IT – Bill Skarsgård on the new Pennywise


New Line Cinema’s horror thriller IT, directed by Andrés Muschietti, the Argentinian director who previously made the horror film, Mama (2013), is based on the hugely popular Stephen King novel of the same name, which has been terrifying readers for decades. The story happens when children begin to disappear in the town of Derry, Maine, a group of young kids are faced with their biggest fears when they square off against an evil clown named Pennywise, whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries.

The film stars an ensemble of young actors, including Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Nicholas Hamilton.

But, wait…. What about Pennywise, the story’s central villain? Bill Skarsgård was the one chosen to play this horrifying clown and he did an awesome job!

The screenplay was written by Chase Palmer & Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman, based on the more than one thousand pages’ novel by King.

Roy Lee, Dan Lin, Seth Grahame-Smith, David Katzenberg and Barbara Muschietti are the producers, with Richard Brener, Dave Neustadter, Walter Hamada, Marty P. Ewing, Doug Davison and Jon Silk serving as executive producers.

I had the opportunity to participate in roundtable interview with charming actor Bill alongside with other journalists. Let’s check it out excerpt of the interview weeks ago, in a hotel in Beverly Hills:

What’s your experience with IT? Did you read the book and watch the miniseries?

Bill Skarsgård – Going into this, I watched the miniseries and read the novel. After watching the miniseries, I stayed away from it as much as possible because I knew we weren’t doing that again. But the novel was my bible, my source material. So, I read through it. I wrote on the pages and took notes and I’d go back to it throughout the whole shoot. It’s a 1,200 page book and there’s so much in there, especially with the character Pennywise, there’s so many little breadcrumbs. There’s a purposefully mysterious aspect of what the character is. There’s a lot of room for interpretation. Me and Andy, going into it, had similar ideas of what the character was and then reading it reaffirmed what we thought the character is, the psychology behind it. So, yeah, the book was just great to have around.

IMG_1821With the miniseries, you had an Tim Curry who had played this character before. Did you try to ignore that performance to deliver your own interpretation?

Bill – It’s just a reinterpretation of a character like you do on stage. You have different actors portraying the same characters every year. For all of us, as filmmakers going into this, we didn’t want to do the same things that already had been done. Andy, in casting me, obviously, I’m much younger and a different actor and person than Tim Curry. Tim Curry is Tim Curry and no one will do Tim Curry as well as Tim Curry does. I used my tools and thought about how I could have a new take on it and make it original and make it my own. That was, obviously, an important aspect of doing it.

What was it like being transformed into Pennywise? What did you think when you saw yourself in the costume and makeup the first time?

Bill – It was strange because Andy’s such a visual guy and aesthetic guy, he was so involved in designing the look, which is amazing. I think the character is so cool. When I came into the production, he had this temp picture on the wall. The guys made a prosthetic with my features a temp look, which didn’t really look like Pennywise so I took a picture of it with my phone and kept looking at it and wondering, “Who is he? What does he sound like?” because it was all abstract to me because I didn’t have the makeup on. When I was preparing to do this character, I didn’t know what the outfit would look like. I didn’t know what the face would look like. The first time we had the makeup test, it took about five hours to get the prosthetics and everything on. I saw every stage and asked, “Oh, is that how it’s going to look?” I just stared at the mirror during those five hours and made different faces. We tweaked little things and made it better. And then we did the screen tests and would play around with different faces. We’d find things that were really effective and really worked. I’d sit in my trailer filming myself.

ITWhat was the psychology of Pennywise?

Bill – I’ve been asked this a lot and I have a slight resistance in telling it. It’s a weird thing to reveal because it’s ours. You can read the novel and then watch the film and you can have your own interpretation of what he is. The huge, important thing for me doing this film was not only having Andy but having Andy’s trust in me, and our collaboration in doing the character. We were never in disagreement over the psychology behind Pennywise. There is a chapter we’d go back to where Stephen King writes subjectively about it. There are a lot of clues throughout the novel that reveals the mind behind him. After I booked the job, we had something like 10 days before we started shooting. So, I thought, “ok, I need to go through this book but that whole stage before I made the bond was me intellectualizing the character – the psychology behind him, how does he function, does he work, why does he work, why is he even around, does he even exist apart from the imagination of kids. This whole thing, almost an existential thing, is very true in the book when you read it and once you get the makeup on, I felt like I needed to embody this thing, in the third and final stage of the process.

Did you purposely stay away from the kids while you were making the film?

Bill – Yes. It was me coming out of the refrigerator scene. We were talking about it and I was thinking, “Why not?” It’s one of those things like with kids you don’t know. They were a little older to be truly scared but they also were good little actors. Even when we were doing the first take of the scene, the first time Jack sees me, and he draws back in fear, I was in my own head and I was walking around in circles getting into the essence of what this character was. We blocked the scene slightly. I go and do it and I’m mocking his asthma and breathing and he’s crying and gagging and I’m drooling all over him. It’s a really intense scene and then the director yells, “cut.” Afterwards, I asked Jack if he was ok. And he said, “Yeah, I loved what you were doing!”

IT hits theaters tomorrow, September 8.


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