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‘Mr. Harrigan’s Phone’ Star Donald Sutherland Intimidated Jaeden Martell More Than Pennywise in ‘It’

Jaeden Martell
Getty

Although Pennywise terrorized Jaeden Martell in 2017’s “It,” Martell revealed that he was more anxious about his first scene with Donald Sutherland in his latest Stephen King feature, “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” than shooting with Bill Skarsgard’s horrific clown.

“I had known Bill [Skarsgard] beforehand, and he’s very sweet. And then with the [Pennywise] makeup on, I was terrified, don’t get me wrong,” Martell told Variety at the “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” premiere Wednesday night at Netflix’s Tudum Theater. “But there’s something about Donald — he’s the real deal.”

On Sutherland’s last day on set, Martell recalled the advice he received from the 87-year-old screen veteran.

“He called me into his trailer, and he was like, ‘Don’t stop acting,’ which was amazing to hear,” Martell said. “Also, he told me to go to college and to study literature, because that’s exactly what he did. And then he gave me a list of plays to rehearse.”

Based on King’s short story in his four-novella collection “If It Bleeds,” the paranormal coming-of-age film follows Craig (Martell), a young boy who befriends reclusive billionaire, Mr. Harrigan (Sutherland). When Mr. Harrigan dies, Craig soon discovers that he can communicate with him from beyond the grave.

Director-writer John Lee Hancock explained his approach to developing Craig and Mr. Harrigan’s unlikely bond in the film.

“I leaned into everything that Stephen King wrote, and talked to him about their relationship and how their bond began over books,” Hancock said. “It goes from books, to what do the books mean and how does that relate to life, and then it turns into life advice — and then into life threats. There was a natural progression from these books, and every book is there for a very specific reason, thematically, so they all kind of feed the story.”

While the stars didn’t get the opportunity to speak with King, Kirby Howell-Baptiste talked about what she would ask the author, if given the chance.

“I would say, ‘How do you keep generating new ideas?'” Howell-Baptiste said. “I think that’s the greatest question for most artists, ‘Do you trust that it comes to you, or do you feel you have to sometimes push through until something sparks?’ I think he’s probably one of the best people to ask that because he’s had a body of work for such a long time.”

Asked about the next Stephen King project he would want to work on, Martell revealed that he would love to play King himself. “One of my favorite books of his is his [memoir], ‘On Writing,'” he said. “It sounds like a narcissistic answer, maybe a little pretentious, but to play Stephen King himself — that’s the ultimate Stephen King character.”

“Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” premieres Oct. 5 on Netflix.