Being compelled to participate in life-threatening situations by the very adults who are supposed to be protecting them from such instances is an emotionally damaging situation for any child, no matter how much they seemingly deserved to be reprimanded. Rising star Isabelle Fuhrman, who first made a name for herself as a child actress by playing the title villain in the 2009 horror thriller, ‘Orphan,’ and then as a career tribute in the original ‘The Hunger Games,’ is proving what a maturing performer she is in her latest project. The actress is once again playing a troubled adolescent who must fight back against the adults in her life who aren’t truly concerned for her well-being in the supernatural horror movie, ‘Down a Dark Hall.’
The new fantasy drama was directed by ‘Buried’ helmer, Rodrigo Cortés. ‘Down a Dark Hall’ is based on the classic 1974 Gothic YA novel of the same name by ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ author, Lois Duncan. The script for the film adaptation was written by Mike Goldbach and Chris Sparling. The movie is now playing in select theaters, as well as On Demand, including Amazon and iTunes, courtesy of Summit Entertainment.
‘Down a Dark Hall’ follows troubled teenager Kit (AnnaSophia Robb), who has been lashing out at school and home for the past several years, following her father’s untimely death. So her mother decides to send the teen to Blackwood Academy after Kit acted out again, and is being accused of arson. The remote boarding school where she’s sent to try to reform her behavior is run by headmistress Madame Duret (Uma Thurman), who has decided to bring five troubled teen girls to live and learn at an expansive mansion. Upon arriving at the school, Kit soon meets her new classmates, including Izzy (Fuhrman), Veronica (Victoria Moroles), Sierra (Rosie Day) and Ashley (Taylor Russell), who are perceived to be just as, or more, emotionally troubled than she is in their home lives.
While trying to overcome their emotional struggles, the five girls also focus their school curriculum, which places emphasis on art, literature, math and music. The girls all soon begin to thrive in a particular subject, much to their surprise. While the students initially clash, due to their distinct personalities, they quickly realize that there are some strange aspects to their new school, and decide to band together against Madame Duret and their other teachers, in order to protect themselves and survive. Despite becoming fearful over what’s happening to them, Kit leads her new allies on a journey to uncover why they feel as though they’re losing control over their bodies, and take whatever actions necessary to regain authority over their futures.
Fuhrman generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘Down a Dark Hall’ during an exclusive interview over the phone. Among other things, the actress revealed that she was drawn to play Izzy in the drama because she appreciated that that the character’s arc, as well as the overall story, were both very suspenseful, so she intrigued to create, and break, her backstory to life on the screen. She also appreciated the bonding experience that she was able to have with her co-stars, as well as Cortés, while they were shooting on location in Spain.
Fuhrman began the conversation by discussing why she decided to play Izzy in ‘Down a Dark Hall.’ The actress explained that “I became involved in the film through my agent, who set up an audition for me and sent me the script. So I read it, and thought the story was super cool, and very different from anything else I’ve ever read. I thought it was very suspenseful, and couldn’t stop turning the pages.
“I then went in for my audition, and then went back to chemistry read with AnnaSophia, Taylor and Victoria. Rosie was in England at the time, so I didn’t get to chemistry read with her,” the performer shared. “But when the rest of us chemistry read together, they matched us with different girls. When we read together, there was definitely something special between us. I remember thinking to myself, I might get this job with these girls, because I feel like we all get along.”
The call then came in that Fuhrman was cast as Izzy, and she was happy to join the movie, as she got along with the other actresses. “So it was a no-brainer to me to take the role. The biggest thing I thought when I read the script was that the movie needed a strong cast of incredibly talented actresses who all really connected, in order for it to be what it was meant to be. When I found out that these other girls were cast, I thought, let’s do it,” the performer enthusiastically revealed.
“I really agreed with what Rodrigo wanted to do with the film. I think he had such a clear vision of what he wanted, which was really exciting. He saw what he wanted in his head,” Fuhrman divulged, “but we were still able to discover new things at the same time. So we all went to Spain together, and had fun making it!”
Further speaking of the fact that the drama was directed by Cortés, the actress then explained what the experience of collaborating with the filmmaker on developing the character of Izzy was like. “We had a lot of discussions about each of the characters, both separately and together. That was really cool, because one of the main things we wanted to establish was the dynamic between all of the girls. We all got along as friends in real life. But part of the movie is driven by our characters learning how to unite, so we wanted to work on that as a group,” the performer explained.
“As far as Izzy goes, I got to create my own backstory for her, including where I thought she came from, and why I thought she was at Blackwood,” Fuhrman admitted. “Rodrigo really liked that in my audition, I made Izzy, who wasn’t really written this way in the script, a fish out of water. I wanted her to be that way at Blackwood.”
The actress added that she thought it was interesting how “all of these girls were either very tough or vulnerable. But I made Izzy feel as though she didn’t quite know where she fit, because I thought that would make her interesting. Rodrigo and I both ultimately agreed to have me do that for the film. We worked to include that in the reason why she’s at this school, so that she’s a springboard for the rest of the girls to come together. The reason why she ultimately feels at home with the other girls is because even though she’s always been a fish out of water, they’ve bonded over their experiences at the school.”
‘Down a Dark Hall’s director “also had very specific ideas about who he wanted Izzy to be, but he also allowed me to play around. Sometimes, he would really like what I came up with, so I would play up those moments,” the performer further shared. “I’ve worked with a lot of different directors, and everyone’s had different styles and ideas about what they wanted. Rodrigo knew what he wanted, but he was also open to let us explore, and I thought that helped make this movie very special.”
The fantasy film also stars Robb, Moroles, Russell and Day in the main roles, like Fuhrman mentioned. The actress then delved into further into the experience of working with the rest of the cast, especially as they were building the bond between their adolescent characters. “When we first went into the audition, we really connected. We then went to dinner together, as well as with the producers and Rodrigo. When I sat down, AnnaSophia, who I had previously met a number of times at that point, stood up and asked, ‘What do you think about us being the Spice Girls for Halloween?’ I knew then that we were all going to be friends,” the actress excitedly noted with a laugh.
“We all really bonded after that. We were in a foreign country, without our families, for more than 50 days. We spent time rehearsing together, and then spent about 50 days shooting, in Spain. We spent so much time together, they really became my family. A lot of times, you work with people, and then you only see them occasionally after the shoot is over,” the performer pointed out.
“But the other girls and I on this film really made an effort to stay in touch, because we had a really special bond. We had a lot of time to rehearse. Rodrigo was really great in giving us time to work on things, and ask questions,” Fuhrman shared.
The director was also “very adamant that he wanted the script to be very different than the book. A lot of us had read the book, but he wanted to make sure that we were all telling the same story,” the actress revealed. “I think that helped make the film so great; we all had the same goal, and were working to tell the same story.”
As far as working with her co-stars, the actress added that she thinks “we all bounced ideas off of each other so well. Friendship is something you either have or don’t, and within a couple of days, we all really connected. It’s really cool that we were able to work together at such a young age, because we’re going to see each other’s careers in this industry grow together,” the performer added. “We’re all looking out for each other, and I’m so grateful for that.”
Further discussing Duncan’s book, Fuhrman shared that she first read it after she received the script for the screen adaptation. But she also pointed out that “Rodrigo did say that the script is going to be very different than the book. But he did also told us that if we ever had questions about our characters that we should read the book again, and then talk to him.
“The book was a great tool to have, but then again, everyone was telling the same story in a movie. So it was very important that we all focused on the story that was in the script,” the actress explained.
Izzy and her classmates must fight back against their teachers at the school, in order to survive, especially since Blackwood is set in an old mansion that’s deserted. The crew created that atmosphere by building the entire school on a soundstage, the performer conveyed.
**SPOILER ALERT** “At the end of the shoot, they actually burnt the sets, while we were inside them,” the performer divulged. “That experience was scary, but also very cool at the same time. Of course, they were very aware of what they were doing, but it was very cool to watch. We were standing in the middle of a room that was really catching on fire, That situation really helped us connect with our characters. There’s nothing quite as thrilling, exhilarating and scary then being in a room that’s on fire. You get your best performance when the moment feel real.” **END SPOILER ALERT**
The fantasy horror movie was shot on location in Cortés’ native Spain, like Fuhrman previously mentioned, which was an experience that she cherished. “I really liked filming in Europe. What was so great about it was that we all got to bond so much, since we were all there together, without our families. Spain’s a beautiful country, and getting to film there was a dream come true.”
The actress added that one of her favorite aspects about her career is that she’s able to “travel to different places, and not just for a week. I get to live in these places for months at a time, and be a local. That’s what I got to do with this movie; I got to live in Spain for five months with all of these girls. There’s nothing that brings a group of friends together like traveling together, and that’s what we got to do.
“We started in Barcelona, and then went to the Canary Islands. During that time, we learned so much about each other and ourselves. I think filming in Spain was essential to making the movie that we did. Rodrigo hired some of the most talented artists to work on our set, which helped make the movie so special…It’s not only a great story, but also beautiful to look at,” the performer also gushed.
Having the movie be released simultaneously in theaters and On Demand is another element of the filmmaking process that Fuhrman appreciates. “I love seeing movies in the theater, but it’s so much easier to watch a movie at home,” the actress admitted. “There’s nothing more fun to me than making a bunch of snacks, and having my friends over, to watch movies. What’s great about ‘Down a Dark Hall’ being On Demand is that you can have your girlfriends over, sit on the couch and experience this journey together with these characters. But I really hope that the audience enjoys the film, no matter how they watch it!”