Whether you’re a fan or not of Stephen King, no one can deny that he has had an incredible influence and has managed to build this lasting power within the realm of American pop culture for decades. Whether due to his tackling of universal topics or just the sheer frightening terror that his stories invoke, there is something about his work that continues to latch its way into people’s souls and make them want to keep reading until stories end. For many people, especially in our generation and Generation X, their first introduction to Stephen King happened in their adolescence, which speaks to the universal quality and relatability of his writing. That time of life, as we discovered at the recent press conference for IT CHAPTER TWO, is where many of the cast happened to discover Stephen King.
Jessica Chastain, who plays the adult version of Beverly Marsh, reflected on her introduction to Stephen King, remarking on how the introduction to his literature had little to do with assigned reading in school: “I think it was one of the first books that I read that wasn’t assigned to me. It was not It, I think it was Pet Sematary. And then I went from there to The Shining, to Misery. And I loved that her name was Misery Chastain. I was like, ‘Yes!’ So yeah, I was a Stephen King fan.” The experience of assigned reading is one that many of us can remember from school, with some of us developing lifelong hatreds of certain material (here’s looking at you Great Gatsby) as a result of constant pushing from teachers. The discovery of something new to read outside of the educational system is always something that lingers on a young kid’s mind because it’s something that’s not a required thing. It’s something that’s fun and exciting.
Bill Hader, who plays the adult version of Richie Tozier, was quick to follow-up after Chastain, remarking on how similar their experiences were with being introduced to Stephen King. He explained, “[M]y grandfather took me to a bookstore, and I had to get Red Badge of Courage for school, and I was kind of bummed out about that. And then he said, ‘You know, you can go get another book if you want for yourself.’ So I went to the young adult section, and he went, ‘No, no, no. You can go into the fiction section, you’re 12, you can handle it.'” For any kid, the fiction section was where all the naughty things were like sex and curse words and the like. Any of us can recall that this section was where the imagination could really be unlocked, but it was also the first introduction for us into the adult world that we had never been apart of. Hader continued, stating that Salem’s Lot was the book that he had taken home. “I read it in a weekend. And also, it was that first experience of reading an adult book. And it was 400 something pages and you finished it, you know? And you felt this massive accomplishment.”
For the majority of the cast, though, their first introduction to Stephen King happened with the IT miniseries, which starred Tim Curry as the titular character. Andy Bean, who plays the adult version of Stanley Uris, explained that reading Stephen King wasn’t his gateway into the author’s work. “I was introduced to Stephen King from the miniseries. It was like a bootleg, brick VHS thing and we, I went over to somebody’s house. I had no idea what I was doing and getting myself into, and [was] just traumatized for an entire month. Nightmares.” The nightmare-inducing terror that the miniseries delivered ended up inspiring some members of the cast to play pranks on their siblings. James Ransone, who plays the adult version of Eddie Kaspbrak, gleefully shared what he did to his brother around the time the miniseries was really popular: “I actually took a photo, my dad had a photocopier, because he had his own business. And so I took the, you know how they’ll re-market the books, so they did it with Tim Curry’s face, and I blew it up as big as I could, and I put it next to my brother’s bed.”
One major element that some members of the cast shared that made it really difficult for them to invest entirely in reading Stephen King’s IT, however, was the length of the actual novel itself. The length was a major deterrent for them to introduce themselves to the novel, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, with the miniseries and the audiobook, some of them were able to at least get an introduction that way. Jay Ryan, who plays the adult version of Ben Hanscom, shared how daunting it was for him to even try to attempt reading IT, the length of the book scaring him off. It wasn’t until he got the audiobook, though, that he was able to really invest in Stephen King’s work: “I attempted to read It when I was younger, and I think it was just a little bit too scary for me, and too many pages at the time. I prefer the film version. But I was engrossed in the audiobook when I took this role on, all 40 hours of it, by Michael C. Hall. And that’s quite an amazing immersive experience to be able to listen, if you’re a lazy reader like myself.”
One way or another, the entirety of the adult cast of IT CHAPTER TWO came together to agree that author Stephen King’s work did have a lasting influence on them that lingered into adulthood. For many, he was their gateway into adulthood, with their introduction to the darkness that adulthood brings taking place in their adolescence. However, as we discovered, regardless of their age when they were first introduced to Stephen King, his work still resonates whether it was adapted into a miniseries, delivered in audio fashion, or just written out on a page. Little did they know that their performances in IT CHAPTER TWO will continue the resonating influence that Stephen King’s work has on generations for years to come.
IT CHAPTER TWO is now in theaters and you can read our review here as well as our interview with writer Gary Dauberman and our interview with director Andy Muschietti, producer Barbara Muschietti, and actor Bill Skarsgård.