Pennywise Vs. Randall Flagg? The Stand’s Alexander Skarsgård Weighs In On The Stephen King Debate

While movie and television history is filled with terrific on-screen representations of Stephen King’s greatest villains, the Skarsgård family is notably responsible for two of them. In both IT and IT Chapter Two, Bill Skarsgård stars as the titular villain, best known for taking the form of Pennywise The Dancing Clown, and his older brother, Alexander, plays the sinister Randall Flagg in the 2020 limited series remake of The Stand. It’s a funny circumstance given that Constant Readers have spent decades debating which of the two characters is the more powerful entity – and it makes you wonder if the siblings have had that conversation between themselves.

This week, I learned from interviewing Alexander Skarsgård that the specific answer to that pondering is “no”… but he does have an opinion to share regarding who he thinks would be the victor in a battle between the two otherworldly antagonists.

Alexander Skarsgård is currently doing press for the phenomenal and critically acclaimed Viking revenge thriller The Northman, and when I spoke with him on Tuesday (as captured in the video up top) my Stephen King fanhood compelled me to ask about Randall Flagg. He told me that he has not had the Flagg vs. Pennywise debate with Bill Skarsgård, but when I pressed him for his thoughts on a “who would win?” situation, he predicted that the former would defeat the latter:

I don't wanna sound cocky, but probably Flagg. I mean, he's kind of the devil in a way... He's pretty powerful.

Is it a biased opinion? Without question. But that doesn’t make it any less a valid take, and one that a lot of Stephen King fans will support.

Randall Flagg has taken many forms and gone by many names over the years in books and stories written by Stephen King, but he is best known as a principal villain in The Stand, the 1994 fantasy epic The Eyes Of The Dragon, and the brilliant Dark Tower saga. He’s a lot like the traditional vision of the devil in that he is ostensibly a manifestation of evil and a potent corrupting force with wide-ranging abilities. He’s violent and dangerous, but also, and perhaps more importantly, seductive and manipulative. He’s fallible and can be weakened when his influence is challenged, but even when defeated, he still remains basically immortal.

Pennywise, however, is a wholly different kind of monster – starting with the fact that any human qualities it demonstrates are entirely a put on. At its core, It’s a collection of what are called “deadlights” and their abilities as a cosmic entity are immense. As demonstrated through its haunting of Derry, Maine, Pennywise can not only transform at will in its attempts to elicit fear (which it feeds on), but it has a kind of ubiquity, and it’s presence taints everything around it.

Just like certain comic book arguments that fans will never stop having, the question of whether or not Randall Flagg is more powerful than Pennywise is one that will likely persist until Stephen King actually writes a book where the two characters square off. That doesn’t appear too likely to happen, though, given that King seems to enjoy screwing with fans a bit, as evidenced by this Tweet from a couple weeks ago:

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You can be sure that I will ask Bill Skarsgård the same question if I ever get to interview him, but until then cinephiles everywhere should be getting excited for what Alexander Skarsgård is cooking up. As I note in the CinemaBlend review of Robert Eggers’ The Northman, the actor gives the best dramatic performance of his career in the Viking movie, and it’s a spectacular thing to behold on the big screen. Co-starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, and Claes Bang, the film arrives in theaters everywhere on April 22.

For more of CinemaBlend’s Stephen King content, you can keep track of all of the film and television projects that are in the works with our Upcoming Stephen King guide, and learn about the long history of King adaptations with my weekly Adapting Stephen King column. The Stand is available to stream on Paramount+, and you can watch IT and IT Chapter Two on HBO Max.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.