The efforts to bring Stephen King‘s It back to the big (or, heck, small) screen have been thwarted by a variety of issues. For quite some time, the second adaptation of King’s tale of a group of grown-ups who find themselves revisited by the monstrous clown known as Pennywise, originally played by the great Tim Curry, was one of the most anticipated projects being worked on in Hollywood. Of course, that was largely because the project was being headed-up by Cary Fukunaga, the hugely talented director behind the exemplary first season of True Detective and last year’s Beasts of No Nation. With his departure from the project, over creative and budgetary differences, and the subsequent exit of Will Poulter from the role of Pennywise, the project’s shimmer has been dulled a bit.
And frankly, the handing off of the project to Andy Muschietti, the director behind Mama, doesn’t sweeten the pot all that much. Though Mama is a fine little horror film, it has almost zero personality outside of its script and cast, whereas Fukunaga has genuine vision, a way of building a distinct visual world, no matter the story that’s being told. So, in this case, the casting of Pennywise matters quite a bit more, and Variety’s announcement today that the role has gone to Hemlock Grove star Bill Skarskard, son of Stellan, brother of Alexander, is much more reassuring news than that of Muschietti’s involvement. From the few times I’ve seen the actor, he certainly has a look that could be manipulated in key ways to provide a thoroughly scary Pennywise.
Don’t get me wrong: I have plenty of faith in the director’s molding something effective out of It, but I feel it’s inescapable that it will ultimately be Skarsgard’s monster-clown that leaves its mark on audiences rather than the film itself. That was certainly the case with the first take on the material – few people remember the turns of the story, everyone remembers Curry’s portrayal. We’ll have to wait and see about how Skarsgard and Muschietti, along with a cast that includes Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs and Jeremy Ray Taylor, handle the material, of course; if it even gets made, that is. In the meantime, we’ll have another scary clown movie to tide us over: Rob Zombie‘s deeply unsettling, upcoming 31.