When I saw the first clip from IT before Annabelle: Creation last month, one thing was immediately clear to me: Bill Skarsgård was born to play Pennywise the clown.
Now that I’ve seen Andy Muschietti’s IT in its entirety, I can confidently say that the new Pennywise is one of the best movie monsters since the ’80s, driven by a gripping performance from Skarsgård that is downright Oscar-worthy. Comparisons have been made to Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker, and you won’t find me disagreeing.
Like Ledger, Skarsgård took an iconic character and managed to make it even more iconic. His Pennywise is an entirely different beast than the Tim Curry version, and Skarsgård nailed the complexity of the character in a way that makes him so much more than just a scary clown. As presented in Stephen King’s novel, Pennywise is an otherworldly monster doing his best imitation of the human clown he enjoys presenting himself as, and you get all of that from Skarsgård’s impossibly creepy performance.
A whole lot of credit must be given to the makeup and special effects teams for helping to make this new version of Pennywise one of the all-time scariest movie villains, but you might be surprised how much of that was actually Skarsgård himself. The actor, for example, really can move his eyes independently of each other, adding a subtle layer of extra creepiness to the performance.
And then there’s that whimsically sinister smile, which Skarsgård just showed off to a Swedish radio program… without any makeup or digital enhancement whatsoever.
Yup. This was the role he was born to play.