'Orphanage' remake finds a director

Larry Fessenden takes reins of New Line pic

Actor-producer-director Larry Fessenden has signed on to helm "The Orphanage," New Line's remake of the Guillermo del Toro-produced Spanish-language horror movie.

Fessenden also has written the script with del Toro, who is producing the new film with Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson of Contrafilm.

The 2007 pic was directed by del Toro protege Juan Antonio Bayona and centered on a woman who, upon returning to the orphanage where she grew up, discovers that her son's imaginary friend is the same person who terrorized her when she was a child.

Fessenden's selection signals the out-of-the-box approach that del Toro and the studio are taking on the remake. They are eschewing another Spanish director to fill Bayona's shoes, and they are not putting the project in the hands of a commercial/music video helmer.

Rather, Fessenden, repped by WME and Renee Tab at Artist Talent Management, is a filmmaker who has worked in the low-budget horror world for some time, making such movies as "Wendigo" and "The Last Winter" while appearing in pics like "I See the Dead."

Del Toro and Fessenden know each other from the horror circuit, with del Toro's admiration of the triple-hyphenate's work leading him to handpick him for the directing gig; del Toro saw in him a filmmaker who understood the conventions of the horror genre and could execute a movie that would be as scary and disturbing as the original but in an American context.

Fessenden's selection also continues del Toro's predisposition toward mentoring up-and-comers or those on the fringe, as he did with Bayona and is doing with Andres Muschietti with "Mama," set up at Universal.

The project is in search of a lead actress.

Borys Kit reported from Los Angeles; Steven Zeitchik reported from New York.