From the pages of Stephen King‘s 1986 novel to Tim Curry‘s iconic performance in the 1990s mini-series, and most recently, Bill Skarsgård‘s nightmare-fuel reinvention in 2017’s smash hit IT Chapter One, Pennywise is a horror staple that has terrified generations. With IT Chapter Two arriving in theaters on September 6, the child-eating dancing clown is about to strike again, and in the hands of director Andy Muschietti and producer Barbara Muschietti, the otherworldly menace is poised to be at his most devious.
After New Line Cinema’s all-out IT Chapter Two takeover at their annual SDCC ScareDiego event, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Muschiettis to talk about the film and what fans can expect from the sequel. In particular, what we should expect from Pennywise, aka Bob Gray, aka It, and why the creature’s smarter, more manipulative, and more perverse this time around. We talked about if they were able to include all their dream sequences this time around, getting the nuances of adult fear right, how It changed since the first film, and how Skarsgård’s performance process freaks people out on set.
Check out what they had to say below, and in case you missed it, be sure to check out the first half of the interview, during which we dove into the scripting process.
When I visited the set for the first film, you guys talked about a couple of scenes that you weren’t able to get in the first one. Like the black spot sequence and a sort of history of Pennywise sequence. With this one, were there scenes that you wanted to put into that you weren’t able to make happen? Or was it a situation where the success of the first one opened those doors?
ANDY MUSCHIETTI: It’s the same, yeah. It’s two things. Yeah, having made a successful first movie gave us more resources to make a second one, and the budget or limitations of the first one didn’t allow me to create some certain environments and scenes, we wouldn’t have enough money or time or whatever. I could successfully insert in the second part. I’m not going to tell you what it is because I want to keep it secret. But, there’s an event that it was very meaningful to me that belongs to the kids’ part of the story. It is a memory that everyone recovers, and the reason why…
BARBARA MUSCHIETTI: [Shushes him.]
ANDY MUSCHIETTI: [Laughs] Yeah, basically the reason that there’s events from 1989 that we didn’t tell in the first one is because there are events that they forgot, or repressed, or pushed down. And, this is a story about trauma, basically.
Right, well that’s something that I liked in the footage and trailer last night, the scene in the carnival, talking about repressed trauma with Bill, I was excited to see the manifestation of adult fears, which are more complex and a bit darker compared to the visceral, primal fears of children. How did you guys approach striking that balance and not over-intellectualizing your fears or something like that?
ANDY MUSCHIETTI: It’s not over-intellectualizing, it’s very relatable fears I think. All the losers have something that… basically made them complex and broken characters. I’m not going to tell you what it is, but they’re adult fears that anyone can understand or relate in the flesh, yeah. But there’s a balance of, of course, more visceral, graphic, horror, and incarnations and those deeper more complex feelings of fear in the movie.
In the book, we kind of find out that Its encounter with the Losers genuinely fractures its sense of identity and its belief that essentially he’s an almighty creature. How did you guys work with Bill to sort of manifest that change and evolved mentality after that encounter?
ANDY MUSCHIETTI: The return, We talked for hours, Bill and I talked for hours to discuss the character. One, in a larger, bigger plan for Pennywise on this one. Make sure that he came with a very specific and focused feeling of revenge against the losers and he just comes — there’s a bigger plan, there’s a step ahead that he didn’t have in the first movie and there’s also a deepened sense of manipulation and perversion, as well as smarts and intelligence this time.
BARBARA MUSCHIETTI: This is something that I remember from the first time a read the book, and it always stuck with me and then, of course, re-reading the book fifteen times now while working in production.
ANDY MUSCHIETTI: Wow, fifteen?
BARBARA MUSCHIETTI: Between listening and reading it, I would say fifteen.
BARBARA MUSCHIETTI: It’s because I read it more than he did, so that’s why he’s like “no” [Laughs] But there’s, I think, it’s a page in which you hear the voice of Pennywise in the book, and what you hear is that he is just annoyed because all he wants to do is eat and sleep, and now these guys have come back to fuck that up for him, right? But then there’s no more explanation or elaboration of that in the book, and that’s something that Andy and Bill have to work with, a smarter Pennywise, somebody that knew that she… he… she [laughs].
ANDY MUSCHIETTI: It’s’ a female.
BARBARA MUSCHIETTI: Yeah.
ANDY MUSCHIETTI: You know that?
Yeah, It’s pretty explicitly female in the book.
BARBARA MUSCHIETTI: Yeah.
ANDY MUSCHIETTI: It’s a female, yeah.
BARBARA MUSCHIETTI: That she had to defeat these guys that had almost defeated him, and he knew the stakes. So it was quite a Titanic enterprise that they, these 2 guys [Andy and Bill], embarked on and I think they nailed it. And so does Stephen King.
How much farther were you able to push that intensity with Pennywise now that you’re working with an adult cast?
ANDY MUSCHIETTI: Bill goes to extremes all the time. he did it on the first one and he does it with this one. Dealing with adult actors, the method, the directing is different, but this one, I separated the kids from Pennywise to try to capture that first impression that first reaction. This time was different because they’re adults and even though they were creeped out, I didn’t give an intent to that, mostly relying on their performance and these are incredible actors. But they were still creeped out by Bill.
Bill is ever intimidating in all the makeup and costume, and he’s like 6’6″. He warms up. He’s not a method actor, but when he warms up, he generates a silence in the set that’s terrifying. He lives in this little black tent… it’s a big mystery and suddenly you hear from the corner of the set [clown laugh], and that’s him warming up the voice. And that’s where everybody shuts the fuck up. He comes in like a long shadow.
BARBARA MUSCHIETTI: He’s got a very intimidating walk too. And he’s Swedish, so you don’t fuck with the Swedish.