‘It’ Director on Tackling Two R-Rated Movies and Why He Picked Bill Skarsgard for Pennywise

Andres Muschietti It
Courtesy of Warner Bros./Brooke Palmer

It,” Stephen King’s sprawling novel about a band of friends confronted with a child-eating clown, is one of the horror master’s most terrifying works. Director Andres Muschietti, who first turned heads with 2013’s “Mama,” has been tasked with turning the doorstop of a book into two films. The first part hits theaters Sept. 8. Muschietti took a break from working on the picture to talk about directing a cast of teenagers, remaining true to the spirit of King’s novel and why he’s excited that this version of “It” can show more gore than the 1990 ABC television movie.

Was it hard to adapt such a massive book?
You have to start simple. You track the big emotional tentpole events of the movie. We tried to fill it with as much character and story as we could in a two-hour movie.

There will be two films?
We are doing that. We’ll probably have a script for the second part in January. Ideally, we would start prep in March. Part one is only about the kids. Part two is about these characters 30 years later as adults, with flashbacks to 1989 when they were kids.

What kind of response do you get from fans of the book when they find out you’re directing a film of “It”?
Most of the people are excited about seeing a good adaptation. There are naysayers. Those tend to be the people who are fans of the miniseries rather than the fans of the book. People who read the book and got the book, they’re not crazy about the miniseries. It was a very watered-down version. It didn’t contain the darkness that the book had. They couldn’t make something for TV about a clown who eats children.

“There are naysayers. Those tend to be the people who are fans of the miniseries rather than the fans of the book.”
Andres Muschietti

This is rated R?
I’m so excited that it’s rated R. I don’t feel that we held back in any aspect.

Why did you pick Bill Skarsgard to play Pennywise the clown?
I wanted to stay true to the essence of the character. I knew that I didn’t want to go the road of Tim Curry [who played Pennywise in the TV miniseries]. Bill Skarsgard caught my attention. The character has a childish and sweet demeanor, but there’s something very off about him. Bill has that balance in him. He can be sweet and cute, but he can be pretty disturbing.

Did he stay in character in between takes?
He didn’t stay in character when the camera stopped, but we did try to maintain distance between him and the kids. We wanted to carry the impact of the encounters to when the cameras were rolling. The first scene where Bill interacted with the children, it was fun to see how the plan worked. The kids were really, really creeped out by Bill. He’s pretty intimidating because he’s six-four and has all this makeup.

How did you approach directing the child actors?
We made them bond way before shooting. We had them for 10 days doing activities together. There was technical stuff. We had bicycle camp because kids today don’t necessarily know how to ride bikes. Magically they all became friends.

Did Stephen King like the film?
He tweeted about it and said the movie exceeded his expectations. After that we started a private email exchange because I was so excited about his response. My first letter was me asking for indulgence and forgiveness for having changed things. The story is the same, but there are changes in the things the kids are scared of. In the book they’re children in the ’50s, so the incarnations of the monsters are mainly from movies, so it’s Wolf Man, the Mummy, Frankenstein, Dracula. I had a different approach. I wanted to bring out deeper fears, based not only on movie monsters but on childhood traumas.

What’s the key to a successful horror film?
Stay true to what scares you. If you don’t respect that, you can’t scare anyone.

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  1. ragu4u says:

    I’m already totally psyched about Part II of “IT” without having even seen Part I. Call me a sucker for all the hype but if the mini-series had not been as great as it was I wouldn’t even care. The pick of Skarsgard as the clown remains a big unknown for me but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. Truthfully, I have not been this hopeful for an upcoming film in a very long time. I hope this will NOT be the let down which so many other recent films have been.

  2. AngelCakes says:

    I personally cannot wait to see what he made of this story!!! The mini series scared me as a kid….but as a BIG horror fan…i see how it’s kinda lame now. But I still loved the story and always throught how much they could have done with “it” if the throw a “rated r” into it!!! I am excited to see what they made of this story!!! And from what I see….they nailed pennywise!!! Skarsgard…obviously took this part very seriously!!! Sept 8th…waiting patiently!!!

  3. Bill B. says:

    I appreciate many of King’s works, but mostly his early stuff. In my opinion, It was one of his misfires as a book as was the TV mini-series. Silly and boring. This new version is changing things, so that may not be a bad idea, but I still think if the source material is crap, there is only so much one can do.

    • Mark Smith says:

      I loved the book, and was disappointed by the tv series, although I still enjoyed it. Same with the Tommy Knockers. Stephen King’s stuff doesn’t translate well to tv. For the horror genre, there’s only so much you can put on tv and commercial breaks spoil the mood, plus, there’s always this high, Hollywood cheese factor with tv shows, and especially with King’s stuff.

      I remember dying of boredom when the Mist came to tv. It was filled to the rim with cliched, cheesy drama, idiot characters, predictable scenes. It may as well have been a goofy stage play. I couldn’t finish it it was so bad. (Maybe it got better toward the end?)

      It looks like this movie may finally do the book justice. I’m debating whether to see it at the theater because I don’t really watch horror movies anymore unless it’s mixed with sci fi. I’ll probably just catch it on Netflix.

  4. LOL says:

    This director sucks. Mamma was about as frightening as Lord of the Rings.

  5. Restricted comes from the mind of God’s enemy. Lucifer is restricted – banned from God’s kingdom. Movies with live action and animation Imitates life. People need to stop spaying and altering what is seen imitating life that is real and animated.

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