Isabelle Fuhrman knew very little about the world of competitive rowing before she was given the lead role for “The Novice” – but she was used to pushing herself to the extreme physical limits of a sport.
Several years ago, Fuhrman and her friends completed a 344-mile relay race from Santa Monica to Las Vegas; she personally ran about 60 of them. So in addition to her audition tape for movie, Fuhrman wrote first-time TV series director Lauren Hadaway a letter about her experience working on the series. “About getting up in the morning before sunrise and running for hours to get through the hurt and pain and understand what that feels like,” says Fuhrman. “I wanted her to know that I had the physical endurance, as well as the mental endurance, to do this part.”
They met face-to-face and bonded over softer topics – dating in Los Angeles, astrology – as well as the grit and perseverance needed to succeed in both film and sports. compete. The screenplay for the film, written by Hadaway, was inspired by her experience as a college rower.
Fuhrman plays Alex, an obsessed college freshman who joins the rowing team with a desire to rise to the top. The intense film has been compared to “Whiplash” for its portrayal of a young adult oriented toward perfection at the expense of everything else, but Fuhrman notes a fundamental starting point. stemming from the quantitative nature of sport versus art. “We’ve seen this kind of story before with artistic images,” says Fuhrman. “But in the end, there is still room for subjective opinions about art. And when it comes to sports, sport is a game of numbers through and through. You are good enough or you are not. “
Objectively – and subjectively – the movie has been received. It won the narrative feature film award at the Tribeca Film Festival this past summer and two weeks ago received a flurry of Independent Spirit Award nominations, including for best film, best director and best lead actress. The winners will be announced later this spring. Fuhrman from her home in LA, said, “I’m really grateful that the film has been recognized as it was an investment in blood, sweat and tears for each of us.
For the 24-year-old actress, that “blood, sweat and tears” is literal. Fuhrman had six weeks from being a complete novice to being able to stand on set on his own with real college rowers. “The physical aspect of it is what really made me find Alex as a character. Just like she loves the sport, that’s basically what I have to do,” said Fuhrman. Her preparation for the movie included waking up at 4:30 a.m. to paddle for six hours, followed by a workout with a personal trainer.
After their first week of filming, Fuhrman dragged herself to the gym on her day off – despite the exhaustion and bleeding blisters from her arm wraps – and realized she’d landed exactly where she needs to roleplay.
“Looking at the movie, I’m really proud of this performance because I honestly don’t know how I did it. It’s like a marathon. It’s like a race to Vegas,” she said. “There was a time when I was on these incredible heights. And sometimes it feels like I’m going to literally pass out and I’m going to vomit. But that’s the movie – and that’s the experience I made at the same time. ”
While Fuhrman left the film with an appreciation for the sport of rowing, the film also gives her a fresh look at her acting career. “Alex is the hero and villain in her own story,” she said. “No outside force can motivate me, like Alex. And the biggest responsibility is to be your greatest coach and your toughest critic, but it’s also important to remember that sometimes being your greatest ally and reminding yourself that you’ve well done. ”
Fuhrman got her start in the industry as a child actress playing Esther, the main character in the 2009 horror film Orphan. More than a decade later, Fuhrman will reprise the same role in a prequel film, “Orphan: First Kill,” which will premiere in late January.
“I think the reason I get so many roles in these dark characters is because I find a certain humanity in people,” says Fuhrman. “What I saw when I was 10 years old and I read that script [‘Orphan’] is someone who is desperately looking for love, and can’t see herself as beautiful,” she added.
And the inner stories that Fuhrman turns to when finding light in the darkness of his characters. “The line between what makes someone good and what makes someone bad is very thin. I think it’s really just stories you tell yourself.”
MORE FROM WWD:
https://wwd.com/eye/people/the-novice-isabelle-fuhrman-rowing-lauren-hadaway-1235018322/ Actress Isabelle Fuhrman on ‘The Novice,’ Indie Spirit Award Nom – WWD