The filmmaker who toiled for three years to bring Stephen King's It to the screen reveals why he finally walked away.
In a new interview with Variety, director Cary Fukunaga explained why he exited the proposed two-film adaptation of King's horror epic in May, weeks before cameras were scheduled to begin rolling. Although the budget was touted as a reason for his departure, Fukunaga -- who had been working on the project since 2012 -- now says that he clashed with the studio, New Line, over the kind of movie he wanted to make:
“I was trying to make an unconventional horror film. It didn’t fit into the algorithm of what they knew they could spend and make money back on based on not offending their standard genre audience. Our budget was perfectly fine. We were always hovering at the $32 million mark, which was their budget. It was the creative that we were really battling. It was two movies. They didn’t care about that. In the first movie, what I was trying to do was an elevated horror film with actual characters. They didn’t want any characters. They wanted archetypes and scares. I wrote the script. They wanted me to make a much more inoffensive, conventional script. But I don’t think you can do proper Stephen King and make it inoffensive.”
Fukunaga adds that he wanted to flesh out not just the main characters -- the seven children who take on the creature that manifests itself as Pennywise the Clown as both kids and adults -- but the dynamic between them and the monster as well:
“The main difference was making Pennywise more than just the clown. After 30 years of villains that could read the emotional minds of characters and scare them, trying to find really sadistic and intelligent ways he scares children, and also the children had real lives prior to being scared. And all that character work takes time. It’s a slow build, but it’s worth it, especially by the second film. But definitely even in the first film, it pays off."
Nevertheless, Fukunaga says that New Line wasn't buying it:
“It was being rejected. Every little thing was being rejected and asked for changes. Our conversations weren’t dramatic. It was just quietly acrimonious. We didn’t want to make the same movie. We’d already spent millions on pre-production. I certainly did not want to make a movie where I was being micro-managed all the way through production, so I couldn’t be free to actually make something good for them. I never desire to screw something up. I desire to make something as good as possible."
Now that Fukunaga has moved on, New Line has reportedly approached Andy Muschietti (Mama) to direct the film and is also looking to start fresh with the script (the fate of actor Will Poulter, who Fukunaga controversially cast as Pennywise, remains unclear). Fukunaga says he's glad that New Line is jettisoning the screenplay he wrote with Chase Palmer:
"Chase and I both put our childhood in that story. So our biggest fear was they were going to take our script and bastardize it. So I’m actually thankful that they are going to rewrite the script. I wouldn’t want them to stealing our childhood memories and using that. I mean, I’m not sure if the fans would have liked what I would had done. I was honoring King’s spirit of it, but I needed to update it. King saw an earlier draft and liked it.”
There's no other way to say it: This sucks. Anyone who saw the first, horror-tinged season of True Detective, which Fukunaga directed brilliantly, could probably imagine what his version of It might have been like -- I'm picturing a slow-burning epic of atmospheric, skin-crawling dread that could have done justice to King's nightmarish novel.
No disrespect to Andy Muschietti, but Mama was a competent, yet rather generic horror movie with a typical assortment of jump scares, conventional imagery and moderately interesting characters. If that's the direction that New Line wants to take with It -- a safe bet that will run three or four weeks in theaters, maybe make a little money and be instantly forgotten -- that I almost would rather see the project quietly die.
What are thoughts on all this? Would you rather see It arrive in some form or be abandoned entirely at this point?