‘IT’ Director Andy Muschietti on Reinventing Pennywise and Sequel Plans

San Diego Comic-Con is cracking along and the Collider team is down there in force to report on all the panels, sneak peek footage, press lines the annual media bonanza has to offer. With IT arriving in theaters in just a few months, Warner Bros. trotted out the cast and creators of the Stephen King adaptation to debut some new footage (watch the video review here), and with director Andy Muschietti on hand, Collider’s Perri Nemiroff sat down with the directors to get the deets on the highly-anticipated horror film

The director discussed some of the projects that away between Mama and IT, including The Mummy, which the director was attached to for a few months in 2013-14 before departing over creative difference. With Mummies on the mind, Muschietti talked a bit about how he’s reinventing Pennywise’s many forms for the film. In the book, which finds the kids in the 1950s, The Losers are haunted by the evil spirit in countless guises, many of which take on the form of the classic movie monsters that gave kids of the era nightmares. But for a modern movie, some changes needed to be made. Muschietti explains,

“We had the freedom of introducing any characters of the book, but I chose to expand that range of fears. Because I love the book, of course, but the book is basically childhood in the 50s, which is probably Stephen King’s experience growing up, kids going to the movies and watching monsters from Universal movies like The Mummy and Dracula and Frankenstein and those monsters that are very lovable but a bit dated if you’re going to make an adaptation of IT. I wanted to layer those fears and make them deeper and more strange.”

Image via Warner Bros. / New Line Cinema

As for other changes he’s making to the book? You probably already guessed it, but that infamous “coming-of-age” ending is off the table. However, IT is an R-rated movie, meaning the film will tackle some complex and not necessarily PC subjects with freedom.

“I don’t think anyone digs that event. Nobody really understands it and people who try to draw theories from it, they think it’s a necessary analogy of the kids doing a ritual of passage from childhood to adulthood, that way they become immune to being victims of their own imagination because they become adults. Things like that were not necessary, I don’t think, in the movie. Other subjects and things that are sort of hardcore, like abuse and stuff, they are in our movie. It’s an R-rated movie so we were able to explore those themes freely, of course with subtlety and some ambiguity.”

Image via New Line Cinema

As you may recall, True Detective helmer Cary Fukunaga was originally attached to helm IT, but departed over creative differences before Muschietti came on board. When asked about whether or not he held on to anything from Fukunaga’s draft of the film, Muschietti answered coyly, “Some of it,” before expanding.

“The commitment to the depth of the characters was there in Carey’s draft and that’s what I connected to mostly. All my changes have to do with the events in the story and Pennywise…I probably stuck more to the idea that Pennywise is a shapeshifting monster and in that sense, I stuck closer to the book.”

The director also talked a bit about his approach to the iconic character of Pennywise, played by Bill Skarsgard in the film.

“It’s an exploration, of course. My approach to Pennywise was, on one hand, I wanted to stay true to the essence of the character but at the same time make it an edgier character that is basically unpredictable and people won’t expect everything he comes up with.”

Finally, Muschietti echoed his recent comments that he’ll return for the follow-up film, which picks up with The Losers as adults in a renewed fight against the evil force. In King’s book, the narratives are intertwined but for the film the two timelines have been separated. However, Muschietti says he’s looking forward to having a dialogue in Part II that doesn’t exist in the first film.

“I’m not letting anyone [else] touch it. Everyone wants to make it and yeah, it seems like we’re going to do it. It’s the second half, it’s not a sequel. It’s the second half and it’s very connected to the first one. In my mind there will be that dialogue between the two timelines that we didn’t have in the first one because the first one is all about the kids.”

The R-rated It arrives in theaters September 8th and stars Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Wyatt Oleff, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, and Nicholas Hamilton.

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