VARIETY – Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.
Film festivals may be raging from Venice to Telluride to Toronto, but the biggest industry story this week had to be the box office dominance of Andy Muscietti’s Stephen King adaptation “It.” The film raked in nearly $120 million opening weekend and looks to stay strong over the next week, ensuring a whole new generation’s fear of clowns.
Actor Bill Skarsgard got the call to play Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the film, the physical manifestation of an evil entity that has terrorized a small Maine town for centuries. But it was a daunting prospect, not least of all because such an iconic portrayal of the character already existed courtesy of Tim Curry in ABC’s 1990 miniseries adaptation.
THE NEW YORK TIMES – Bill Skarsgard was calling from his native Sweden, where “It” — the much-anticipated horror film in which he co-stars — was set for a premiere in Stockholm on Friday. “It’s more of a family gathering,” Mr. Skarsgard said. “I’ve invited all my cousins and uncles, and my sister, who works in event planning, is throwing the after-party. My brother Alexander did the same thing with ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ last year, so he inspired me.”
But Pennywise, the child-killing clown Mr. Skarsgard plays in this adaptation of the 1986 Stephen King novel, is a far cry from Tarzan. “It will be fun to see my entire family jump while watching my performance,” Mr. Skarsgard, 27, said.
His relatives probably won’t be the only ones startled by his disturbing turn. “It” is expected to devour the competition at the box office this weekend, building off the repeated reports of creepy-clown sightings around the United States and in Britain in recent years. “These are grown men who put on makeup and try to entertain children,” Mr. Skarsgard said of professional clowns. “If you ask anybody what they think of clowns, it’s associated as much or more with something crazy and scary as it is something joyful. I don’t think this film is going to help that.”
“It” will no doubt be a boost to the career of Mr. Skarsgard, who was previously seen in the sci-fi film “Allegiant” and Netflix’s supernatural drama “Hemlock Grove.” He’s fine with the fact that in this film he disappears underneath layers of prosthetics. “I’m a pretty private person, so I don’t mind not being recognized,” he said. “It’s nice to hide behind the makeup.”
Bill attended the It premiere at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California (September 5). Bill received support at the event from his brothers Alex and Gustaf! Check out the photos below.
VARIETY – The new reboot of Stephen King’s “It” hasn’t even opened in theaters, but director Andy Muschietti is already planning for the next installment. The sequel is a near-certainty since King’s book switches off between two storylines, and it’s already known that the film that opens Friday focuses more on the child characters.
Though it has always been planned as a two-part story, Warner Bros. isn’t emphasizing the two movies in marketing materials. Perhaps the studio learned from “The Dark Tower,” which was planned as a movie, TV series and more, but fizzled after the first film disappointed.
However, the movie itself leaves plenty of room for a sequel, not to mention the fact that the title card at the end of the film (MILD SPOILER ALERT) reads “It: Chapter One.”
The novel “It” follows a group of children known as “the Losers Club” as they battle the evil force known as Pennywise, then follows up with another battle with the creature 30 years later. While the 1990 miniseries adaptation directly follows the plot of King’s novel, including interdimensional travel (Carey Fukunaga’s original script for the reboot reportedly included a dimension portal), Muschietti’s version is much more grounded and does away with the weird otherworldliness…at least for now.
Muschietti told Variety that he doesn’t think of the next film as a sequel, more like the second half of a single story and that’s he’s prepared to helm this project as well.
“I really wanted to focus on the emotional journey of the group of kids. Getting in to that other dimension — the other side — was something that we could introduce in the second part,” Muschietti said in an interview with Yahoo Movies. “In the book the perspective of the writing… is always with the Losers, so everything they know about Pennywise is very speculative and shrouded in absurdity, so I wanted to respect that mystery feeling of not knowing what’s on the other side.”
“It” is expected to break the record for biggest opening weekend of a non-sequel, R-rated horror film, currently held by “The Conjuring,” which debuted to $41 million in 2013.
“It” opens in theaters Sept. 8.