Cary Fukunaga’s two-part adaptation of Stephen King’s It is one of my most anticipated films. While I haven’t read every King novel (I’ve just begun a possibly lifelong endeavor to do just this), It is my favorite work of his. It was the first King novel I ever read (gifted to me by my awesome fifth grade teacher) and the story about an ancient evil and the friends who combat It hasn’t left my imagination since then.
The 1990 miniseries expanded the story’s audience, and while the film has not withstood the test of time, the undeniable highlight of that adaptation was Tim Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, one of the forms It takes in order to lure children to their deaths. Because of Curry’s iconic performance, casting the role of Pennywise for the new film has been one of those fan favorite pastimes (I expect your contributions, Chewers).
Apparently, this has been just as big a dilemma for Fukunaga. In an interview with Brazilian newspaper O Globo (translated by a reader at Bloody Disgusting), Fukunaga talks about the film and casting Pennywise:
“This will be my first movie in the US and I’m still trying to find the perfect guy to play Pennywise,” Fukunaga added. “It’s really good to know Stephen [King] likes what we did. We (Fukunaga and writers David Kajganich and Chase Palmer) changed names, dates, dynamics, but the spirit is similar to what he’d like to see in cinemas, I think.”
Time for some examination. The popular theory has been that the story’s time frame will be updated to bring it to the present, and Fukunaga’s comment about changing dates seems like a big confirmation of that. The original story was primarily set in two periods: the 1950s and the 1980s. The creature known as It appears in the small town of Derry roughly every thirty years to feed, so this means the new film will be set in the 1980s and the present day.
This changes a lot about the story. It is very much Stephen King’s love letter to the film monsters of his childhood’s era, so having the film take place in the 80s will mean that the inspirations for It’s forms will have to somewhat change. It won’t be particularly believable if the teenage werewolf from I Was A Teenage Werewolf is one of the kids’ fears. But, there’s room there to play. In the 1980s period of the novel, a kid swears that he saw the shark from Jaws in a canal. How cool would that be to see in this new iteration?
While I’m not ecstatic about the change in the story’s time period, I trust Fukunaga. He goes on to talk about his commitment to the project:
“I’ve been in this project for about five years,” says Fukunaga in the translation. “I had already read versions of the script but nothing felt right. Everybody tried to put too much into it, telling it from the perspective of the adult and the child in a two-hour movie. It didn’t fit. So I decided to throw it all away and start from scratch.”
There’s no other film currently in production (the plan is to start shooting the first part this summer) that I want to be successful and satisfactory more than It. With films like The Babadook and It Follows gaining widespread critical acclaim, and Guillermo del Toro’s grandiose Crimson Peak due this October, it feels like the horror genre could be headed towards a great new era: the return of the A-list horror movie. I wrote a big piece about this on my blog, which you can read here, and in that I champion It as a potential watershed film for the genre. It’s a well-known story by the most recognizable horror fiction writer of all time, so its chances at hitting the culture in a big way are a lot better than most horror films.
I’d love nothing more than to talk about this film with you, Chewers. Hit up the comments and the forums so I can tell you why I think Paul Giamatti isn’t my top choice for Pennywise.