[Article] The Development of Pennywise for IT CHAPTER TWO
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

This weekend we’re seeing the release of Andy Muschietti‘s highly-anticipated IT CHAPTER TWO. The film, which is a follow-up to the highly successful IT, finds the Losers Club 27 years later being drawn back to Derry once evidence of Pennywise’s return is uncovered. The stakes are high and all are wondering if the Losers’ Club will survive what will be their final encounter with the murderous clown-like entity. Recently, we got to attend a press conference for IT CHAPTER TWO where director Andy Muschietti, producer Barbara Muschietti, and actor Bill Skarsgård spoke about what it was like to tackle the development of the second half of the book and what has changed about Pennywise since the events of the previous film.

At the end of IT, it seems like Pennywise might have finally been defeated after suffering a crippling series of blows from the Losers’ Club. However, for anyone who has read the original Stephen King novel or watched the miniseries, Pennywise is definitely back and something has changed within him. But what exactly had changed that would impact the performance Skarsgård would give in the follow-up was definitely on both Skarsgård and Andy’s mind when they tackled the pre-production development stage. Skarsgård explained, “We talked about it a lot where it’s like he was almost defeated for the first time ever and he’s come back for revenge. We talked a lot about how there’s this kind of urge that maybe Pennywise really, really wants to be defeated finally and forever.”

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The concept of this all-powerful, completely and utterly terrifying creature wanting nothing more than to just be killed was a concept that intrigued both Andy and Skarsgård as they discussed what to do with Pennywise. When discussing the concept of Pennywise’s potential mindset, Andy dove in and explained, “I think it connects to the idea that we were discussing for the first movie that this is a character that is fighting to survive strangely because…It’s a character that lives in the imagination of children. So, to keep on living, he has to keep on killing, and as long as he keeps killing he will be alive. So, he kills to stay alive basically.” How much of this intrinsic need to survive is in Skarsgård’s performance is left up in the air by the director, but the concept was very much something that all involved were intrigued by. But did the original source material help pave the way for this particular concept to be explored? Skarsgård thoughts so, “[Pennywise] seems like he’s afraid of the kids in the book a little bit. His biggest fear is them coming back and defeating him or challenging him again.[…] He just wants to be just left alone and this kind of beast of habit kind of a thing.” 

This beast of habit idea of just needing to survive, just needing to feed and keep feeding until his next hibernation period hit him was very much a thread that bound the trio together as they tackled conceptualizing Pennywise for the following chapter. In discussing her own thoughts on Pennywise’s motivations, producer Barbara Muschietti referred to what she had discovered from the novel during production on 2017’s IT: “I kept on thinking about a page in the book, and I didn’t catch it the first time I read it when I was 15. We caught it many years later when we were already working on Chapter One. And it’s basically a one page that is hidden in this 1,138 page book, which is Pennywise’s POV in which he basically says, “I just want to sleep and eat. I just want to sleep and eat and these fuckers come to annoy that.” And of course from that point on, that’s what we had to get for Chapter Two. Somebody that needed to deal with this or be destroyed.”

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

For those who are concerned about whether or not Pennywise will be too soft given these more masochistic qualities that have arisen since his defeat, don’t worry. This idea of this creature needing to be destroyed or all hope would be lost is also what motivated the team from keeping the character too weak moving onward into the sequel. In order to ensure that the character wouldn’t be too weak, a taunting quality was strengthened and layered within the depths of Skarsgård’s take on the character. Because, after all, the character also wanted revenge on all of the Losers. And, if he was going to get what he wanted, the character was going to need the Losers to come back to Derry. Skarsgård elaborated, “He wants them back and he’s enjoying it and he’s playing a mind game on all of the Losers, and it’s revenge and then maybe some masochistic side of it. But he really craves them and he wants them back.” He explained further that this need to have them back is what motivated them all to find a way to insert changes. And, ultimately, this resulted in a far more sinister character.   

While there might be an intrinsic need from Pennywise to finally meet his end, he’s definitely a lot nastier this time around. And a lot of that has to do with how much time has passed but also, the more developed fears that the adult Losers have. Andy explained how they tried to showcase Pennywise’s more sinister side when he discussed the character of Vic, who discovers Pennywise under the bleachers. As he explained to us, we learned how Pennywise’s tactics changed to match up with the intelligence Vic has in not blindly trusting him. He goes on to explain further, connecting back to the point made previously about how Pennywise needs to play mind games, especially with the Losers: “At that point, we notice that Pennywise is smarter than we thought or more manipulative. And he’s more perverse. The way he plays with the fears. The way he plays Bill into aggravating his guilt just by picking a poor innocent child.[…]I don’t know. Every bad thing that Pennywise is is intensified in this one… And he’s sort of one step ahead. He has a bigger plan.”

While this bigger plan involves a substantial whopping of seasoning of the meat via a buttload of fear, we can verify that this Pennywise has nothing left to lose. He’s all in and he will do everything he can to ensure that the Losers’ Club, as well as the audience, experiences delicious fear before he’s through with all of us.

IT CHAPTER TWO will float its way into theaters Friday, September 6th. Want more IT CHAPTER TWO? Check out our review here.

Sarah Musnicky
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