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No Time To Die’s Cary Fukunaga Reveals Why He Left Stephen King’s IT

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise holding red balloon in IT movie

Having been hired to direct Daniel Craig’s fifth and final outing as James Bond, the soon-to-arrive No Time to Die marked Cary Fukunaga’s first time helming a movie since 2015’s Beasts of No Nation. However, there was a time when Fukunaga was attached to direct the film adaptation of the Stephen King novel IT, but he stepped away from the project in 2015 and was succeeded by Mama’s Andy Muschietti. Now Fukunaga has delved into why he left behind the opportunity to bring Pennywise the Dancing Clown to the big screen.

It was reported in 2012 that Cary Fukunaga had been hired to direct and co-write IT, and he’s still credited on the final product as a writer alongside Chase Palmer and Gary Dauberman. However, in 2015, just three weeks before production was set to begin, Fukunaga departed IT, and in an interview with THR, he noted that the reason for his exit boiled down to creative differences over what kind of horror story would be told. In the filmmaker’s words:

I was on that for four or five years with Warners and then it got moved to New Line, right before we were about to go into production. I think New Line’s view of what they wanted and my view of what I wanted were very different. I wanted to do a drama with horror elements, more like The Shining. I think they wanted to do something more [pure horror] like Annabelle [from the Conjuring films]. That was essentially the disconnect.

Naturally when making an IT movie, one needs to pull from the original Stephen King-penned novel that was published in 1986 and previously adapted into a miniseries starring Tim Curry. That being said, taking creative liberties comes with the territory in adaptations, and ultimately Cary Fukunaga and New Line Cinema disagreed about how deeply the IT movie would delve into horror, with Fukunaga wanting to tackle with a more dramatic sensibility and New Line wanting to go all-in on the scares. In the end, Fukunaga decided that the version of IT that would be brought to life wasn’t a good fit for him and severed ties.

The silver lining to this story is that Cary Fukunaga noted that there was no “bad blood” as a result of him exiting IT, as evidenced by him still collaborating with IT producers Dan Lin and Roy Lee. Nevertheless, the IT journey continued on, with Andy Muschietti being hired to helm what would end up becoming a two-part adaptation, with principal photography on the first movie beginning in June 2016. While Midsommar’s Will Poulter had been selected to play Pennywise in Fukunaga’s version of IT, he later had to bow out due to a scheduling conflict, and Bill Skarsgård took over the role. IT finally came out on September 8, 2017, with IT Chapter Two following on September 6, 2019.

As for Cary Fukunaga, you can see his latest contribution to the cinematic landscape when No Time to Die opens in US theaters on October 8. If you’re wondering what movies are left to come out this year, browse through our 2021 release schedule, or get a head start on next year with the 2022 release schedule.

Adam Holmes

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.