Pennywise the Dancing Clown has haunted the minds of horror fans for generations, but with 2017’s IT Chapter One, the Stephen King creation shot to new heights of popularity, chomping his way through the competition to become the highest-grossing horror film of all time (not adjusting for inflation). Director Andy Muschietti and producer Barbara Muschietti, along with screenwriter Gary Dauberman (Annabelle Comes Home) shepherded Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema’s sensation, but for their first go-round, the IT team built from a structure set by previously attached filmmaker Cary Fukunaga and his co-writer Chase Palmer.
For IT Chapter Two, which arrives in theaters on September 6, the Muschiettis and Dauberman got to start with something of a clean slate (there’s still the iconic novel, after all,) building their sequel from the world they created in the first film. And they had a new set of hands to help this time around!
The Muschiettis started working with Dauberman on the sequel script before Chapter One even hit theaters, but when the New Line fave had to get started on his directorial debut Annabelle Comes Home, Warners recruited another studio regular to take the film “to the finish line.” Wonder Woman and Pan scribe Jason Fuchs (who was previously set to work with the Muschiettis on WB/New Line’s Robotech,) stepped in, staying on through the shoot to help the film evolve and stay loose while it was in production.
While the Muschiettis were on-hand to present IT Chapter Two at San Diego Comic-Con for New Line’s third annual ScareDiego presentation, I sat down for a chat with the filmmakers and discussed the biggest challenges and changes in the writing process for the second film. They talked about the challenges of condensing the story’s second half with the feeling of a real-time story, honoring the book while delivering departures that will surprise viewers, including book-readers, and how Fuchs came on board and helped them discover new pages on-set.
Check out what they had to say below, and check back tomorrow for the Pennywise-centric second half our interview.
You guys have been pretty open about how the writing process was on the first film, in that you were working from a pre-existing script and bringing your own touch to it. How different was the writing and scripting process this time around? Were you still working from a pre-existing layout, or was it all you this time?
ANDY MUSCHIETTI: No. The only existing maze was the challenge of making a second part, in terms of script, was basically keeping the tension all the time, condensing all the events that happened in this timeline into almost like a real-time journey. So, we had to interlace some of the events, or connect some events — in the book, they’re a little looser — and staying true to the emotion of that section, and also turn the screws of tension here and there, and also create events that make things more difficult. Create obstacles and diversion and forces that are not necessarily in the book.
The other reason is to get and to make a great experience of the movie. So yeah, there was a lot of that. And also the other reason for doing that is like, you know, [keep] the audience surprised and for people who’ve read the book. So even though we stay true to the spirit of the original story, there’s some changes and detours and departures that are very interesting.
Cool! I’m excited to find out what they are. When we visited the set for the first film, you guys already kind of referenced some of your ideas that you had for part two. How early did you start working with Gary on getting that script going?
BARBARA MUSCHIETTI: August. I think it was before we came out with Chapter One. We were already working on ideas and then Gary started putting it together with Andy. You know Andy’s very much the mastermind of the story and he knows very well what movie he wants to make. So we had a great journey with Gary. And then when Gary left for Annabelle, we started working with Jason Fuchs who did an amazing job taking us to the finish line. It was great. Yeah. I’m very happy.
ANDY MUSCHIETTI: Yeah. And having Jason on also during the shoot.
BARBARA MUSCHIETTI: Yes.
ANDY MUSCHIETTI: It was a weird thing because there were things changing every time. The great thing about staying open in on set [is] new things appear and new questions are asked, so it’s not an iron script anymore. So okay, “We still didn’t shoot Scene 74, so we are going to translate this question into that.” That was what was great about having a writer during production. So, Jason did a great job.
BARBARA MUSCHIETTI: You know that stereotype of getting new pages every day? We were getting new pages every day [laughs]. But it’s good, you make it better. It’s about making the movie better.