U.S. Release Date: 9-8-17
When casting Pennywise, the demonic clown that terrorises the town of Derry in It, Andy Muschietti – the director responsible for bringing Stephen King’s bestselling novel to the big screen – knew he had a winner in Hemlock Grove’s Bill Skarsgård. To Muschietti, director of 2013’s Mama, Skarsgård’s performance as the ancient shapeshifter – which assumes the form of its victims’ worst fears – would have a massive impact on the entire film.
“I was first captivated by Bill’s performance in his audition and from then on, it was like discovering a new treat every day,” says Muschietti. “He not only brought mystery and an intriguing quality to the character but had the guts to explore Pennywise’s insane theatricality. He had a madness in his look, and his body language was completely unnerving.”
Pennnywise’s whacky wall eyed movements quickly grabbed the director’s attention. He wanted the character – who jumps out of hibernation every 27 years to kill Derry’s children – to point his eyes away from each other. Mushchietti figured that this look – the opposite of cross eyed – would be a CGI job during post production, but Skarsgård had another solution.
“I mentioned this to Bill as a trait of the character. He said, ‘Well, I can do that,’ and he just did it right there. And it freaked me out! You will see it in the movie. It’s pretty terrifying. One thing Bill couldn’t do was turn his blue eyes yellow—that we did have to do in post—but the wall-eyed stunt is all him.”
Meanwhile, the clown’s maniacal make up job was no laughing matter. Monster maker Alec Gillis says the enlarged skull, which he created alongside fellow creature creator Tom Woodruff, resembled a cracked water melon.
“We usually design from the ground up, but Andy sent me a design that was pretty much there, with the dictum to make the character look almost like a child,” recalls Gillis. “That really hooked me.”
For the director, an innocent baby face image – comprising of large eyes, a pixie nose, fine hair and apple cheeks – provided a nice counterpoint against the character’s killer razor-sharp teeth.
“I always felt that giving him those childlike features would make him more unsettling because of the contrast of someone who looks innocent and sweet and yet is capable of doing such horrifying things.”
Once Pennywise’s get up was all done, the filmmakers kept the seven young actors who make up The Losers’ Club – social outcasts determined to end the clown’s terror – well away from Skarsgård. Producer David Katzenberg, who wanted the camera to fully capture their first reactions to the character, says:
“We kept the kids from seeing Pennywise until they were actually in a scene with him. I think it just added another layer to their process in terms of learning who Pennywise is and being really scared.”
And Muschietti faced many other challenges during the big terror clown around – especially when it came to the kids’ first encounter with Pennywise.
“It’s an iconic moment in the book that many people will be waiting to see,” the director acknowledges. “The scene is mesmerizing. The first appearance of Pennywise is intriguing and charismatic, but at the same time, you know there’s something wrong about him. But he’s also shrouded in a kind of magic that is quite unsettling.”
Studio: New Line Cinema
Director: Andy Muschietti
Stars: Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton and Jackson Robert Scott
Screenwriter: Chase Palmer & Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman, based on the novel by Stephen King
Producers: Roy Lee, Dan Lin, Seth Grahame-Smith, David Katzenberg and Barbara Muschietti
Executive Producers: Dave Neustadter, Walter Hamada, Richard Brener, Toby Emmerich, Marty P. Ewing, Doug Davison, Jon Silk and Niija Kuykendall
Image Info: © 2017 New Line Cinema. All Rights Reserved
Source Info: Information in this article, including quotes, is sourced from press material pertaining to It © 2017 New Line Cinema. All Rights Reserved