Warning: Minor Spoilers for IT Chapter Two.
Andy Muschietti’s IT Chapter Two begins with a notable director cameo, but the context and pacing may leave some viewers feeling confused. Based on Stephen King’s 1986 novel, IT Chapter Two picks up 27 years after the events of IT Chapter One. Pennywise the Clown has returned to Derry, Maine, prompting Mike Hanlon to organize his group of friends once known as “The Losers’ Club”. The various individuals have mostly gone their separate ways over the years, but are forever linked by their adolescent experiences with the titular mysterious being. IT Chapter Two chronicles The Losers’ Club attempts to defeat Pennywise the Clown, once and for all.
It’s not uncommon for directors to make cameos in their films, or to pay homage to cinematic influences. With IT Chapter Two, Muschietti cast himself and King for cameo roles, but also an American New Wave icon for an early moment that may resonate with cinephiles but feel purely bizarre to others. IT Chapter Two’s inciting incident takes place when gay Derry local Adrian Mellon (portrayed by Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan) is beaten, thrown from a bridge, and then killed by Pennywise. Mike Hanlon reaches out to the Losers’ Club members, now all grown up and pursuing career goals. Specifically, Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy) works as a horror novelist and Hollywood screenwriter.
On a movie set, Denbrough’s director suddenly drops down from a crane and offers some advice: “My friend, a film needs an ending." This particular IT Chapter Two character is none other than Peter Bogdanovich, a director who changed the landscape of American cinema during the early ‘70s. Bogdanovich has no real connection to Stephen King or the IT films, but he is friends with Muschietti. According to the filmmaker, Bogdanovich is the one who requested a role in the sequel. He told USA Today: “He said, ‘You don't happen to have a role for an old director like me, do you?’ And I said: ‘You know what? I do.’”
Bogdanovich worked as a film critic during the '60s, and was later hired by New York City’s Museum of Modern Art as a programmer. He famously curated the first Orson Welles retrospective, which led to a life-long relationship with the Citizen Kane director, as depicted in the 2018 Netflix documentary They'll Love Me When I'm Dead and the complementary feature The Other Side of the Wind. As a director, Bogdanovich is best known for ‘70s classics like The Last Picture Show, What's Up, Doc?, and Paper Moon.
On one level, Bogdanovich’s meta cameo speaks to the spirit of filmmaking and effective storytelling; a concept that he, King, and Muschietti are certainly familiar with. In fact, Muschietti also stated in the same interview that “[The cameo] was very playful, like Peter Bogdanovich comes from the sky and just drops from above, like some sort of god, and then he goes back to the cloud.”
Beyond the cameo's simplicity, Bogdanovich's appearance references his legacy and ongoing life story. Decades ago, Bogdanovich clashed with the aforementioned Welles, both personally and professionally. Yet he ultimately honored the late filmmaker by leading the charge to complete The Other Side of the Wind, which was uncompleted at the time of Welles' 1985 death. Bogdanovich's IT Chapter Two cameo is somewhat bizarre on the surface, but it’s also layered and telling, as he continues to be relevant after all these years.