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Cary Fukunaga Offers New Details on Why ‘It’ Remake Fell Apart

For a cover story this week on “Beasts of No Nation,” Cary Fukunaga explained to Variety why he bailed this summer on New Line’s horror movie remake of Stephen King’s “It.” Fukunaga had already written a script with Chase Palmer on the project, which he first boarded in 2012 (it started at Warner Bros. before it was moved to New Line). The studio is now looking to hire a new director with a fresh script.

Fukunaga had planned on making “It” into two films. Although early reports indicated that the director left over budgetary concerns, Fukunaga maintained that wasn’t the case. Both sides had agreed on making the two films for $32 million, according to the director. But Fukunaga said he had bigger disagreements with New Line over the direction of the story. A rep from New Line didn’t respond to a request for a comment. Here’s Fukunaga’s explanation:

Fukunaga: “I was trying to make an unconventional horror film. It didn’t fit into the algorithm of what they knew they could spend and make money back on based on not offending their standard genre audience. Our budget was perfectly fine. We were always hovering at the $32 million mark, which was their budget. It was the creative that we were really battling. It was two movies. They didn’t care about that. In the first movie, what I was trying to do was an elevated horror film with actual characters. They didn’t want any characters. They wanted archetypes and scares. I wrote the script. They wanted me to make a much more inoffensive, conventional script. But I don’t think you can do proper Stephen King and make it inoffensive.

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“The main difference was making Pennywise more than just the clown. After 30 years of villains that could read the emotional minds of characters and scare them, trying to find really sadistic and intelligent ways he scares children, and also the children had real lives prior to being scared. And all that character work takes time. It’s a slow build, but it’s worth it, especially by the second film. But definitely even in the first film, it pays off.

“It was being rejected. Every little thing was being rejected and asked for changes. Our conversations weren’t dramatic. It was just quietly acrimonious. We didn’t want to make the same movie. We’d already spent millions on pre-production. I certainly did not want to make a movie where I was being micro-managed all the way through production, so I couldn’t be free to actually make something good for them. I never desire to screw something up. I desire to make something as good as possible.

“We invested years and so much anecdotal storytelling in it. Chase and I both put our childhood in that story. So our biggest fear was they were going to take our script and bastardize it. So I’m actually thankful that they are going to rewrite the script. I wouldn’t want them to stealing our childhood memories and using that. I mean, I’m not sure if the fans would have liked what I would had done. I was honoring King’s spirit of it, but I needed to update it. King saw an earlier draft and liked it.”

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