[SPOILERS for IT ahead.]
The writer tasked with adapting Stephen King’s IT has discussed how he handled (or, rather, changed) the most controversial scene in the book. After the Losers’ Club has seemingly beaten Pennywise underneath the town of Derry in King’s original story, they become lost in the endless sewer tunnels. As they all begin to panic about which direction to go in, the only female member of the group (Beverly) comes up with an idea. She has sex with each of the male Losers and soon afterwards, they discover their way out of the maze-like tunnels. It’s meant to show the group’s transition from childhood to adolescence, but for obvious reasons this scene didn’t make it into the film adaptation.
With Stephen King himself having already given his seal of approval to IT, many wondered ahead of the movie’s release if that meant said infamous scene from the novel had been included in the film. Of course, King also gave his blessing to the changes in the IT movie and that sequence was one of them. When IT was originally in development back in 2014 under the direction of Cary Fukunaga (and with Will Poulter starring as Pennywise), Fukunaga had come up with a way around that scene with his writing partner, Chase Palmer. Instead of having sex with the boys, Beverly embraced each of them to calm them down.
Related: IT Movie Review
However, when Gary Dauberman took over writing duties from Fukunaga after the director left the project, he didn’t completely do away with the latter’s IT script draft. Instead, Dauberman used that draft as a foundation and built upon it. Ultimately, after the Losers Club defeat Pennywise in the film, they simply walk out of the sewer tunnels with no hint that they got lost at all. When speaking to EW, Dauberman explained how his altered version of the scene in the IT movie accomplishes the same goal:
“Besides Georgie in the sewer [the It opening], I think it’s the one scene that everybody kind of brings up and it’s such a shame. While it’s an important scene, it doesn’t define the book in any way I don’t think and it shouldn’t. We know what the intent was of that scene and why he put it in there, and we tried to accomplish what the intent was in a different way.”
The 1990s TV miniseries adaption of Stephen King’s novel also chose to leave out said controversial scene, deeming it too risky for television. Although the medium of film has pushed boundaries over the last twenty years, there are somethings that just wouldn’t translate to screen without causing an uproar, this scene being one of them. That said, the IT movie is definitely more of a re-adaptation of King’s book rather than a remake of the TV miniseries.
The film arguably has enough challenging material on its plate as is, by introducing the terrifying Pennywise the Dancing Clown to a whole new generation. Pennywise actor Bill Skarsgard has exokaubed that he wanted to “intellectualize” the clown in the film and make him truly haunting. He’s seemingly childish as well as cunning, which makes him all the more scarier as he terrorizes the Losers’ Club and the town of Derry. In fact, he’s so impressive during the film that King can’t decide which Pennywise is his favorite, Skarsgard or Tim Curry’s (from the ’90s miniseries).
Update: Stephen King has commented on the scene recently, following up a 2013 statement saying “it’s fascinating to me that there has been so much comment about that single sex scene and so little about the multiple child murders. That must mean something, but I’m not sure what.” (via Vulture).
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