After years of development, and a decent period of excitement after the project had landed True Detective director Cary Fukunaga, the big screen adaptation of It lost its helmer this week. Creative differences were the cause of the split, and considering that New Line was bristling at the multi-film approach, as well as Will Poulter being cast as Pennywise, we can’t blame the man for walking. Unfortunately, that leaves us without a new, legitimately creepy clown movie to replenish our nightmares, and we’re not ok with that at all.
While the project is shelved indefinitely, that’s probably studio talk for, "Quick! Run through your contact list and see who we can bring in on short notice!" Which means it’s time to select either a fresh talent, or a seasoned hand, from the ranks of the Horror genre who would be up for the challenge. As luck would have it, we have five names that popped into view faster than a surprise bouquet of balloons jumping out of a mailbox. So come flip through the photo album with us, and see the directors that stared directly into our souls as the next visionary to bring It to the silver screen.
David Robert Mitchell
Coincidentally, David Robert Mitchell's last film -- It Follows -- has a title that screams that he's ready for King's novel. But superficial reasons aside, Mitchell’s work on this year’s break-out indie hit has all the makings of a frontrunner candidate for bringing the world of Derry, Maine to life. With his handling of the retro aesthetic, as well as the general moodiness of It Follows’ sleepy suburban community, David Robert Mitchell is a prime candidate to tell the story of childhood friends coming home to the terror that has plagued them throughout their lives.
Considering David Robert Mitchell also helped make an overnight sensation of Maika Monroe in It Follows, he could use his connections to potentially cast her as Beverly in the core group of leads (unless she's too young...). He could also give Will Poulter the catapult he needs into becoming a lead to be reckoned with as his Pennywise.
To handle the story of It requires not only the proper chops to execute the horror end of the equation, but also the skill to balance the nostalgic qualities of the story. With titles such as V/H/S, You’re Next and The Guest on his resume, it’s a clear call that Adam Wingard more than deserves to be on this potential list of It suitors. What makes Wingard’s films so much fun is that he, along with usual suspect Simon Barrett behind the writer’s desk, is so firmly planted in nostalgic genre fare that he creates legitimate pieces of it in a modern context.
In the case of It, it wouldn't be a stretch to see Wingard bringing Barrett on for some quick punch up and re-writes to the original script, and set the film’s flashbacks in the 1980’s, rather than the original 1950’s of the book. Should he be allowed to play that card, you can expect a seriously detailed recreation of the era, with period appropriate music, as well. While it’s against the original letter of the book, it’d be a cool way to try and bring in the audiences of today.
The Babadook is, without a doubt, a solid horror film that uses atmosphere and just the right amount of imagery to scare its audience. It’s not an on-the-nose, jump-scare-and-a-half picture; but instead, it broods in its sorrow, rather than merely screaming its presence. This is why director Jennifer Kent would be an amazing choice to tell a story that, in part, deals with mourning the loss of innocence – as well as the supernatural murder of protagonist Bill’s brother.
An It adaptation under Kent’s watchful eye would surely remember to be scary; as her treatment of The Babadook was pretty creepy in its own, wonderful right. However, her advantage over the field of candidates is the fact that she has the emotional storytelling ability to show our main characters for who they are – a scared bunch of kids, at the feet of a menacing terror that won’t let them go.
If you’re going to talk about a Stephen King adaptation, then you’ve got to make room for Frank Darabont. It’s pretty much federally mandated, considering the work he did on The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and even The Mist. The man writes and directs, acting as a dual threat that’s already King approved. If Darabont can write a new ending to the source material that even Stephen King loved, then he’s surely a great candidate for the It gig.
So what does Frank Darabont bring to the table that no one else does? Prestige. The name Shawshank still holds up in film circles these days, and with the character-driven action of that film cross-bred with the paranoia and horror of The Mist, you can’t lose. Though we can’t help but think that if Darabont were to come onto the project, he’d do a bit of an overhaul on the script – as well as push for the multi-film approach. The best part is, he’d have the clout to make the film his way, and not get pushed around by the studio.
Guillermo Del Toro
Any list that doesn’t make Frank Darabont the best choice for directing a Stephen King adaptation possesses one of two things: a complete lack of understanding of King’s oeuvre, or a really killer top choice. We’d like to think we have the latter, as Guillermo Del Toro’s twisted heart could very easily make room for Pennywise the clown and his antics, especially considering the dark fairy tale sensibilities on display in many of del Toro's other films.
This comes at a cost though, as those of you who love Will Poulter as Pennywise will probably be disappointed – considering that this role would be a ripe opportunity to cast Ron Perlman as the killer clown himself. If any of you King faithfuls remember the miniseries adaptation of Desperation, then you just might be thankful for this stroke of luck as Perlman gained some King cred with his performance as Deputy Collie Entragian.
So there you go: five directors whose agents should be on the phone with New Line right now, jockeying for the position of being the next director to earn their fright wings with Stephen King’s classic tale of nostalgia, terror, and grease paint. Or perhaps they should hire a messenger to go around to the studio grounds, and deliver some balloons. Maybe they can tell a couple jokes, flash some teeth, you know… whatever gets the job done.
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CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.