Bill Skarsgard has his work cut out for him when it comes to his role as Pennywise in Andres Muschetti's remake of IT. Not only is he following in the clown shoes of Tim Curry's original portrayal from the 90s, but he has to contend with the fact that kids aren't so easily scared these days. Though the latter doesn't seem like much of a challenge, as a particular story about Skarsgard's time on set with his younger co-stars has shown that he has the power to freak out the current generation of horror seekers. During a recent interview, the actor described his approach to the film thusly:
It's a really weird thing to go, 'If I succeed at doing what I'm trying to do with this character, I'll traumatize kids.' On set, I wasn't very friendly or goofy. I tried to maintain some sort of weirdness about the character, at least when I was in all the makeup. At one point, they set up this entire scene, and these kids come in, and none of them have seen me yet. Their parents have brought them in, these little extras, right? And then I come out as Pennywise, and these kids---young, normal kids---I saw the reaction that they had.
Much like Jared Leto's Joker in Suicide Squad, Bill Skarsgard's Pennywise is a product of some seriously method acting. But instead of mailing horrible items of a nasty nature, or just generally being unpleasant, Skarsgard is sticking to good old fashioned acting. Preserving the air of mystery around his character, as well as himself, was all he needed to get the reactions he needed out of the children that make IT's fictional town of Derry a hotbed of fear and feast for the terrifying clown of literary renowned. The best part is that those co-star reactions, according to Skarsgard's remarks to Interview Magazine, resulted in the following:
Some of them were really intrigued, but some couldn't look at me, and some were shaking. This one kid started crying. He started to cry and the director yelled, "Action!" And when they say "action," I am completely in character. So some of these kids got terrified and started to cry in the middle of the take, and then I realized, 'Holy shit. What am I doing? What is this? This is horrible.'
Thinking back to the trailers and promotional material we've seen for IT, the approach that Bill Skarsgard has taken towards his character work for Pennywise has indeed paid off. If anything, we're kind of excited to see how horrified the reactions of the child cast of the film will be. With one of the core themes of the source material being childhood fear, and the way we deal with it as adults, this first half to the two-film Stephen King adaptation will be heavily mining the younger aspect of the story. So the more scared we see these kids on screen, it's hypothetically possible that the adult portrayals will be that much more powerful when we see the older versions of the cast face off against the eternal clown evil.
The anticipation for IT has been building for some time now, and as the film plans to scare audience members, adult and child alike, we're finding it scary to think about how much of a wait we have between now and the day we come face to face with a childhood fear of our own. We'll see if Bill Skarsgard's performance forces us to keep the lights on after it debuts on September 8.