Peter Sarsgaard is mostly known for his dramatic roles in such films as Boys Don’t Cry, Jarhead, and Dead Man Walking. He is a true thespian who is just as talented in the theater as he is on film. So, what would make such a versatile performer take a role as a supporting character in a horror flick?

The actor stars in Orphan, a terrifying film about a child adopted from a girls home, who wreaks havoc on her new relatives. Sarsgaard plays the father and husband who is trying to keep everyone and everything together while adjusting to his new daughter. Little does he know that the latest addition to his family isn’t as innocent as she looks.

Check out our interview with Peter Sarsgaard after the jump.

What was your main attraction to this material?

PS: Well, when I got it Vera Farmiga’s name was already floating out there, and I remember seeing Vera in her first breakthrough movie that I’m aware of that she did, called Down to the Bone at Sundance. I remember seeing her and just going “Oh my God,” we’ve been waiting for an actress that good. Since then I’ve always wanted to just do anything with her. When I read this I went “that would be very interesting, ” because we’re friends and to be these dysfunctional lovers….I thought that would just be very weird. (laughs)

You’re a very intelligent actor. How did it feel playing a character that for lack of a better word, is as “clueless” as John in Orphan?

PS: His intelligence is off screen (laughs). Certainly the most common place thing in a man is [wanting peace] around his house. You can get so into this routine where you want everything to just stay at this decibel. So that if you have an office in that building, which I do, and I can go down and work. He just keeps everything going in a nice and easy way and I very much identify with that.

In this film your youngest child is hard of hearing, and so was the actress who played her (Ayana Engineer). How was it learning to communicate with her on screen?

PS: I do sign in the movie, but my connection to my family is pretty remote in that way. But you just find yourself doing things as you would. I got less focused on sign language as Isabelle got the most focused on it, because she had to talk to her and become her confidant.


How was it working opposite Isabelle Fuhrman who plays Esther your adopted daughter?

PS: I think a lot of the stuff she did in the movie for any actor, no matter how experienced, doing in dialect, talking at nauseam, always doing at least three things would have been, you know. I have those days when I come to work and I see a scene like that and kind of get sick to my stomach (laughs). She had that almost everyday.

How was it filming in Toronto during the harsh winter season? Did it effect the shoot in anyway?

PS: It was ferocious! We had to get rid of a Halloween scene in the film because it was just not believable that it would be snowing.

These days audiences aren’t as easy to scare, why do you think that is? What do they need?

PS: They need a witness in the movie, that is witnessing the thing’s that are going on, but witnessing them in a believable way. Like Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist, the image of her [Linda Blair] spinning, and throwing up and everything. That’s not what makes you scared, it’s seeing Ellen Burstyn go “Oh, my God!” I really think sometimes in the [horror] genre people put either actors that aren’t up to it or actors that are dismissive of it. They don’t witness the stuff that is happening , because in the end it’s not all about the dupes. It’s about these witnesses to these events.

When Macaulay Culkin was in The Good Son he wasn’t allowed to read the whole script, just his parts. Were there any scenes that were withheld from the child actors?

PS: I think there was one scene between Isabelle and I at the end of the film. They finally gave it to her, but I remember they were holding it. So we did have one at the eleventh hour (laughs).

You can see Peter Sarsgaard’s portrayal in Orphan, when it debuts in theaters on Friday, July 24.