For the upcoming release of director Andy Muschietti’s IT film, Shannon had the pleasure of being part of a round table interview with co-writer Gary Dauberman where they discussed everything from his inspiration for writing the screenplay to moments he looked forward to seeing on screen.
Question: How much time did you spend with Mr. King?
Gary Dauberman: My whole life because I’ve been reading his work for my entire life (laughs), I’m actually reading “On Writing” for the 15th time. To sit down and talk with King about this stuff I would have welcomed the opportunity, but I don’t know how involved he wanted to be. The opportunity unfortunately did not present itself and I’m not someone that was going to bother him about it.
Question: Were you involved with the original script when there was the attempt to do both time periods?
GD: No, I came in after the decision was made to focus on the kids stories, which I think was the right decision.
Question: Did anything from the Fukunaga version get into your script?
GD: Yeah, with the case of Cary Fukunaga, it wasn’t like “Oh my God, what were they going to do?” it was like, as they say, picking up the ball and running with it because in the end we were all using the same source material.
Question: Other than the book, where else did you pull inspiration from?
GD: It’s hard not to say the book, but I think Andy [Muschietti] brought a lot of inspiration to me. He had a lot of great ideas and a lot of great visuals. As we would sit there and talk he would draw things out and slide them over to me and say, “I’m thinking of this.” Working with him was very inspiring. I’ve been entrenched in The Conjuring world for awhile so it’s hard not to be inspired by James [Wan], no matter what I’m doing. Also, a lot of 80s horror movies and such helped to bring that sort of aesthetic and sensibility.
Question: How did you choose what to deviate from with the book? For example, Richie Tozier’s fear was the wolfman but in the film there was no wolfman.
GD: Those things were discussed but it ended up being a question of what do we want to put the focus on, what do we want to shine the spotlight on, because if you do the werewolf you are going to detract from something else. It’s a balance of choosing what to really showcase. We had a ton of ideas for that stuff but we needed to know, okay what is going to work on his character’s development and also not going to detract from him. The werewolf, when it was set in the 50’s, kind of made sense whereas in the 80’s not as much, though I guess you could say there was The Howling.
Question: I would like to ask you about your decision to take the story from the 50’s to the 80’s. Was that your decision and if so, or either way, how did you guys get to that spot and how did you use it to your advantage?
GD: That was a decision that was made before I came on-board, but I do think it was the right decision. I used it to my advantage because I grew up in the 80’s, I was a child of the 80’s, so I got to pull from stuff that I liked as a kid and song choices that people would respond to with a nostalgia factor.
Question: With three writers on the film, and with Stephen King’s book, is there something, without offering spoilers, that you can proudly claim as your own?
GD: I don’t know man, I don’t really think of that stuff. I’m happy with how the Losers’ are portrayed. I don’t really champion anything as my own because working with Andy and the producers and New Line was a true collaboration.
Question: Was there a kid from the Loser’s Club that you identified most with?
GD: I came away with falling in love with Bev all over again so that was sort of something I really enjoyed.
Question: What is it about the horror genre that you love so much? Do you scare yourself when you are writing?
GD: No, I don’t (laughs). I’ve always gravitated towards this stuff as a kid – I loved the horror genre, I loved the supernatural, I loved going to haunted hayrides. It’s funny, I have a son now and I’m trying not to push him towards this stuff but he just seems to like it. I also think there is a very communal aspect to horror, as well as comedy. When you are sitting in a theater you can hear people laugh or you can hear people gasp nervously or elbow each other and that is something I really responded to.
Question: What were some horror movies that influenced you as a kid growing up?
GD: I’m such a commercial person but Halloween is my favorite horror movie. I also just recently re-watched LOST BOYS for the first time in many, many years and that movie is so ahead of its time. I remember seeing the poster at SunCoast Video and my sister wanting to see it because of Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patric being in it. It was just one of those films that transcended genres and I really responded to that. Plus all those franchise films like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and eventually The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Question: A lot of King movies kind of miss the point a little bit in how these kids can’t really turn to their parents and how dark the parents are in this. Can you talk a little bit about crafting this relationship between the kids and their parents and how you went there with this film?
GD: That’s something Andy, the producers, and I talked a lot about. You are right, that is something that is present in a lot of King’s books, however I don’t think I ever thought “Oh, he missed that.” It was just something we brought naturally because we are all a fan of his work. It just felt organic to the story.
Question: The film has this brilliant balance between horror, comedy, and heartfelt moments. What are the similarities in building a scare and building a laugh?
GD: It’s timing and it’s rhythm. It’s about the set up and the pay off. Telling a joke is like a scare, you have to set it up and then pay it off later. That was something I learned early on with James [Wan], he’s so great about taking an ordinary object and have it suddenly become fucking demonic (laughs). It’s that set up and punch that you see in comedy – it works for horror as well.
Question: When you were writing, was there a scene where you couldn’t wait to see how it translated onto the big screen?
GD: For me, it’s the most iconic scene, the one with Georgie at the sewer, that was something I couldn’t wait to see. It’s a scene that you carry with you your whole life that you want to see on the big screen. I was also really interested in seeing the dynamics of the kids. The film wasn’t cast yet so I was wondering who they were going to get for this and who they were going to get for that. I can’t cast the movie in my head so that was a big question mark for me. It was such a relief to see these kids at the table read suddenly start to bounce stuff off of each other.
Question: Did you hear a voice of Pennywise while you were writing and how different or close was that to what Bill did?
GD: No, I mean I used the source material and I tried to get as many Pennywise lines that were in the book into the movie just because it works in the book (laughs). I tried to replicate that as best as I could.
Question: Now that you’ve worked on IT, and you are clearly a fan of Stephen King, if there was any other movie you could do or redo what would it be?
GD: Oh man, that’s tough. “Salem’s Lot” because that’s another mini-series and a book that I love. There’s a couple short stories that I also have my eye on but I don’t know what is out there in development. I don’t know how I would do it but I also really dug “Joyland” which is another coming-of-age story. There’s just so much good stuff.
Question: I would be remissed if I didn’t ask this but THE NUN is in post, how are you feeling about it?
GD: I feel great about it. Director Corin [Hardy] is doing a hell of a job, he fit into the universe really well and worked with James [Wan] really well. He took what I wrote and just fucking ran with it. We are beginning to see stuff now and it still feels like it’s own thing but still part of The Conjuring universe. It’s a distinct movie that sets itself apart from the others.