‘Cell’ Co-Star Isabelle Fuhrman Knows What Her End of the World Plan Would Be
Isabelle Fuhrman is no stranger to horror. One of her earliest roles was as the titular character in “Orphan,” and she frightened all of us as career tribute Clove in “The Hunger Games.” But in “Cell,” she has a chance to play a normal survivor. Fuhrman sat down with Entertainment Voice to talk about her roles, meeting Stephen King and her end of the world plan.
Were you a Stephen King fan coming into this film?
I had read Stephen King and was a fan of his books, but Stephen King is just so daunting when you hear his name. I got “Cell” and I did read the book but our director Tod Williams (aka Kip) called me and said it’s a little bit different just so you know before you read it. But it was really cool. I love working off things where you have extra material to go from and work toward to find out who your character is.
He (Stephen King) was actually involved with the process of making the film, which was insane. He came on set at one point. It’s beautiful that he was a part of it as well so we could help make his vision, even if it was a little bit different in the end because technology had kind of changed since the book was written.
Were you intimidated by meeting him, or was he so nice that it wasn’t a problem?
It was really nice. For some reason, when I’m working on something with people, I don’t get at all star-struck. John Cusack and Sam Jackson are actors who if I saw at an event I’d be like “Oh my God! There’s John Cusack and Sam Jackson” but because I was working with them it was alright. I was going to be on set with them and we were going to be making this movie together. This is going to be cool and I don’t need to freak out because I’m going to see them every day!
What attracted you to this project?
I hadn’t read the book, but I got the script and read it really quickly. They were starting filming soon and they were scrambling to find someone to play Alice. I got on the phone with Kip and talked to him but getting the chance to work with John Cusack and Sam Jackson; I was basically in. We also got to film in Atlanta, which is where I grew up. It’s so funny, as an actor, we have a big job in making the movie what it is but at the same time there’s so much that goes into it before and after our small little work on the process. Then there’s editing and color correcting, music and everything that goes into it. All I have control over is the amount of fun and the time that I have when I’m working on the project. Being able to work with great people like Tod Williams, John, Sam and Stacy Keach it was a no-brainer. I got to work with amazing people I’ve been a fan of and look up to. I got to dive into a project where we explored each other’s notes on the script. I got to work in a place where I grew up. It was a no-brainer; it was awesome!
One of the most impressive things about the film was how terrifying the “Phoners” were. Were they as creepy on set as they were on film?
We filmed in Atlanta and that’s where they film “The Walking Dead,” so they have all these extras who have been zombies on [that show]. They also cast a lot of dancers to play the Phoners. They wanted a specific feel that was very robotic and technological. Like when a wire is cut and something is on the fritz or like a screen would do if something broke in a computer.
They actually went to “Phoner school” to learn the choreography and be a Phoner. It was so cool to walk and talk to all of them because so many of them were professional dancers and others were “The Walking Dead” fans who had been cast in the show then recast as Phoners in this movie. It was a cool community and they all seemed to know each other.
So they weren’t at all scary but it was kind of funny because they were covered in food and always eating weird stuff. We were laughing at that one giant long take of them walking through the street where they’re eating and hitting things in this trance. John and I looked at each other and thought if you just took this out of the movie, what kind of movie do you think this would be?
You mention “The Walking Dead.” Were you much of a zombie fan before this film? It’s basically Stephen King’s take on zombies, after all.
I think I watched all four seasons of “The Walking Dead” after we did the movie because that’s when it was put on Netflix. I wasn’t a huge fan of the show before that, outside of doing the Halloween Horror experience at Universal Studios. So I wasn’t a fan of zombies per se but it was kind of cool to do the movie, which wasn’t really zombies but at the same time was similar-ish. We all think what would happen if the world ended. It’s cool to see movies where they show not just what could happen but also show the survival aspect of people and what people have to do to survive.
Alice was a character I loved because she was so different from anyone I’ve played before. She’s not strong, she’s not weak, she’s just a normal girl. All of this stuff happens and by the end of the movie she has to learn to do what Sam says earlier: “People are going to have to learn to get rid of their sensibilities or they’re going to die.” That’s Alice’s journey; She has to reevaluate her life and find out what’s important to her now. She has to learn to survive and move forward past all the craziness. I think it was a beautiful journey and it contrasted John and Sam’s characters really well. We had a lot of fun working on it.
This movie is also about our relationship with technology; did you think about your relationship to your cell phone? Put another way: If the Pulse happened sometime tomorrow, would you be caught as a Phoner?
It’s funny, unlike my friends that text all the time, I’m a phone call person. So strictly on that basis, I’d be the first to go. The Pulse was delivered through a phone call and I love talking to people on the phone. I’ll text for logistics or simple things, but I love a good phone call and hearing people’s voices.
That being said, in terms with technology, I have both a good relationship with technology and a bad relationship with technology. I still write in a notebook and I have a typewriter I type my scripts and stories on. I like to keep things analog and digital very separate and find a way to combine the two. They work different parts of your brain.
I feel like I can get more work done if I pick up a notebook and write for two hours versus if I look at my computer and start writing and halfway through I’m like “Oh my God! What’s on Twitter? What’s on Instagram?” You just get so easily distracted.
There was an advertisement the other day when I was in the car that said “Did you know the internet was created to save time?” and I just started laughing.
Do you have a zombie apocalypse plan?
Oh yeah! I was thinking about this other day. My friend’s family has a house in Topanga that has a fenced off orchard. We were picking fruit that was in-season and I thought how amazing it was to pick fruit. I had this thought that if the world was to end, I would come here and lock myself in the orchard. There’s a chicken coop right over there with chickens laying eggs. I would be set! I’ve got fruit. I’ve got vegetables. I’ve got chickens. I’m far enough removed; Topanga is a few miles away from the nearest grocery store. I think I’d be good! I think this would work.
“Cell” breaks out in theaters on July 8.