“IT” Knows What You're Afraid Of
Bringing Stephen King’s seminal bestseller to the big screen for the first time, acclaimed director Andy Muschietti says, “Fear is universal; it’s something we can all relate to. And what could be more terrifying than something that doesn’t just attack you, but attacks you with what frightens you most?"
The enigmatically short title refers to the story’s central villain, an ancient shapeshifter that takes the form of its victims’ deepest fears and comes out of hibernation every 27 years to feed on the most vulnerable residents of Derry, Maine: the children. This time, however, seven young outcasts, who dub themselves “the Losers’ Club,” will band together to do battle with the mysterious being they call by the all-encompassing pronoun: It. But It goes by another name…a name that has become iconic in the annals of horror: Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
First published in 1986, IT became an instant classic and the top-selling book of that year. Captivating readers for more than three decades, the perennial bestseller continues to be counted among the best and most influential works of the undisputed master of literary horror, inspiring numerous film and television projects in the years that have followed.
That was certainly true for the filmmaker at the helm of the movie. “I am a big fan of Stephen King, who was my favorite author growing up, so IT was a dream project for me,” Muschietti states. “As someone who loves making scary movies, I have always been fascinated by fear, and probably the time when you’re the most terrified is when you’re a child watching your first horror movie. It’s a feeling you won’t have again for the rest of your life, so it’s become a bit of a chimeric quest for me to bring that sensation back. That helps me create because I believe you can only scare other people with what scares you, too.”
There is another layer to the story that is trademark Stephen King. There is arguably no writer who is better at juxtaposing unmitigated horror with the experience of growing up—and perhaps never more perfectly than in the tender coming-of-age tale at the heart of IT. Producer Seth Grahame-Smith emphasizes, “We knew from the very beginning of this process that IT was more than just a horror story and the movie had to reflect the different tones of the novel. It’s set at a certain time in these young characters’ lives when they are truly coming of age, so we wanted the film to capture the charm of those character-driven moments, but in turn be utterly petrifying.”
Andy Muschietti’s sister and creative partner, producer Barbara Muschietti, credits the screenwriters with finding that balance. “Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman were able to capture the touching facets of friendship between the Losers’ Club and even a brush with the first love of adolescence. But make no mistake: you are going to be scared,” she smiles.
The terror of “IT” is embodied in the malevolent clown, Pennywise—devourer of children, connoisseur of fear. Bill Skarsgård, who took on the villainous role, says, “I was very familiar with IT and the character of Pennywise growing up. The way I look at it, he needs children to believe in what they’re seeing and to be afraid in order to consume them because fear seasons the flesh. To me, as a kid and even now, that is the most frightening concept ever.”
Representing the Losers’ Club, actor Jaeden Lieberher says, “It’s definitely about overcoming fear because if the kids aren’t afraid of Pennywise, they have a chance of beating him. But it’s really scary watching all the bad things that are happening to them.”
Lieberher plays the de facto leader of the group, Bill Denbrough. The ensemble of young actors rounding out the club are: Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozier; Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh; Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie Kaspbrak; Wyatt Oleff as Stanley Uris; Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben Hanscom; and Chosen Jacobs as Mike Hanlon.
A presentation of New Line Cinema, IT will be released worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Entertainment Company.