Pennywise actor Bill Skarsgård terrified young actors on the IT film set. That’s understandable; to a certain generation of people, there are few movie monsters more iconic than Pennywise the Clown, the preferred form of Stephen King’s titular villain in IT’s 1990 miniseries adaptation. Expertly played by genre legend Tim Curry, Pennywise scared the hell out of just about everyone who saw him, setting a new benchmark for most when it comes to scariest clown in cinema history.
This fall, IT’s tale of a shape-shifting monster that preys on the children of the small town of Derry, Maine will be retold on the big screen, offering a new crop of child actors a chance to portray the seven members of the young but heroic Losers’ Club. Taking up the tall task of trying to live up to Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise is 26-year-old Swedish actor Bill Skarsgård.
Many initially found the still emerging Skarsgard an odd choice for the role, especially when compared to Curry, who was already a big name and in his 40s when he took on the Pennywise role. That said, all the trailers and promos released so far for IT (2017) have received widespread acclaim, with many feeling that Skarsgård has managed to exude menace even in the little he’s been featured. In a recent chat with Interview Magazine, the actor revealed an instance on the IT set in which his Pennywise managed to terrify a bunch of unsuspecting child extras in person.
“At one point, they set up this entire scene, and these kids come in, and none of them have seen me yet. Their parents have brought them in, these little extras, right? And then I come out as Pennywise, and these kids—young, normal kids—I saw the reaction that they had. Some of them were really intrigued, but some couldn’t look at me, and some were shaking. This one kid started crying. He started to cry and the director yelled, “Action!” And when they say “action,” I am completely in character. So some of these kids got terrified and started to cry in the middle of the take, and then I realized, “Holy shit. What am I doing? What is this? This is horrible.”‘
Before anyone feels too sorry for the kids in question, Skarsgård later says in the same interview that once director Andy Muschetti called cut, he tried his best to console the kids and reassure them that he wasn’t really a monster. Of course, considering that he was still in full make-up at the time, it’s hard to imagine that the extras were too eager to accept any comforting hugs that might have been offered.
In the context of the IT story, one wonders what the above scene entails, as Pennywise never appeared to a large crowd of victims in the original miniseries, and rarely appeared to anyone outside of the Losers’ Club. Still, he was a constant danger to any kid in Derry in King’s book, so it’s possible that Muschetti has used his theatrical film’s larger budget to try and pull off a more large-scale encounter with Skarsgård’s Pennywise.