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Much has been written about the dangers of an actor inhabiting the mind of a killer clown; infamously, Jack Nicholson warned Heath Ledger about the mental toll of playing the Joker, and many over the years have pondered whether or not the character played a part in the actor’s tragic death. So we suppose it should come as no surprise Bill Skarsgård, who of course played Pennywise in last year’s IT, did not come away from the role unscathed.
With IT arriving on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD today, Skarsgård talked about the lasting impact of playing Pennywise in a chat with EW. If you watch the “Pennywise Lives!” featurette on the Blu-ray, you’ll see that Skarsgård was all-in when it came to playing Pennywise, distancing himself from the cast and crew and almost literally *becoming* Pennywise.
As it turns out, that took a serious toll on his mental health.
“I liken every character that I do to a relationship that you’re in,” Skarsgård tells EW. “Pennywise and Bill go into this sort of relationship together, and I’m trying to figure out who he is and I have to devote so much time and effort to this other person – or thing, in this case – and that goes on for months. It’s just like being in a very destructive relationship.”
He continued, “After we wrapped, I was in my childhood home in Sweden, sitting having coffee with my mom at our kitchen table, and realized, ‘Oh, holy sh—, I don’t have to deal with this relationship anymore!’ It was a very quick shift of just feeling better, like, ‘Oh my God, I’m relieved that I don’t have to deal with the darkness of the character.’ I likened it to an exorcism – him exiting my body and getting rid of the Pennywise toxins.”
“I was home, done with the movie, and I started having very strange and vivid Pennywise dreams. Every night, he came and visited. It was in the shape of either me dealing with him, sort of Pennywise as a separate entity of me, and then also me as Pennywise in circumstances that I didn’t appreciate. Like, I’m Pennywise and I’m really upset that I’m out in public and people are looking at me.”
“It’s a daunting but exciting thing to sort of revisit him again,” Skarsgård added, referring to his forthcoming reprisal of the role in the soon-to-be-filmed IT: Chapter 2.