There are plenty of folks on the internet who devote a significant portion of their writing careers to deconstructing, criticizing or otherwise just condescending to folks with whom they disagree, are forced against their will to share interview time with, or just read and regularly get outraged by. And while I generally prefer to keep my outrage private – not the least of which because I've been guilty of many of the selfsame offenses I might criticize – some quite remarkable behavior at the Orphan junket over the weekend has forced me to come forward, if only to highlight what actors and filmmakers must sometimes endure in the name of promoting their work.
On Saturday morning, Warner Bros. coordinated the print and online portion of their junket for Orphan, a film I didn't much like but was very interested in discussing with cast and crew members, including producer Joel Silver, screenwriter David Leslie Johnson, director Jaume Collet-Serra, and stars Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, and 12-year-old newcomer Isabelle Fuhrman. The writer and director were paired, and the actors all sat together as a group of 15-20 journalists – decidedly larger than normal, but mostly populated with familiar faces – peppered them with questions about the film, their participation and other musings best left for catty comments on individual Facebook postings.
Suffice it to say that there are always "agenda" questions asked regardless of the room in which one sits; someone will almost always want to know about their next project, what fitness regimen a star maintains, or what they do over Labor Day weekend. But quite frankly, there's a difference between off-topic inquiries and just plain inappropriate questions, whether they're asked deliberately or not. As such, it seemed appropriate to compile a list of the five dumbest questions overheard at the Orphan junket, even if (thankfully) screenwriter Johnson insisted that he didn't think anything bad happened when I apologized to him - via Facebook, of course.
5. Jaume, how sexy did you want this movie to be?
In case you're unfamiliar with the plot of Orphan, it's the story of a troubled couple who decide to adopt a third child after the wife suffers a miscarriage. Maybe it's just me, but "sexy" isn't a word that immediately comes to mind when I think of that premise.
4. It seems like almost as a director the twist is there because it has to be, the slashing and people appearing behind walls and who's going to get stabbed has to be there. But it was almost like you were making a different movie, and it's very textual and it's very well done; it's almost like a '70s horror movie. I mean, I got the twist early but I didn't care; it was about watching the family dynamic, watching this couple fall apart, disintegrate, all of these things. Were you kind of more interested in developing that textural art of the movie than sort of dealing with what happens after the twist? Which is like, okay, now everybody has to die, and there has to be a fight scene onto the end. Was it sort of like regretful?
This is not a question. It's an opinion. And an idiotic opinion at that – one that includes insulting the filmmakers ("I got the twist early but I didn't care"), and rambling about what you thought of what the movie does and how well it works, which totally doesn't matter. The worst part of this is the amount of time it wasted, although I understand that it was precisely that time which allowed the journalist to figure out what the hell she wanted to ask.
3. I wanted to ask, it seems like this movie has really two incredibly stupid people in it. The shrink, who doesn't get anything and is totally clueless, she's the total opposite of what we might see on In Treatment or this Kevin Spacey movie called Shrink, and is that a conscious thing to sit there and discredit psychiatry. You talked about psychological aspects of the movie, and so you wanted to say that these people are jerks and stupid and don't get anything. And also the dumb daddy, the stupidest white person we've seen in a movie in a long time.
(Interrupted by another journalist.) Don't forget the cops at the end (laughs).
What about that? Was that always a part of the script? Was that something you added and is it meant to be slightly humorous or campy as part of the story?
Is this a serious question? Telling a director and screenwriter that their characters are stupid is probably the worst way to get them to discuss how they created them. No one wants to hear, "this is the worst tuna sandwich I've ever eaten, probably the worst in the history of tuna sandwiches. How did you make it?" Not to mention the moronic insensitivity of another journalist chiming in with his suggestion for the film's dumbest/worst characters. I confess that I definitely had problems with some of the characterizations, although they seemed a byproduct of editing rather than bad writing. But does anyone believe that the filmmakers of Orphan, of all movies, actively set out to make a film that discredited psychiatry as a profession? Suffice it to say that even if one wanted to challenge the filmmakers on their conception and development of key roles, this is not the way to do it.
2. (This is immediately after discussing typecasting with Peter Sarsgaard.) It's the same thing goes for you Isabelle. I mean, in movies I think little girls get maybe underestimated for sure, like, a nine-year-old girl is supposed to in movies [sic] is generally cute and the world revolves around her and isn't usually controlling the adults around her. I mean, it's pretty brave to take a part like that. At your age people will not look at you and go, oh, that's the evil girl, you always have to take evil parts after that. Are you worried about that?
Okay, that isn't a question. That's just a whole mess of gibberish that you felt compelled to say because you wanted to contribute, but then realized that the synapses weren't firing sufficiently well enough to form complete thoughts, much less complete sentences. Are you saying she will be expected to play evil roles, or that she won't? Or is there a contention here that nine-year-olds aren't taken seriously as actors, and they should be considered for the same roles as the ones Vera Farmiga plays? (Incidentally, the final question mark was added as an editorial choice by me, because the journalist in question was still going even as young Ms. Fuhrman began her answer.)
1. Are you ready to be hated by America for being this sinister antichrist of this film?
How anyone could casually ask a 12-year-old this question is incomprehensible, and inexcusable. I think there are legitimate and even good ways to ask this question, such as, "are you concerned at all that people might confuse you with this character?" or "do you worry that people might react to you negatively because of how scary your character is?" Amazingly, Isabelle Fuhrman managed to come up with the perfect answer, and provide the junket's highest point just when it seemed like it was at its lowest:
"If America hates me, then I've done my job," she said. "That's the point of the movie!"