hitchcock films such as Psycho and The Birds and those kinds of movies. For Orphan, I had one film in mind when writing, which was Shadow of a Doubt.
That film had the great idea that “the menace” wasn’t always a guy with a chainsaw, but rather crazy uncle charlie who only you know is crazy. In this case, it’s our main character Kate (Vera Farmiga), who learns about the true horror.
TF: With Orphan being your first break into the world of horror and suspense films, the next film you are working on is said to be “an epic fairytale horror.” Can you give us any more info on that?
DJ: Yes, it’s in the vein of Sleepy Hollow, just taking sort of an old fairy tale and putting a horror spin on it, while setting it in a bigger scale. No real details just yet, but I’m sure you’ll hear more soon.
TF: You worked with legendary writer/director/producer Frank Darabont for a while. Did you pick up a lot from working with him?
DJ: Oh, yeah. I was Frank’s assistant for five years and he sort of treated it as a student/teacher relationship. Like a graduate film school for me. I didn’t work with him on Orphan in particular, but in my writing in general, I was heavily influenced by his style of writing and especially his first take on characters in a story.
TF: You mention that horror is your first love. Is there any other genre that you would love to branch out into in the future?
DJ: Well, I do love horror, but actually my first love was always the big summer tent pole action/adventure movie. I was a Star Wars baby, so it was just a great time to be a kid at the movies with things like A New Hope, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark and other summer blockbusters that today are getting nominated for Best Picture and real consideration.
I would love to take a crack at that kind of stuff.
TF: Well, is there one franchise in particular that you would love to get your hands on in that genre?
DJ: One of the first pieces that I wrote in the genre was an adaptation of the old Doc Savage pulp novels. I don’t know where this came from, but as a kid I got really interested in old pulp novels. The Shadow was my favorite, and I was actually lucky enough to write a script for Doc Savage (which was originally planned to star Arnold Schwarzenegger).
But the pulp characters were always the genesis of the comic book characters, which I really like a lot. Now with things like Solomon Kane and John Carter From Mars, it looks like pulp is making a comeback in movies, which is great.
Orphan, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and starring Peter Sarsgaard, Vera Farmiga, and Isabelle Fuhrman, hits theaters across the country this Friday.