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Bill Skarsgard Tells Us Why His Pennywise Will Scare the Hell Out of You!

Bill Skarsgard Tells Us Why His Pennywise Will Scare the Hell Out of You!

“I watched the miniseries,” recalls actor Bill Skarsgard about the original 1990 It adaptation. “I did it during the casting process before I booked the job, but I watched the whole thing, and…it’s cute. It’s very dated, you know?”

Inspired by Stephen King’s original 1986 novel, the upcoming Andy Muschietti directed It has many hardcore genre fans feverishly speculating about what to expect from the latest adaptation. Although nostalgia may have some fans recalling the original miniseries a little more fondly than the project actually turned out, there’s no denying that Tim Curry’s performance as the infamous Pennywise has become one of the most memorable horror icons in film history, spawning countless cosplay costumes, artist renditions, and inspiring children around the globe to fear clowns for years to come. Following in Curry’s footsteps is a challenge, to say the least, but Skarsgard believes that he and director Muschietti have crafted something truly special that will leave audiences howling for a second installment.

“I worked really hard to create my own interpretation of the Stephen King character,” says Skarsgard about his take on the 2017 version of the role. “Tim Curry’s performance is understandably iconic, still, but the whole [miniseries], to me, at least, felt like something that might be worth a remake of, or rather, a re-adaptation, is kind of how I want to see the film. It’s not a remake of the TV show or the original miniseries, but it’s a re-adaptation of Stephen King’s book.”

This is an important distinction in the eyes of It’s star actor. He’s not trying to recreate the original film that we all grew up with or outdo Curry’s legendary performance, but instead go back to the source material and create something new from King’s original work.

[Related] We Visited the IT Set and Battled Pennywise with the Losers Club!

Set in the 1980s, the original novel, simply titled “It”, follows a gang of close friends who refer to themselves as ‘The Losers Club’, and spend their time like any kids in a small northern town without much to do would – skipping rocks, swimming in rivers, telling jokes, and fending off bullies who wish to punish them for being less popular than others. Slowly, each kid in the gang begins to have vividly surreal encounters with a mysterious creature, each strange circumstance involving a strange clown, who knows their innermost fears and brings them horrifically to the surface. Once the crew realizes that they’re all seeing the same clown, they start to unravel the mystery of this little town, and begin to understand that what they’re dealing with is much more than a figment of their shared imaginations – it’s evil itself, manifested into various forms, and it’s coming for them, one by one. Their only choice is to be brave and go up against their attacker before he desecrates their town completely and leaves a trail of bodies in his wake.

“I think it’s almost 1200 pages, but I used the book because what was in the script is not much at all about who this character is,” says Skarsgard about his choice to draw more inspiration from the novel than from Chase Palmer’s screenplay. “I read the book and I took a lot of notes on anything that describes Pennywise in any way, or describes ‘It’ in any way, so and there’s a lot of like great chapters, where It, like the entity, is the narrator. You hear his thoughts and what he thinks and all these things, and so there was this huge source material to go from, like, ‘Oh, what is this saying, why is he here, what does he think like, what does he like, what doesn’t he like?’ — I could use all of those things to come up with my own interpretation and my own version of what It is, and then also what Pennywise is in terms of his embodiment.”

One of the most petrifying aspects about this tale of terror is the fact that this demented, monstrous clown isn’t just going after anybody – he’s going after kids. Helpless children whose parents won’t believe them are forced to go up against an entity that both haunts them in the darkness of their homes at night and in the daylight, leaving them with no safe space for them to run to, and no authority figures left to trust. One of the scariest scenes is when Pennywise hides out in the sewer drain and preys on Bill’s little brother Georgie, who lost his paper ship in a rain storm. Pretending to be a playful clown, Pennywise suddenly turns on Georgie, pulling him into the sewer, and, depending on which version you’re dealing with, either rips his arm off or swallows him whole.

When it comes to working with the kids in the film, Skarsgard wanted both and the childrens’ performances to come across as believable for viewers to create effective scares, but also didn’t want to frighten his fellow actors, who were much younger than he.

[Muschietti] tried to keep [the kids] separate from me, because we thought that that might be a good idea, so we kind of have this tension between Pennywise and the kids,” explains Skarsgard about keeping the fear palpable on set. “So the kids are already shooting the film for like a month before they started doing the scene with Pennywise, and at first, I’m working with this actor Jack Grazer who plays Eddie in the film, and it’s a very intense, physical scene where I am the evil clown and I’m really going after it. Those scenes can sometimes be pretty intense, and I think the scene itself was kind of intense for Jack. It’s kind of a lot but after the first take I tried to make sure he was okay, and he was like really excited, he was like, ‘Yeah that was great man! That was amazing! I love what you’re doing with the character!’ and he was really excited about it, and I was like ‘Okay, I’m not actually dealing with like young kids here, like these are little actors’.”

According to Skarsgard, the only real time that working with such young co-stars became a bit worrisome was when he was acting alongside Jackson Robert Scott, a.k.a. ‘Georgie’, to film the famous sewer scene.

“The only difference in the cast I think was working with Georgie, who, his name’s Jackson, and he’s seven years old, and that was different because he was way younger than the other kids. So, for him, that was the difference between, we just had to work with him a little bit differently because shooting that storm drain scene, he was noticeably affected by the sight of me being in the storm drain, I’ll just put it that way. (Laughs) But we’re good friends in real life!”

When it comes to Skarsgard’s interpretation of the role, he says he and Muschietti worked very hard to create an unpredictable, animalistic and utterly frightening version of Pennywise that’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

“Essentially, what you end up seeing in the film is my own deepest fears,” muses Skarsgard about the depth of his villain. “Ultimately, it’s essentially, what’s the most weird and disturbing thing that we could come up with, and it was important for me that there was something absurd about the character, that there was something just like, inexplicable, like why is he sounding like that? Why is he doing this? It’s that kind of unpredictable absurdity to the character that will catch people off guard, this kind of shock factor of like, you will never know what this guy is gonna do next. You have no idea what he’ll do, or how he will do it, and there’s no way of kind of predicting his behavior.”

In the book, ‘It’ isn’t just Pennywise the clown, but can actually morph into several different forms according to whoever he is haunting at the moment. Whatever that person fears the most is what It becomes in order to terrify them in the most distinct way possible.

“I didn’t want the clown to be completely separate from the entity,” says Skarsgard about his decisions regarding the character’s behavior. “I wanted It to really kind of shine through Pennywise, as opposed to Pennywise just being the clown, so there’s a lot of what the entity was I wanted to be in the background of who Pennywise is at all times.”

We may not see every little detail on screen that Skarsgard has conjured up in his brain about his version of Pennywise, but if we were to look through his notes, we would see a fully realized character, the little snippets of which will appear on film in small mysterious glances at the clown.

“I think that at the end of the day, that’s what acting is all about, is that you almost create this infinite universe for the character that you’re playing, and then you’re compromising it into this story that you’re doing. So, whatever character you play, you kind of explore endlessly more than the page, and then you use that exploration to do the performance that’s in the film. I hope that there’s a lot of those little things that if people watch the film a couple of times, they’ll see and kind of read into and understand my Pennywise more and more each time they watch it.”

It creeps into theaters everywhere on September 8th, 2017.




    This is going to be awesome

  • BreeBennett

    It’s nice to see his commitment to the role.

  • Trisha Tachanawa

    I think he’s going to do a great job. People are going to be tough on him, but im very excited to see this.

  • Why does horror marketing always stem from someone who works for the movie praising how scary it is, I mean I don’t doubt what he is saying, this is probably the most hyped horror movie since the first Conjuring (the clap scene was the talk no matter where I discussed movies) having said that, I’ll wait for the actual reviews on here, I’m a bit anticipated to hear what a non-anticipated reviewer has to say about this movie though!

    • Eastman420

      The clap scene lol yeah that shit was weak. But yet everybody filled their pants after watching the trailer. Weak. I believe this will be way better though.

    • Jack Napier

      I agree. I think the marketing is not helping as it may be setting things up too high, but I mean what are they supposed to do? I do not think the clown is scary looking but they keep saying everyone is absolutely terrified. Who? A few enthused kids at a screening of a trailer? That is marketing for ya but I totally get why they are doing it. As long as the film is faithful to the book and these guys can act and there is no Pennywise overkill I think things will be fine.

  • Grimphantom

    Good to hear he studied and make his own Pennywise than the one from Tim Curry. Obviously there will be some that will criticize him but watching the trailer he does give chills and i do like how they are trying something different filming the same scenes from the original like the whole pic thing turned it into a film was good and the room fool of clown figures it’s creepy and cool

  • Jonathan Larsson

    It’s good to hear that he’s working hard to make the role good, as any actor should.

  • Trav

    I know the mini-series is loved by a lot of people, but after recently going back and watching it again for the first time since I was a child, it is very dated and doesn’t hold up nearly as well as it used to. Tim Curry’s performance still holds up pretty well, but outside of that, you can tell it’s an aged TV-movie. I’ve heard some people are mad this re-adaption is being made. Why? It’s time to take off those nostalgic glasses and realize that while the mini-series is still decent at points, the masterpiece Stephen King wrote deserves a much better adaption.

    • Brando

      Can a TV mini-series from 1990 with half of it set in the year 1990 be dated? All of the 1990 stuff felt right for that year, and the 1960 stuff felt sufficiently retro.
      The new movie shifted the timeline up, to not feel dated.

    • Reece Catlin

      I 100% agree! so movies need remakes if just to update it. that’s why I love the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake so much, it brings it into the 21st century nicely

      • Ocelot006 .

        The Texas Chainsaw remake feels more dated than the actual original film.

    • Derk McDerkinton

      Agreed. My wife thinks it’s stupid to happen, but I’m 1000% all for it!

  • James

    I like what I’m hearing. At this point the only thing I’m truly curious about is what forms we will see outside of the leper.

    And of course will we see the spider (if not I’ll be crushed).

    And I really can’t wait to hear him really speak for the first time.

    However, the trailer was awesome and I’m so damn excited for this.

    • The Drucifer

      Looks like the werewolf and the dead boys

      • boxcar182

        And the burned victims from the fire.

        • The Drucifer

          Does Bev’s dad count or was he just under the influence?

          • boxcar182

            Was he in the first trailer? I haven’t watched the trailer since it released way back so my memory is a bit faded.

          • The Drucifer

            I replied in the wrong thread I was referencing a book monster. He isn’t in the trailers yet but I imagine he will show up.

    • Chip

      I got script deets. Y’want spoilers on that subject?

      • James

        Thank you but I don’t want anything spoiled…then again I would like a copy of the script….

  • SpaceManSpliffz .
  • Reece Catlin

    Saw the new trailer yesterday and it looks awesome

    • Evan3

      It does look awesome. Awesomely terrible!

      • Reece Catlin

        do you just troll Bloody disgusting posts??

        • Evan3

          Hey, you provide the fodder. I just comment!

  • Josh Evans

    Totally agree with Bill. The miniseries has NOT aged well. Love Tim C, but overall the old It is kind of a snoozer. I’m really hoping the new one will be awesome, loved the latest trailer!

  • Big Boss Rogers

    Movie looks great! I just hope they clean up some of the chi and make It more realistic! Cuz that sewer scene just screams chi all over IT literally haha

    • Saturn

      So it screams “life force”?

      • Big Boss Rogers

        I don’t get what you mean with life force? I just hope they clean up the effects in the final version.

        • Saturn

          Well, before you went back and edited it your original post didn’t say “cgi” but “chi” – and “chi” is what the Chinese call the lifeforce through-out ones body.
          So, it originally made bloody sense!

          • Big Boss Rogers

            Oh ok haha sounds familiar now that you say that! Good know tho!

  • Big Boss Rogers

    Movie looks great! They just need to clean up the cgi and make it more realistic. Because that sewer scene screams cgi all over IT literally!

  • boxcar182

    “depending on which version you’re dealing with, either rips his arm off or swallows him whole.”

    There is two versions? I thought in the book it states that Pennywise clearly ripped his arm off?

  • Michael Josef Kappel

    I’m definitely more on board now then in the beginning after the last two trailers. I LOVE how Skars explains his acting process and vision with this…..BUT. He was such a horrible actor in Hemlock Grove. One thing that has me still worried.

  • SpacemanSpliffz

    “Bill Skarsgard Tells Us Why His Pennywise Will Scare the Hell Out of You!”

    – a beaver in clown makeup is like, really really scary gaaaaais!

  • Jack Napier

    He comes off very arrogant here but he is a kid after all. I had never even heard of him until he was cast. Still, from seeing the trailers the film looks more faithful to the book in some ways, but his clown is not scary at all and that voice, he sounds like a child. Say what you want about the miniseries but Tim Curry was a scary clown, which unless Muschietti may be hiding naturally Skarsgard so far is not. I love being wrong so I hope I am. The key here is remember the book (as the miniseries veered away from sadly) Pennywise is just one face not all by a long shot so hopefully in motion the kid’s Pennywise is somewhat scary because from what I have seen so far he looks like a big, goofy kid with weird teeth.

    • HipsterDoofus

      …”and that voice, he sounds like a child.” Congrats for picking up on the entire point.

      • Jack Napier

        As in if he uses that voice the whole time many of us will laugh like we did Curry, but hey he was a creepy clown man now wasn’t he?

      • Jack Napier

        Only meant it throughout, agree on your point. I guess my skepticism of him as a whole oozes out at times unintentionally. I worry though because yes, Pennywise is a huge if not the key role. If they do what the miniseries did in using him too much it may falter. Only time will tell. I just hope the kid pulls it off as it fits in the story with its many faces and forms. Trust me when I say I want this to be good.

    • Trav

      We’ve barely seen Skarsgard as Pennywise. The trailers are doing a great job not giving too much away. It’s a little early to claim Skarsgard’s Pennywise isn’t scary.

      • Jack Napier

        All I am saying is people already are supposedly going hysterical over these trailers and I m going, umm ok the film looks like they got some things right with great cinematography but the kid does not scare me as others are saying. Now this is on mere looks alone. When one is in motion and walking around we will know right? The beauty of acting is mannerisms, if done right we’re all set. I love being wrong so I hope I am but he does look pretty damn silly. So for all these terrified people watching these trailers I wonder what is their age. I’m stoked for the film even though I can bluntly admit not too fond of the clown’s appearance so far but so far that hopefully means nothing. Plus, King loves the film and he usually cannot stand most of them.

    • Jessicka

      He’s in Hemlock Grove, pretty good actor but I was surprised to see him cast in IT. He looks pretty silly to me.

      • Jack Napier

        Yeah he looks like he’s trying too hard but I love being wrong.

  • Please be good!

  • Candice

    This is a great article with him. I like that he didn’t want to be Tim Curry or compete with that role. He wanted a whole new take on it. Exactly the right approach. Tim Curry was flawless but in a shit version of it. Bill will be scarier in a more raw and grittier version. Or so I hope. I really want it to be scary.

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