You might think that getting back into the skin of a ghoul from the Macroverse ravenous for innocent flesh was a nightmare for Bill Skarsgård, but for the IT: Chapter Two actor, Pennywise had a much easier time crawling out of the sewer the second time around.
Reentering the deranged mind of the scariest clown on screen since Tim Curry’s 1990 iteration of Pennywise was almost paranormal for Skarsgård. Now that director Andy Muschietti has returned to Derry and started production on the second film based on Stephen King’s grisly novel, the actor recently admitted to Collider that reanimating the beast within apparently needed much less effort than creating a monster.
“The first time I did it, nobody knew what I would do with it, so it was just all of this expectation,” Skarsgård said of the character that literally gave him nightmares. “I didn’t know if it would work, or if people would respond to it. There was a lot of that worry going on about it… I worked really closely with Andy [Muschietti], the director. This time around, because the movie became such a phenomenon, it’s almost like I’m re-adapting myself.”
It isn’t just about that grin (which looks just as terrifying on Skarsgård without makeup). In King’s book, Pennywise is the embodiment of an evil so immense that it is almost unbelievable, which is probably why the human playing him had no idea whether audiences would believe him once the greasepaint was on. The way it devoured the box office last October proved they must have been convinced of this creature’s merciless need to feed every 27 years.
Morphing back into Pennywise for the sequel — voice, grin, and all — in read-throughs and rehearsals has ended up being frighteningly natural for Skarsgård.
“I was surprised how much of the character was just there already,” he recalled. “I instantly could access him again, like it was yesterday that we wrapped the first one. It was just all there. So the work and preparation and figuring out the character is almost intuitive, which is pretty cool. It’s a very strange thing, but I’m trying to enjoy the ride, as much as I can.”
Merging with such a monstrous entity can be scary for a mere human, but apparently Skarsgard had mutated the character into something that became so embedded in his subconscious, he didn’t need any fancy rituals to summon the dormant beast back.
Even as he watched his alter ego take over the media circus, Skarsgard felt it was surreal, which is probably true if your movie goes so viral that Pennywise costumes are swarming all over Instagram and LeBron James dresses up as your character for Halloween.
“It became this completely universal thing, outside of the thing. That’s not me. I can’t even relate myself to it anymore,” Skarsgård confessed. “And now that I’m going back and doing it, it’s such a bizarre thing. I don’t think I’ll ever really experience anything like it. It’s this dualistic thing of me and the work and the character, and then the thing that it became, but it’s fun.”
Now that’s creeping it real.