We’re officially only a few days away from making the return to Derry, Maine in IT Chapter Two, as the grown-up Losers Club have to come home after 27 years to face off against Pennywise, the shape-shifting clown who feeds on fear (and helpless victims). Last week, Daily Dead attended the press day for IT Chapter Two, where we heard from all the key players in the highly anticipated sequel. During one of the press conferences, IT star Bill Skarsgård was joined by director Andy Muschietti and producer Barbara Muschietti to talk about what’s different this time around, how Pennywise has evolved as a villain, and much more.
Read on for all the highlights from the press conference, and be sure check back here all week for more on IT Chapter Two, which arrives in theaters everywhere on Thursday evening.
Moderator: Bill, we spoke before you shot the backend of the first movie and you told me that when you finished shooting, you were having dreams about Pennywise. Can you share with people what happened and how long it took Pennywise to leave you, and what it was like to reconnect with this entity on the second film?
Bill Skarsgård: Yeah, well, filming is always, it's a very strange thing to do as an actor, where you get the part, and you prepare the part, and you live with this character for so long, and then you shoot the thing. Every day, you're intimate with this other character in your own head. And then all of a sudden, the last day of shooting it wraps and then you don't have to think about that character anymore at all.
So every project I've ever done, it is a weird kind of thing of waking up the next morning and being like, "I guess I don't have to think about that person anymore." And with Pennywise it was, I don't know, the shoot was three months, but it was probably a good four or five months of just living with this character. And then the last scene that we shot was the storm drain scene, which is sort of the most pivotal scene of the first movie in terms of the character. We wrapped and I flew home the next morning and I thought that I didn’t have to think about Pennywise anymore, but I dreamt about him.
I was back in Europe and I would have these very, very strange dreams that were nonsensical. I had dreams at times where I was Pennywise walking around Stockholm and I was like, "They can't see me like this." I was upset. "They can't see me just walking around with the makeup on. It ruins the mystery."
Moderator: Andy, what kind of direction did you give Bill to bring the character to life? Because Bill, you're not playing a human being, so you're not playing somebody that you can connect with or relate to. It's this shape-shifting fear and hate-consuming entity that's not human. So what are you giving him to get him into that headspace?
Andy Muschietti: We talked for hours about what Pennywise is and Bill as an actor has to find the footing on his experience, has to draw it from somewhere. I don't dig inside Bill every day to see what the process is, but we did a lot of talking about It and I think that conceptually, we reached certain criteria for what the character should be.
How could it be scary? Unpredictability probably is the one thing that we elevated as a concept and Bill then worked with it to a point where he really started surprising me because unpredictable is unpredictable. And it's great. Even before shooting, we were talking about how the edit of this thing would work on every scene. And I basically gave Bill the okay to do different takes, different performances. I will edit the scene with different bits from different takes and it will be awesome. It was very explorative. It was very experimental in a way, but only because we wanted to reach something that can't really be planned, because like I said, unpredictable is unpredictable.
Moderator: We've had a lot of talk about how the Losers have changed as 27 years have gone by, how they've evolved and grown as people, or regressed as people. Does Pennywise change at all? He's suffered a defeat for the first time in the first film; is this entity different the second time around, having been beaten?
Bill Skarsgård: What we addressed going into the second one was like, "All right, what is different with Pennywise and how is he different in this new movie?" And of course, we talked about it a lot, where it's like he was defeated for the first time ever and he's come back for revenge. We talked a lot about [how] there's this kind of urge that maybe Pennywise really, really wants to be defeated finally and forever. So there's this thing of like, we're making it more interesting to me is like he's angry, he wants revenge. But there might be, if you can imagine such a thing as a subconscious of Pennywise, that it maybe is wanting to be destroyed.
Andy Muschietti: I think it connects to a concept that we definitely were drawn to, this idea that he finally wants to be killed. I think it connects to the idea that we [were] discussing for the first movie, that this is a character that lives in the imagination of children, so to keep on living, he has to keep on killing, and as long as he keeps killing, he will be alive. So he kills to stay alive basically, and maybe he’s done with that. I thought it was an interesting concept.
Moderator: What did you think about Pennywise's return and this masochistic quality of wanting to be destroyed?
Barbara Muschietti: Well, as the guys were giving their answers, I kept on thinking about a page in the book, and I didn't catch it the first time I read it when I was 15. We caught it many years later when we were already working on Chapter One. And it's basically one page that is hidden in this 1,138 page book, which is Pennywise's POV, in which he basically says, "I just want to sleep and eat. I just want to sleep and eat and these fu--ers have come back to annoy that." And of course from that point on, that's what we had to get for Chapter Two. Somebody that needed to deal with this or they need to be destroyed.
Bill Skarsgård: And Pennywise seems like he's afraid of the kids in the book a little bit. His biggest fear is them coming back and defeating him or challenging him again. Like you said, he just wants to be left alone. But for me, it was like, "You can't have a Pennywise in the second movie that's weak. If he’s worried about these kids coming back, that's weakening the villain. So, he wants them back, and he's enjoying it and he's playing mind games with all of the Losers. It's revenge and there’s a masochistic side of it. But he really craves them and he wants them back. I think that was a change that we needed in order to make the movie work.
Andy Muschietti: Also, he's like one step ahead. Pennywise, from the beginning, he's a very manipulative creature, more so than the first one. When we see the scene with the girl under the bleachers, that kid is smarter than Georgie, and Pennywise starts crying. So, he knows how to get to this kid who initially was smart enough to get out of there.
At that point, we notice that Pennywise is smarter than we thought and he's more perverse. The way he plays with fear, the way he plays Bill into aggravating his guilt just by picking a poor, innocent child. Every bad thing that Pennywise is, is intensified in this one.
Moderator: What was the biggest challenge for this movie? It's really epic in scale and size and you have one huge cast of characters who are doubled because you're showing them at different ages and you're traversing to kind of a surreal zone below Derry. As a producer, what did you find the most interesting aspect and what was the hardest part?
Barbara Muschietti: Well, the first step, of course, was getting the studio behind us because we knew that we wanted to do a film that had a different scale. And in that sense, we had 100 percent of their support from the beginning. Once everybody knew about the magnitude of this, it was a question of aligning all 15 ducks that we had in a row. As a result of Chapter One, we had seven working actors, who were very young, that had become incredibly famous and were all working around the world that added up with seven adults that were also very bankable actors.
But the schedule was tricky and this man here [Bill] had a little baby, too. But we made it all work. The one thing that was always on our side was that everybody wanted to be on this film and wanted to make this film work. So, there were some very long days to make things fit. We had a long shooting schedule. But we were a family on set and we made it work and we had a good captain with Andy.
Moderator: Bill, as the physical embodiment of the way these characters process their fears, I'm curious if you approached working with the adult Losers differently than you did with the kid Losers.
Bill Skarsgård: Yeah, that is something that we talked about. And it's two-sided because yes, their fears are more mature, perhaps. But also, part of the movie is the fact that they are not mature, they're not functioning adults, they could never get rid of their old childhood fears. But from Pennywise’s perspective, what he is doing in every scene is like, "I know you, and you are a little, scared child." That is what he evokes in the adults every time. "You pretend to be something, but you're actually this thing and I know what that is," and whatever that is with the adults, is their fear, which is obviously anchored in their childhood trauma in one way or another.
For me, Pennywise doesn't see the adults. He sees the character. If it's Stanley, he sees Stanley. If it's Bill, it's Bill. They're the same for him. I don't think he perceives age the same way as we do. And I think the adult Losers are so well-cast that you really feel that these are the same people that you're watching, who are stuck in their childhood traumas and they have to overcome that in order to defeat Pennywise.
Andy Muschietti: I think there's a currency to the concept of belief, and belief as a weapon. But it's your defense, too. There's a scene that was lifted, that wasn't incredibly relevant to the main plot, but it was a scene with Mike and Pennywise. Pennywise is talking to Mike, but Pennywise is not trying to eat Mike. It's sort of like a chess game scene where they're talking about their plans. And the idea of belief comes to the surface. And Mike is like, "We're going to get you. Now they believe." And Pennywise says, "They believe in me."
Basically, it's the same energy, it's the same weapon. It's the thing that you have as a child that you don't have anymore when you're an adult, which is your imagination, the power of believing in things that don't exist. That's why Mike sort of makes up this Ritual of Chüd, to make them believe in something. But it's actually Pennywise's weapon to make them children again. They have to be children again. They have to recover. And as Bill was saying, these are adults that are broken. They have been going in circles since they were children. It was a trauma there that didn't let them grow up.
Barbara Muschietti: Well, it's like dealing with a scar that becomes leather. That's the thing. To me, the biggest message of the film is that at some point, you have to face your trauma, because you won't be able to finish your life as you should if you don't get rid of that trauma. And we all have trauma. Some of it is smaller than others. In this case, these guys had this chasm for 27 years, and as soon as it's time, they all decide to face it because they get courage through unity. Pennywise is a master of division, basically. He wants to divide and conquer and their victory stems from remembering who they were as kids and what they were able to do when the scar was fresh and it wasn't leather.
In case you missed it, visit our online hub to catch up on all of our IT Chapter Two coverage, including Heather Wixson's review!