Stephen King is one of the most popular authors of all time with a catalogue of novels that have resonated with audiences worldwide for decades now, but for some reason, filmmakers sure struggle with turning his work into good movies. When they get it right, the results are usually excellent, but most filmmakers have had trouble translating the personality and charms of King’s best work into cinema. So naturally, when someone takes on a project as beloved and well-known as IT, people are going to be very invested in the creative approach.
And they were especially interested in that take when New Line recruited filmmaker Cary Fukunaga straight off the success of True Detective’s outstanding first season. Fukunaga teamed with Chase Palmer to pen the script for the adaptation, but as we all know, Fukunaga walked away from the project over creative differences and Mama helmer Andy Muschietti stepped in to direct and rework the script with Gary Dauberman. But how much of Fukunaga’s original draft remains and how what Muschietti change when he came on board?
The full extent of the similarities and differences between the scripts won’t be clear until the film lands in theaters this September, but last year I had the opportunity to visit the IT set and got some interesting details from both Andy Muschietti and producer Barbara Muschietti.
Andy Muschietti explained that he liked the character aspects of the script, but was inclined to shakeup the portrayal of It in a key way — by embracing his nature as a shape-shifter.
“It was a good script, in terms of characters and the depth of characters and such, but it didn’t really tap into one of the most attractive traits of the character, which was the shape-shifting qualities. So that’s one of the things that I started talking about.”
As for what remained the same, some of the key structural facets from that draft remain intact. Specifically, moving the action up three decades from the original timelines in the 1950s and the 1980s to the 1980s and the present day, and of course, splitting those two timelines into two separate films. Andy Muschietti said that even though that decision was made before he came on the project, he was drawn to the divide because he always thought the kids’ story was more interesting than the adults (and who doesn’t?)
Barbara Muschietti explained that they used Fukunaga and Palmer’s script “as a basis” but “skewed it in a different direction.”
“What we inherited basically was the two-film structure; 80s and present time. I think what we brought to the table was Andy’s [style] and how he faces fear and how he needs to have very emotional characters and it’s very easy with this root material. I think those are two aspects, emotions and fear were imprinted in the script that was developed with us with Gary Dauberman, much more to our taste. And then the notion of the power of belief as a resolution, and power in unity. These guys need each other to face Pennywise and to fight him, and they’re alone, they’re losers and they never really — in our movie, there are no resolutions with the outside world, so they don’t necessarily solve the conflicts with their parents. That’s what their real lives are and continue to be, all they have is each other. That’s very much our movie.”
They also considered Fukunaga’s pick for Pennywise, Will Poulter, who was attached to take on the iconic character but ultimately stepped away due to scheduling conflicts. “He was on the table but there were there were scheduling conflicts because he was on The Maze Runner,” said Barbara Muschietti. “When we started, we started seeing people right away and the moment Bill [Skarsgard] popped up, I think we knew he was for us.”
Ultimately, the elements that were maintained from Fukunaga’s draft appealed to the Muschiettis and they came in a bought their spin on the material. And looking forward to the sequel, Muschietti has another take he’s insistent on — a dialogue between the two films, including full-on flashbacks to things we didn”t see in the first film.
“I always insisted that if there is a second part, there would be a dialogue between the two timelines, and that it would be approached like the adult life of the losers, there would be flashbacks that sort of illuminate events that are not told in the first one.”
Be sure to check out the brand-spankin-new IT trailer and for more of our coverage from the IT set visit, check out the links below and stay tuned for the full interviews:
- Don’t Expect Much of Stephen King’s Cosmic Mythology in The New ‘IT’ Movie
- ‘IT’: 45 Things to Know About The Terrifying Stephen King Adaptation
- The ‘IT’ Movie Had to Cut Two Crazy Scenes to Stay On-Budget