Cast: Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, James McAvoy, Bill Skarsgård, James Ransone, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, Andy Bean
Director: Andres Muschietti
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Running Time: 169 minutes
Synopsis: Evil resurfaces in Derry as director Andy Muschietti reunites the Losers Club in a return to where it all began with "IT Chapter Two," the conclusion to the highest-grossing horror film of all time.
Twenty-seven years after the Losers' Club defeated Pennywise, he has returned to terrorize the town of Derry once more. Now adults, the Losers have long since gone their separate ways. However, people are disappearing again, so Mike, the only one of the group to remain in their hometown, calls the others home. Damaged by the experiences of their past, they must each conquer their deepest fears to destroy Pennywise once and for all...putting them directly in the path of the shape-shifting clown that has become deadlier than ever.
The film is Muschietti's follow-up to 2017's critically acclaimed and massive global box office hit "IT," which grossed more than $700 million worldwide. Both redefining and transcending the horror genre, "IT" became part of the cultural zeitgeist.
It: Chapter Two
Release Date: September 5th, 2019
Sometimes what we wish was forgotten…
What we tried to leave in the past…
Won't stay there.
Sometimes, IT comes back for you.
At the end of 2017's "IT," the game-changing motion picture adaptation of Stephen King's quintessential horror novel, the young members of the Losers' Club are sitting in the sunshine, days after their defeat of Pennywise in the sewers below. The only ones in Derry truly aware of the pernicious evil that nearly annihilated the town, they swear a blood oath to come back if their efforts to destroy the malevolent presence weren't successful. If, indeed, Pennywise ever returns…
Twenty-seven years later, IT does.
For Andy Muschietti"director of the global phenomenon "IT" and now, the epic conclusion, "IT Chapter Two""IT never really left him. While the first film was busy racking up critical praise, fan love and record-setting ticket sales, Muschietti had already plunged headlong into early pre-production on the final chapter of what was always planned as a two-film telling of King's seminal novel.
Reacting to the first movie's astonishing success, the director says, "I've been with this project for a long time, shaping it, going through the challenges of that, and also having a lot of fun. I had such a strong connection with the process of making the film, it was hard for me to see it from the other side. But obviously, it was amazing, and I was incredibly pleased and really flattered."
Muschietti did see, however, the urgency to return to Derry. He continues, "The hook effect in the whole thing was incredible. People became emotionally invested in the characters and the story, and at the end of the movie, there was a promise of something to come.
Basically, if IT returns, the Losers will, too. I shared the moviegoers' need to see the second half of the story, the conclusion. This second chapter is as necessary to tell as the first. I couldn't have been more excited to jump in and start imagining what that would be."
For Gary Dauberman, screenwriter of both "IT" and "IT Chapter Two," working on the bigscreen adaptation of King's monolithic tome was pretty much an uninterrupted process.
Dauberman attests, "We never really stopped tossing ideas back and forth and continuing the conversation we started on the first film, because I think we just wanted to keep carrying the momentum forward. We developed a real sense of ease with one another working on the first one, and that really helped the creative process. You always want the freedom to throw out an idea that might not work, because that idea may lead to one that does. Andy and Barbara understand that as well, and it makes the collaboration really comfortable and effortless in a lot of ways."
Barbara Muschietti"who produces along with Dan Lin and Roy Lee"adds, "The book is over 1,100 pages, and our first film covers maybe 300 of those. We understood that the conclusion was going to be a bigger story with twice the amount of characters: Losers as both kids and adults. But this film is much, much more in every way. Deeper. Better. Scarier. Epic."
With "IT," filmmakers had chosen to break stylistically from the narrative form of King's novel"which continually leapfrogs in time"by telling the story of the young Losers only. This time around, the screenplay would include events from the summer of 1989 not previously revealed, functioning not only as the present-day adults' flashbacks to their younger selves, but also filling in the memory gaps almost all the older Losers seem to have.
The director comments, "I love the dialogue between the two timelines in the book and I always wanted to include that in the second film. 'IT Chapter Two' is the story of the Losers as adults 27 years later, but they go back to their memories to retrieve something that is very, very necessary. They have to remember who they were, as well as their amazing bond with each other."
In addition to adopting the novel's storytelling structure, Muschietti increased the King quotient by including the novelist more directly. He says, "Stephen is very respectful of adaptations, and our communications with him started when we were nearly finished with the first chapter. We screened it for him, and he reacted very positively. I didn't want to let the chance go by without getting his thoughts for our second film."
King remarks, "I had hopes for the film, but I was not prepared for how good 'IT' was. I think the best vote of confidence for the second movie is that when the first movie ended with a title card that says, 'IT Chapter One,' audiences applauded. They wanted more. Now, they're going to get the rest. It's not a sequel; it's the second half of one unified story.
"I remember when I was working on the novel," the author continues, shifting gears, "I was on a walk when I saw this little girl sitting at the side of the road, drawing in the dust and talking to herself about the imaginary people in her doodles. I thought, 'What if it was an adult doing that?' We understand that kids have a wider perspective. Their imaginations are unfettered and as we grow older, it becomes tougher and tougher to hold on to that imagination. So, what I really wanted to do with IT was to bring these people back as adults. Having had this experience when they were kids, they are the only ones who have a chance to recapture that imaginative capacity they had as children and use that against IT."
Barbara Muschietti initially came across King's expansive novel as a teenager who enjoyed broadening her imaginative capacity through reading. She recalls, "I read the book as a 15-yearold, and the story of these 13-year-old characters battling this horrendous evil, along with bigotry, sexism and anti-Semitism, really empowered me."
The filmmakers had always been committed to incorporating those themes from King's book in the film. She continues, "The soul of Derry is even worse than it was 27 years ago at the time of 'IT.' The bigotry, hatred, the lack of empathy… This fog is everywhere, and residents don't see how bad it is. That's part of the spell. Leaving Derry, your memory of the town and your time there fades. But if you stay, your life is deadened, enveloped in this fog. Horrendous things occur, but they just don't register."
One such atrocious event is a watershed moment for both King and fans of the book, and filmmakers were intent upon its inclusion. Barbara Muschietti says, "Part of King's genius was to write about this hate crime within a setting as festive as a carnival. It was his way of reacting to an actual incident in Bangor, Maine. A lot of fans kept asking, 'Are you going to include the Adrian Mellon scene?' Of course, we were always going to. The sequence is jarring and very hard for the brain to comprehend"how humans can behave like this, attacking someone for whom he loves. Ultimately, it's essential to understanding Derry, how crazy and blind it is."
Dauberman observes, "Pennywise's influence, even during his slumber, has really taken hold of the town in ways we didn't see in the first movie. It feels a lot more hopeless, as if Derry is making its last dying gasp before fully succumbing to IT. When the Losers return, Pennywise becomes much more desperate to take them out, as he knows they are really the only thing standing in the way of his fully consuming Derry."
The only woman among the Losers is played by Jessica Chastain, who first worked with the Muschiettis in 2012, starring in their horror film "Mama." Since then, the three have remained good friends.
The actress professes, "I loved the first film and really responded to the character of Beverly Marsh, played by Sophia Lillis. She is such a dynamic presence and, in many cases, is the most brave. She's seen a lot of darkness in her life and because of that, it creates a fearlessness in her."
Chastain's castmate, James McAvoy, shared her appreciation of both the first film and the novel. McAvoy, who calls himself a "massive" fan of King, responds to not only the scope of the writer's works, but also, the larger-than-life themes woven into his stories. The actor says, "Some of his books are the kind you can read two or three times. There's so much to mine out of them. I read IT when I was 12. There's this battle between an ancient evil and a group of kids, who then return to fight it as adults. These seven kids are a magical army, imbued with this unifying belief. If believing is the thing that wins the day, a kid has the power to believe way more than an adult does. So, going back up against Pennywise 27 years later, the Losers are hamstrung. As adults, they no longer believe in magic, they believe in the mundane. The only way they are going to defeat IT is by rediscovering themselves as children, again believing in monsters and challenging him on his own terms."
Bill Hader, who refers to himself as "a big Stephen King nerd," remembers, "I was just knocked out by 'IT.' From the opening scene with Georgie, I thought it was vivid, gorgeouslooking and unbelievably terrifying. It was also emotional and funny, and had a real pathos. The young actors were wonderful and incredibly subtle"Andy got great performances from them. And at the end, when they promise to come back if IT ever returns, I thought, 'Man, that will be rad! We've got another movie coming up!'" He finishes with a laugh, "I never really thought beyond, 'Can't wait to see that!'"
Joining McAvoy, Chastain and Hader as adult Losers are Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone and Andy Bean. Returning in their roles as the younger Losers, in addition to Lillis, are Jaeden Martel, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs and Jeremy Ray Taylor. Bill Skarsgård is once again Pennywise.
Andy Muschietti says, "All of the actors bring their own energy, their own understanding of these characters. In Chapter One, we met a bunch of children who are pure and unclouded. This is 27 years later and these characters are now broken. Even though they are successful in their professional and social lives, they're damaged deep inside. They all have different reactions when Mike calls them to say, 'Come home,' some even physical. But there is something, just the smoke of a memory, that compels them to take the journey."
King calls that something "faith. There is a change when you become adults. There is a tendency to count the cost. There's a natural hesitation from the Losers"it's hard to leave their lives and take a chance. But, they not only have faith in each other, they have faith in this promise that they made as children. When you face the unknown, if you don't have faith, you're f***ed."
The power of these individuals who find a sense of belonging and unity in being Losers had always hit home with Muschietti, who also read the book in his youth. He says, "It was a story that spoke to me about experiences I was having. It was a kind of mirror that showed all of the awkwardness and insecurities at that age. Reading IT again as an adult, you understand it from a different perspective. It is basically a love letter to childhood and talks about all of the treasures of that time, like imagination and belief, that are inevitably lost in adulthood. That's why these special kids, who now happen to be adults, are the hope in this story."
The Losers All Grown Up
Even before the second chapter was officially announced, the casting of the adult Losers was a matter of intense media speculation, some of it fueled by the conjecture of the young Loser actors themselves. As it actually turned out, the filmmakers had long been pondering their wish list of actors to play the grownups called back to Derry to fulfill their childhood blood oath. Barbara Muschietti comments, "Even when we were casting the first film, we never stopped thinking about who the adults would be. There were always two conditions: one was that they obviously had to be great actors; and two, they really had to look like their young counterparts. I think we wound up with the perfect group of adult Losers."
As far as outward appearances go, most of the grown Losers present as accomplished adults in their lives far from Derry. Bill Denbrough is a best-selling horror author and screenwriter, while Beverly Marsh co-owns a women's fashion line with her husband. Richie Tozier is a popular stand-up comic, and Ben Hanscom runs his own commercial architecture firm. Eddie Kaspbrak is a New York senior risk assessor, and Stanley Uris is an accountant. The only exception is Mike Hanlon, who never moved away from his hometown and has been living in the clock tower above the library, where he works as an assistant librarian.
Outward appearances, however, don't paint the full picture. Dauberman observes, "When we are reintroduced to the Losers, there is something very incomplete to them. They don't remember that they're pieces to a puzzle that only takes shape when they are all together.
So, they all have this missing 'thing,' and what they don't yet understand is that the thing that's missing is each other. When they are all called back to Derry and reunite, they suddenly find themselves feeling whole again...more like themselves. They are the way they should be but haven't been for a very long time."
James McAvoy reflects on the momentous phone call his character, Bill Denbrough, receives from Mike Hanlon, noting, "What's the worst phone call you can get? Your kid's been in an accident. Your parents have died. Take all that and multiply it by a hundred. He doesn't remember Mike and he doesn't remember Derry that well"he knows that he's from there, but it's a blur, really. Mike tells him something has returned and Bill doesn't really know why, but he knows he has to go back. And he's suddenly reminded of this incredible, terrible, all-consuming guilt that he has carried for years. It's the driving force of everything in Bill's life, his guilt and feelings of worthlessness. The source of it has never been clear. Is he a schlocky writer? A bad husband? At that moment, he finally remembers Georgie and his perceived role in his brother's death. That's the wellspring of everything he's ever felt."
McAvoy came highly recommended for the role of Bill by Jessica Chastain. The two were shooting their second project together when the actress dropped a bomb into their conversation.
McAvoy remembers, "We were having a nice chat, and 'IT' came up in the discussion. Jess said something like, 'Oh, Andy Muschietti's my friend. We did a film together.' She had my attention.
Then she added, 'He wants me to be Beverly Marsh in the next one…um, would you be interested in playing Bill?' I don't think a second passed before I said, 'I will do that in a New York minute.'
I got a call a few months later from Andy, and we FaceTimed. He made the case why he thought I'd be right for Bill, and he was really gracious and complimentary. Of course, I found out that he and Barbara are bloody lovely, two of the nicest I've ever worked for."
Jessica Chastain had flashed in the filmmakers' minds for the role of Beverly when young Sophia Lillis walked into the audition room in 2016. Chastain reveals, "Andy had been sending pictures of me next to Sophia, asking, 'What do you think in terms of resemblance?' When I watched the first film, I wanted to see whether it worked for me to play Beverly Marsh as an adult. I wanted to see who she was as a child in Andy's vision of it."
When Beverly takes the late-night, out-of-the-blue phone call from Mike, she is similarly flooded with emotions, many of them unidentifiable…at first.
The actress says, "Twenty-seven years later, Beverly has long since left Derry and forgotten about her childhood, all of the memories of her past: Pennywise; Bill, Ben and the Losers; all of it, including a lot of her strength. She has kept repeating abusive relationships, like the one she had with her father as a child. Something shakes her out of that cycle at the beginning of the film"she realises there is a far greater fear than one human being at home, and she goes back to Derry to figure it out."
Figuring that out, notes Chastain, leads her character to face not just IT, but also the fallout of her upbringing: "Beverly didn't have the safety of her parents"she's quite a loner. Her becoming a Loser, joining the group, in some ways it gives Beverly the stability of a family, because they become her family. For me, a lot of what this film is is Bev learning how to love in a different way. From her relationship with her father, love was defined as something that was always difficult, dramatic and complicated"it was never a pure emotion. My wish for Bev is to find a peace in herself and allow herself to truly be loved for who she is…and not have to fight for it or have anything negative connected to it."
Fellow Loser Richie always found it easier to treat his emotions as a herd of proverbial elephants in the room"to be ignored, no matter how much stampeding occurred. His lifelong deflection by humor has paved the path to standup comedy gold. For the multi-hyphenate Bill Hader, his journey to the part of Richie started somewhere near an interview microphone. Hader relates, "I had a couple of friends text me, because I'm not on social media. They said, 'Hey, do you know Finn, the kid from "Stranger Things?" He just said he wants you to play Richie in the next "IT" movie.' I thought, 'That's sweet, but it probably won't work out.' Then, my agent called me. 'There's this young actor named Finn, and he's in the "IT" movie. Apparently, he recommended you to play the older version of him.' I thought, 'Oh, okay.' Then my agent said, 'You're going to be having lunch with Andy Muschietti, the director.' Like, what? this worked? I met Andy, and he said, 'You know, the reason we are here is because Finn wants you to play Richie.' And so, the whole reason I'm in 'IT Chapter Two' is because Finn gave an interview and everyone ran with it. Clearly, I need to pay more attention to the internet."
Unlike the others, Richie's emotional reaction to the call home is direct and honest. Hader says, "He literally pukes everywhere"that's my first scene. Andy and I talked a lot in the beginning about Richie being the audience surrogate. Well, at least a clear-headed, practical audience member. 'Oh, the killer clown is back? Look, my car's right here!' I related to Richie, because he's like me in that aspect. I usually wonder why a character is sticking around a dangerous situation. And Richie has always had a lot of denial. There's stuff about his past that he's never wanted to face so, of course, he's petrified that that will be what Pennywise latches onto. It's natural that his response would be to run. But even though he's scared, he stays, because Losers stick together."
The one Loser who's never run nor ever forgotten a day of his past is Mike Hanlon. His life has been one of vigilance. His garret in the clock tower is stuffed with research, Derry history, artifacts and papers, all relating to his one reason for existing"to know when Pennywise returns, and to have an actionable plan for defeating IT.
Isaiah Mustafa showed his own commitment to the process during the months of casting, repeatedly flying between Toronto and Los Angeles. After multiple auditions over four months, the filmmakers wanted to see him one last time"only the request came five hours before he was to leave town for his wedding. With the blessing of his bride-to-be, he delayed his flight a day, read his last time for the part and flew off for the ceremony the following day with an early wedding present"the role of Mike Hanlon.
His role preparation proved to be no less committed, reading King's book four times and repeatedly listening to the audiobook. "I just wanted to go through it as many times as I could to make sure that I had every nuance of the story," Mustafa states. "I think the biggest difference between Mike and the other Losers is his memory of IT. While the others have gone off, lived their lives and forgotten, he stayed in Derry and remembered everything. It became an obsession with him. He's been researching IT for nearly three decades and his research never took him too far from Derry. That kind of singular focus has a price. All the years of searching for answers, interviewing townspeople, combing over books and stories and deep-diving into the internet has taken its toll on Mike.
"He doesn't believe that Pennywise is really dead. He believes that IT is in some form of hibernation," Mustafa elaborates, "which is something the shape-shifter has done ever since arriving in Derry long ago. Through his research, Mike discovered that there was an earlier group of people who fought to defeat Pennywise. He hopes that he and the other Losers can be more successful than they were and end IT's cycle."
While Jay Ryan was vying for the part of Ben, he received a particular call from his agent, who had a slightly unusual request. Ryan says, "They asked me for a picture of myself when I was around 11. They wanted to see how much I resembled Jeremy Ray Taylor, which I really did, growing up. I really connected to the young Ben at that same age in the book. I think a lot of us grow up with some insecurity from childhood, the main one being, is this person going to like me? Am I going to make a good impression? To see someone go through that and then overcome that fear incrementally, and become successful in spite of it, is admirable. I wanted to do that justice. But, even though he's successful at his business, there's this inability to really connect with anyone. He's a loner with a thriving firm and a big home…and a dog. I had them add that, because I wanted him to have something."
Ryan, oddly enough, held a job as a clown when he was a teenager, performing magic in his native New Zealand, and "creating balloon animals for screaming kids in supermarkets. I can still make a great teddy bear." He posits that Ben doesn't remember "the torture and the trauma of facing off against Pennywise. He remembers the good things, though. That level of companionship he felt with the other Losers is something that he's never had again in his life. In a way, Ben's been waiting for the call to return to Derry for a long, long time. Pennywise, for me, is just the amalgamation of all of the garbage that you carry through life, and whatever those pieces are, they add up to your deepest, darkest fear. The Losers actually need Pennywise to remind them of their strength."
Barbara Muschietti surmised that James Ransone and Jack Dylan Grazer, the newly cast older and younger versions of Eddie, "with the speed at which they talk and think, and their physical resemblance to each other, they must just be the same person…we joked that when they met, they would both probably combust." They didn't, but they did immediately form a mutual admiration society, with Ransone becoming a mentor to Grazer.
The actor distinctly remembers his childhood reaction to the character of Pennywise when he says, "IT scared me and my brother so badly when I was a kid. I took the cover image off of the book that was out at the time and I photocopied, enlarged it and I plastered it beside my brother's bed. It terrified him, and he never forgave me for it. He even brought it up when I got this part.
"Reading the book this time around," Ransone remarks, "the scary stuff wasn't the supernatural elements, but the fact that all of these characters were in their 40s, and none of them had children. First part of the story, these kids have unlimited potential, their futures ahead of them. Then, this huge event sidelines them. Time creeps up on them, and their potential is gone. They are whatever they have become. That's what I was really left with. As far as playing Eddie, though, what I was most concerned with was filling Jack Dylan Grazer's shoes."
Andy Bean, who portrays the adult Stanley, had a similar thorny relationship with King's horrifying creation. Bean recounts, "Of all of the scary creatures in books and movies, Pennywise was the most traumatizing for me as a kid. I couldn't go to bed for an entire month."
While memories of the horrific clown were hard for the young Bean to shake, it is an entirely different case with his character. Bean says, "Stanley has done an amazing job in forgetting. He and his wife live this ordered life, which is imperative, because he's always been upset when things aren't ordered, when they're not as they should be. When he was a kid, he was constantly asking questions, double-checking and triple-checking. 'Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure?' That behavioral trait comes out in him as an adult, when things don't make sense, are not following expected order. When Mike calls, it's almost like he's trying to buy time, and he comes back at him with questions. This isn't following the rules. It's like he's been terrified of this call for 27 years and, somehow, knew inevitably that it was coming."
To include the time jumps back to 1989, Muschietti says his goal was to integrate the flashbacks "into the main plot and the journeys of each of the Losers, not just have them exist as character scenes. For example, we see Ben as a lonely boy, afraid of ending his days alone. We get a glimpse of Beverly, where it's clear that she loves her father, despite his treatment of her. These behaviors play out all through their lives, with relapses and cycles that become worse and worse. But, they have an origin in something specific, something we didn't know about the Losers as children and something we haven't seen until now."
To accomplish this, of course, required the return of the young Losers…by then, not as young by three years. Barbara Muschietti acknowledges, "Physically, most of them changed quite radically, and we knew we were going to employ some de-aging techniques for the flashbacks. "They're all really amazing kids," she says, "like Ferraris, so fast and brilliant, and they all found each other on the first film. Having them back, we could literally watch them regress to their 13-year-old selves. They're now all young adults with strong careers, but when they're together, they return to that summer and they're all still kids…burping on each other, just having a great time. I love that and hope they never lose it."
Speaking for the young Losers, Sophia Lillis offers, "We all remember shooting the first film so vividly. It wasn't just my first studio film, it was everyone's first. None of us had to go through that experience alone. Having everyone around, all of us learning how things work together"it was nice and we had a blast. Now, our adult versions are coming to us and saying, 'We hope we do well by you.' We kind of thought the same thing on the first film. We showed up, worked really hard and did our parts, and we were the ones hoping that we were doing it well. I think the reason that bond between us showed up onscreen was because we were all new, sharing these feelings and going through this amazing experience together."
After filming "IT," the teen actors kept in regular contact. Finn Wolfhard, who returns as Richie, remembers, "We'd heard rumors, mostly from each other, that they were going to bring us back. We later went for dinner with Andy and Barbara, and they confirmed that we would be a part of the second movie, without much specifics. Then, one of us would see Andy, who'd mention a scene that we were going to be in, and that got around. We were piecing it together, really, until we got the official email. Our scenes turned out to be flashbacks that actually tell more about our characters, stuff that audiences don't really know about, until Chapter Two. Of course, it was great being back together on the set. But what was really cool was us getting to tell a bigger story about that summer."
Wyatt Oleff, younger Stanley, surmises, "I think as 12- and 13-year-olds, a lot of the Losers"before Pennywise, anyway"had a lot of normal fears for that age, all very childish and carefree. But once they come back as adults, they have a lot more responsibilities, a lot more to lose. They are risking their lives. Before, it was more about surviving. For them to come back together, risk everything, because of an oath they made when they were 13? That's pretty powerful."
That formative experience of being in the Losers' Club together is what sets its seven members on their life paths. Andy Muschietti comments, "'Loser' carried a bad connotation when the characters meet, but they chose to call themselves the Losers' Club, implying a sense of communion and a shared strength. When the adults return after 27 years of being alone while they pursue their lives and careers, they realize that there was nothing more meaningful and substantial in terms of emotion than being part of that club. That's what they mean when they say, 'We're Losers…and we always will be."
It Comes Back
Come out and play, Losers!
While a mixture of reasons compels the Losers to heed Mike's calls and return home, Muschietti knows that Pennywise wants them back for one of the oldest reasons in human history. The director asserts, "He basically wants them back to take revenge. That becomes very evident at the beginning of this film. Mike hears about a violent crime near the bridge, and he goes to the scene and sees the message 'Come Home' written three times in blood. Pennywise is goading them. IT remains a very cryptic character in the second chapter, but in this aspect, he's very clear. And he's back with a vengeance."
Barbara Muschietti adds, "He's been waiting all these years, but he knows they'll return because he knows the kind of courage it took to defeat him the first time around. And while they've been away, he's been planning…"
The return of Pennywise also means the real-world reappearance of Bill Skarsgård in the role he brought menacingly and memorably to life in "IT." Muschietti says, "This time, we really pushed Bill to the limit, and he accepted that and then went even further. Pennywise appears in many forms and, many times, he is completely out of control. Bill did not hold back, ever. He always had this terrifying unpredictability to the character. Sometimes, he would even be unpredictable to me, and to himself, probably. But we always trusted each other, and the relationship that started on 'IT' continued."
Once Skarsgård and Andy Muschietti began to collaborate on Pennywise well before shooting began on "IT," the actor and director never stopped conversations about the character and how he would figure into both chapters. Many of these nascent ideas later showed up in Dauberman's screenplays for the films.
With regard to his time away from performing the character, Skarsgård says, "I was in L.A. for an unrelated reason, and Andy wanted me to do a test for some of the performance capture that would be used for the new film. It was months before we were to start shooting. I thought I'd basically be in a chair, just sort of going through it, but it was a full scene from the screenplay.
I show up, and then Andy says, 'Action!' And Pennywise was right there. I guess he hadn't really gone away and he just exploded out of me"even more disturbing, without the makeup. I was really shocked at how much of him remained, and how continuing to work on him developed the character even more.
"What's really changed for him is, this time, he wants them back," the actor offers. "So much about what happened in the past was about scaring the kids away. Now, it's about getting them back, because he missed them in his own way. I think that makes for a stronger villain. Fear has always been his weapon, his tool. He instills fear in humans, but he'd never understood what that was until the Losers, and then he felt it for himself. I think a strange bond was formed then. To have an opponent that almost matched him is intriguing. And after a long absence, a craving can develop for the things that one misses."
The director points out another skill the shape-shifter has developed while away. "One of the first encounters he has with a child in this film, we recognize it as a mirror scene of what happened with Georgie. But now, there is a sophisticated manipulation that he employs. He's more cunning and therefore, deadlier. Perverse and much more dangerous. It's chilling."
Barbara Muschietti says, "This incarnation of Pennywise is an entity created by Andy and by Bill. They both brought a lot to it, and they both realize just how much the other contributes. It's really symbiotic. And the big difference between Chapter One and Chapter Two is that, the first time, they were finding Pennywise. This time, they know very well who Pennywise is, and he's a smarter villain. He's been planning for all these years, and he's going to show them all."
The expansive cast filling out Muschietti's vast canvas for the epic struggle between the Losers and the creature called Pennywise also includes: Joan Gregson as Mrs. Kersh, an elderly lady now living in the old Marsh apartment, who welcomes Beverly with a most disturbing homecoming; and Teach Grant as the adult Henry Bowers, who's been institutionalized ever since his arrest for the death of his sheriff father.
A Town That Does Forget
Something happens to you when you leave this town. The farther away, the hazier it all gets.
For his own return to Derry, Andy Muschietti assembled an impressive group of artists and designers, including a substantial amount of department heads with whom he has previously collaborated: director of photography Checco Varese, editor Jason Ballantine, costume designer Luis Sequeira and composer Benjamin Wallfisch. Fresh to the mix is production designer Paul Austerberry whom, quips Barbara Muschietti, "we've been wanting to work with for a long time…even before he won his Oscar."
To accommodate the structure of the second chapter"hopscotching between 1989 and present day"production incorporated sets and locations previously utilized in "IT" and addressed their contrasting appearances 27 years apart. In addition, the story was augmented with new environments, ultimately expanding the visuals and backdrop for the final showdown between the Losers and Pennywise.
Varese treated the previous film as a touchstone, repeatedly referring to footage in order to continue the look of "IT" into the newly shot flashback sequences, while the scenes in present day featured their own unique feel and tone. He employed various types of lenses"MiniHawks spherical lenses with an anamorphic bokeh for the past, and spherical lenses for the present"to differentiate each time thread.
The cinematographer further sought to distinguish the two periods with lighting. "It's a darker tone," Varese explains about the world of the grown-up Losers, "and a darker mood. These characters come with their own baggage. For their adult lives, they've been living with 17 their nightmares, and they bring those with them. We wanted to make the lighting part of the nightmares." Tempering the atmosphere, Varese is quick to note, "They also bring their humor, love, irony and friendship as well."
Andy Muschietti says, "The visual interest of this movie lies in the transitions, how we move from present to past and back to the present day. For me, it's part of the style, but it's also a lot of fun, because you get to choose when those jumps occur and execute them through images."
With his background as a cameraman in news and documentaries, Varese was accustomed to the camera-as-participant scenario. While filming scenes of the adult Losers forging through the cistern"where previously, the young Beverly hovered, transfixed by the deadlights"the cinematographer bounced light thrown by the practical flashlights with his gloved hands, using varying shades of white-to-gray for lighting each actor. The rule on the set: when Checco's in the water, everyone else goes in, too.
Every shooting and lighting choice was executed to keep the visuals in sync with Muschietti's storytelling vision. Varese comments, "I've seen my grips and arm operators doing things that I wouldn't even know how to do with a needle and thread. They push this 50-foot technocrane through doors, walls and people, to get the shot that Andy wants. Drones, cranes, sliders, handheld, in fire, through blood, underwater, above the water, in the middle of the water… Close-ups, macro, 'Can you go closer?' 'Sir, the pupil of the actor is touching the front of the lens.' 'Oh, okay, so we cannot go any closer.'"
Most of the director's vision was initially shared through drawings. An accomplished artist, Muschietti began character explorations early on with sketches, which were then fully developed by concept artists. During production, he also arrived every morning to set with his own storyboards as a beginning blueprint for shooting the day's scenes.
Varese adds, "Andy's a fantastic artist, and the fact that he's extraordinarily good at storyboards helps him understand the shots. It gave us all a thumbprint to start from, and then we started developing."
Production designer Austerberry started his work on "IT Chapter Two" by also immersing himself in Chapter One, additionally looking to references from sources as diverse as 18th-century Italian art and American carnivals of the past. Austerberry says, "What I loved about the first film was it really sold me on that small-town Maine. The color palette was really lovely. It's been quite exciting to take it to the next level and tell an even larger story."
During pre-production, the designer also visited Port Hope, Ontario, which serves as Derry, Maine in both chapters. Leveraging his training as an architect, Austerberry noticed the interestingly structured clock tower above the town's library. After venturing inside with Muschietti, he persuaded filmmakers to move Mike Hanlon from his originally scripted featureless apartment to a rent-free lair inside the attic and tower (later reimagined and built on a soundstage, rooms, tower, clock workings and all).
Previously established settings now revisited by the present-day Losers were modified or rebuilt, mostly to accommodate the changes brought on by the intervening years, both in Derrytime and real-time. Since 2017, the town's existing pharmacy had downsized by a third, and production had to reclaim the whole space to match with "IT." The Marsh apartment had previously been a practical set, but now, was re-created on a soundstage, to make way for Beverly's return and homecoming tea with Mrs. Kersh. The town park statue of Paul Bunyan was beefed up, ultimately standing around 21-feet tall.
Taking a cue from Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi's etchings of Roman ruins, Austerberry refashioned the cistern inside a soundstage water tank, 75-feet in diameter. In "IT Chapter Two," the space is now studded with large chunks that have fallen from the ceiling and walls. The water level is higher than in the 1989 confrontation with Pennywise, and his circus wagon has been reduced to a split open husk, still surrounded by mounds of rotting children's toys. When filled with 180,000 gallons of heated, filtered and chlorinated water, actors portraying adult Losers faced dark water four-and-one-half feet deep; the same level hid submerged scaffolding, which allowed the crew to stand in only a foot of water while filming. In a pivotal early scene, after so many years of separation, the Losers meet up in the local Chinese restaurant, dubbed the Jade of the Orient, which was actually a small-chain eatery redressed with façade and the more private interior dining room, where the reunion takes place.
The out-of-towners have rooms at the Derry Town House, in actuality, the cinematic marriage between an exterior in Port Hope and the interior of a converted 1880's mansion in Hamilton, outside of Toronto. The institution that has housed Henry Bowers since '89 is actually a disused hospital, which was marked for demolition immediately following production.
One of the largest new settings is the carnival, held adjacent to the town, in celebration of the annual Canal Days Festival. Muschietti notes, "The carnival is a new evil phase that basically concentrates all of the bad vibes of Derry. It's all happiness, color and music, but you know there's something wrong. The horrible face of the town is personified by a huge clown that looks over it all."
Much of the fair set consisted of redressed carnival rides and attractions, with the big exception of the newly built funhouse. Austerberry looked to funhouse designs from the last century, which influenced the leering clown head and the entrance through its mouth, as well as the room of clown punching bags and the hall of mirrors.
Fans of King's novel will also appreciate the appearance of the young Losers' clubhouse, which is constructed by Ben in a hollowed underground space, where the kids spend time during the summer of 1989. The set, along with all others constructed for filming this time around, were housed in six soundstage facilities in and around Toronto.
All of this construction was to allow Muschietti and production teams the chance to capture as much of the story in-camera as possible, later enlarging spaces or events too big or otherworldly to capture with film. The dictum was, use practical to go as far as it could go, and rely on visual effects for moments beyond the scope of the build.
A shining example of this philosophy involved a scene with Jessica Chastain, as her character comes face-to-face with a fear that has haunted her since childhood. In "IT," Beverly is seen holed up in a school bathroom stall, while she is bullied and belittled by the cool clique. Pennywise now flings her back there to face an even more nightmarish scenario.
Eschewing the digital, the production trucked 5,000 gallons of "blood" (a proprietary formula of methylcellulose and red dye) from an effects house in California to set in Toronto. Multiple tests were conducted to see that their leading lady would not be turned pink by the stuff. To achieve the speedy inundation effect Muschietti desired, a system of ten wide-bore pipes were built to fill the space with two-and-a-half tons of blood. When the time came to shoot, the system worked, and Chastain gamely filmed two separate takes, falling in, swimming down, counting to five and shooting back up again.
"It was disgusting," the actress laughingly admits. "It got in my eyeballs, my ears, my nose. We filmed all night. Then, Andy was saying, 'It's so great. I'm so happy.' I said, 'Okay, well, you're gonna find out how happy you are!' At the very end of the shooting day, I gave Andy and Barbara the biggest bear hug. They blew up this picture and gave it to me"it's all of us just covered in this slime. But we all look really happy."
Some of Chastain's castmates emerged from their filming paces with tiny reminders of their more physical scenes. James McAvoy confesses, "I've done a few action movies in my time" some with serious action for most of the film. But, I've never been as banged up as I have on this one. Andy would call 'Cut!' and say 'It was perfect, absolutely perfect. Best shot we've done… Okay, one more time.' I'm like, 'Wait a minute. How can you improve on perfection?' 'Sure, it was perfect. Once more, please.' But I admit, I was a bit of a glutton for punishment. I kind of enjoyed it." He quickly adds with a smile, "But that's what happens when you have a bunch of 40-year-olds running around, doing an action movie."
Bill Hader picks up, "I didn't do anything crazy. I'm used to being across from someone at a desk, not being chased by giant clowns. PJ [Ransone], James, Isaiah and Jay were literally falling, somersaulting and crashing into shit. I pulled a groin muscle because I ran."
Chastain reasons, "I knew this from working on 'Mama.' When you're working with Andy, it's going to be long days. For him, there's nothing that he loves more than being on a film set. There's this childlike wonder that he has. He's so excited, and that is really contagious. And Barbara is the only producer who could put a film like this together. The reason why we have these beautiful films that Andy makes is because of the partnership between him and Barbara."
In between the gore, scares and extremely long days for the filmmakers, cast and crew found pockets of relaxation, joking and musical interludes. Between takes, Andy Muschietti would often play piano, with Chastain a talented chanteuse.
For the music to accompany the inevitable cinematic return of the Losers and Pennywise, Benjamin Wallfisch returned to create the score. He explains, "One of my earliest discussions with Andy was how we could take what we did for the first movie and give it more scale and ambition, to reflect the scope of the film. To start, we used a much larger orchestra and choir, and also created several new themes. When we occasionally reprise moments from the first score, we re-recorded them with more complex and ambitious arrangements, like the music itself had gone through 27 years of maturing.
"But the most exciting challenge," Wallfisch expands, "was how to develop the original themes and create new ones that fit alongside them. There was a lot more music required, which really allowed room for the original themes to develop and evolve in a way driven by the emotional complexity of how the Losers' Club grapple with inner demons from the past and painful memories, and ultimately unite to confront their biggest fears. Pennywise is even more flagrant this time, and the music had to also reflect that increased darkness, while never losing sight of the adventure and emotion that are at the core of the movie."
That sense of adventure, laced with emotion, is what initially drew Barbara Muschietti to adapting King's enduringly popular novel, and what she takes with her from the experience. She remembers, "When we realized that we were about to film the last shot, Andy created another shot because none of us wanted to let go. We've watched these kids grow and become who they are and now, they're family. We've been eating, breathing and sleeping"not a whole lot"this amazing book for four years, making these two movies that have changed our lives. These characters have connected with so many people, especially when you hear kids talk about the Losers, and how they found these people onscreen that they could relate to. That, for me, is why you make a movie."
King asserts, "With 'IT,' Andy made a horror movie, while also putting the people, the kids, first. In 'IT Chapter Two,' the interaction between the Losers as adults and their younger counterparts shows up in flashbacks, illuminating moments from the first chapter. In revisiting these moments, we see a wider perspective from an adult point-of-view. Again, Andy is placing the characters front and center. As a result, this creates a high-stakes horror movie experience."
Andy Muschietti once again returns to his love of the filmmaking process when he says, "Making a movie is an exercise in chaos, you plan and prepare yourself as much as possible to counter that chaos. At the same time, you have to be open to things that change on the day. It's very important that you have a good understanding of every beat, every scene and what each character is going through at every point in the process. I'm always open to the question. A lot of times, actors will bring you to understand the story in deeper and deeper levels.
"This project," he concludes, "has attained levels I never dreamt of. To be trusted with this epic story and be able to tell it over two films has been unbelievable. I'm deeply grateful how much it connected with audiences, and how they are waiting, like me, to watch and see how the journey ends. I truly believe you are going to be very scared, but you will also leave the theater uplifted."
For 27 years, I dreamt of you. I craved you. I've missed you!
It: Chapter Two
Release Date: September 5th, 2019