With all the excitement and fuss surrounding the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, it’s easy to forget that the author has other long gestating cinematic adaptations in the works. Both The Stand and It have taken similarly circuitous routes from the page to the screen - both were first adapted into a successful TV miniseries, but their movie versions have struggled for years with false starts and setbacks, yet appear to still be in the works today, in varying degrees. The It film adaptation, in particular, is making real progress forward.
King’s tale of children facing off against the embodiment of their fears has resonated throughout the decades since its publication in 1986. Considered to be one of the author’s finest works of horror, the last few years have seen the novel hit multiple roadblocks on its way to the silver screen for the first time. True Detective season 1 director Cary Fukunaga had been attached to direct the film before that iteration of the project fell apart due to his creative differences with New Line, the studio behind the adaptation. While the project’s slow dismantling left many wondering if It would ever see the light of day, some recent announcements indicate the movie is finally coming to fruition.
According to a report from THR, actor Bill Skarsgård (Hemlock Grove) is in the final stages of negotiations to take on the role of the legendary villain Pennywise when the first of potentially two It movie adaptations hits the big screen in 2017. The film is set to be directed by Andy Muschietti (Mama) and its cast also includes the young actors Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special), Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things), Jack Dylan Grazer (Tales of Halloween), Wyatt Oleff (Guardians of the Galaxy), Chosen Jacobs (Hawaii Five-O), and Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ant-Man) as the kids in the story who are terrorized by the malevolent creatures known as Pennywise the Clown.
While this will mark the first time that It has been adapted for the big screen, Skarsgård has some huge shoes to fill. The original ABC It TV miniseries starred Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) as Pennywise the Clown, an entity who took the form of whatever its victim most feared. For many, Curry’s performance in the miniseries was a defining point in the actor’s career, leaving some fans wondering if it’s even possible for another actor to inhabit the role.
Still, even though the original miniseries remains popular 25 years after its original airing, there’s plenty of room for a cinematic adaptation to present the story in ways viewers haven’t yet seen. While the miniseries It is considered a TV horror landmark, the nature of television, especially at the time, required much of the story to be toned down and made more suitable for audiences. Many of the novel’s more intense and graphic scenes were either changed or cut altogether - a fact that many book readers have decried for years, even with the miniseries' success.
Despite the casting and director changes, Muschietti’s It will apparently be borrowing at least some things from Fukunaga’s plans, namely that the full story will be told over two films —the first of them dealing with the main characters as children and their initial faceoff against Pennywise, and the second with the characters as adults as they reunite to take try and take down the entity once and for all. Structurally, this isn’t dissimilar from either the original novel or miniseries, and it does allow for the films to be truer adaptations of the source material... if, in fact, that remains the plan after all.
Even the casting of Skarsgård seems to mimic, somewhat, Fukunaga’s original plans. The latter had cast Will Poulter (We’re the Millers) as the disturbing villain called Pennywise, indicating that this generation’s version of the creature would appear to be somewhat closer in age to the protagonists in the story. Skarsgård is a few years older than Coulter, but the similarities between the actors seem to be a good indication of where New Line is attempting to go with this Stephen King film adaptation.
It remains to be seen if Skarsgård has what it takes to fully inhabit the role, but he’s definitely got the horror chops, even if his Hemlock Grove role was remarkably different from Pennywise. Overall, however, it appears as though everyone involved is eager to produce a faithful adaptation of King’s original novel, which is great news for It and Pennywise fans. We’ll keep you posted on any and all updates on this and all King projects as they develop.
It is scheduled to reach U.S. theaters on September 8th, 2017.