Wednesday, August 10, 2022

6 Things You’ll Learn from Watching ‘Pennywise: The Story of IT’ on SCREAMBOX

SCREAMBOX original documentary Pennywise: The Story of IT uncovered a wealth of insight into the 1990 Stephen King adaptation. Five years of work from co-directors John Campopiano (Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary) and Christopher Griffiths (Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser) paid untold dividends for horror fans.

With exclusive interviews with many of the miniseries’ key players – Pennywise himself, Tim Curry, cast members Richard Thomas, Seth Green, Tim Reid, and Emily Perkins, director Tommy Lee Wallace, writer Lawrence D. Cohen, special effects makeup artist Bart Mixon, and more – along with rare materials and never-before-seen footage, even the most knowledgeable viewers will learn a thing or two.

Here are six things I learned from Pennywise: The Story of IT.

1. George A. Romero was originally attached to direct.

King and George A. Romero were fans of one another’s output, which ultimately led to their friendship and several collaborations, but both wanted to work together more. At various points, Romero was attached to direct adaptations of Salem’s Lot, Pet Sematary, The Stand, and IT.

For a while, it looked like Romero would be the one to bring Pennywise to the screen. In addition to having King’s stamp of approval, Romero was a fan of the book, he saw the potential in an adaptation, and the producers were on board.

IT was originally conceived as an eight-hour miniseries, and Romero began exchanging notes with Cohen on his outline. “The network started to get very nervous,” Cohen explains. “Nobody had ever gone where this piece had gone.” When ABC cut the runtime down to four hours, Romero decided to exit the project. With an air date already in place, Wallace was hired.

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2. Tim Curry was not the first choice to play Pennywise.

It’s hard to imagine IT without Tim Curry, but several other actors were considered before he got the part. The producers first approved Harvey Fierstein (Mrs. Doubtfire, Independence Day), then Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes, Fright Night), Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Rob Zombie’s Halloween), and even shock rocker Alice Cooper were discussed.

Curry’s name was eventually brought up, and the stars aligned. With the network’s approval, Curry didn’t audition or even meet with the producers; he received an offer with the script and agreed to sign on. Wallace calls him “a director’s dream.”

3. The second night’s plot was originally much different.

Wallace was won over by the first night’s script, but all involved seemed to agree that the second night needed work. “I was less enamored with the second night, because it deviated so far away from the novel itself,” says Wallace. “I didn’t know that at the beginning, because I hadn’t read the novel, but I knew something was amiss. It just didn’t deliver the goods.”

In Cohen’s original draft, Bev’s husband re-entered the film and, fueled by Pennywise, became the villain. It worked in dramatic terms, but Wallace candidly describes it as “a prosaic TV-style climax.” After nearly three years on the project and with pre-production gearing up, Cohen stepped away and gave Wallace his blessing to re-write his work.

“I just went back to the book again and again until I could find a way to bring the adult story around to something resembling the book,” Wallace explains. He discovered that using Mike Hanlon (Tim Reid) as a narrative device helped bring the story together.

Wallace also included the spider monster from the climax of the book, but in hindsight he recognizes that Curry should have returned as Pennywise in some way. Although an impressive mechanical creature, the cast and crew were universally underwhelmed by the spider.

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4. John Wayne Gacy painted a Pennywise portrait on death row.

While Pennywise can be credited with instilling a fear of clowns into an entire generation, real life is always scarier than movies. After his arrest in 1978, serial killer John Wayne Gacy became known as the Killer Clown due to his work as a clown prior to the discovery of his crimes.

While on death row until his execution by lethal injection in 1994, Gacy began painting in the isolation of his cell. Although his subjects ran the gamut from Jesus Christ to John Dillinger, many of his paintings were of clowns – including at least one of Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise.

“At one point I saw a painting of Pennywise that Gacy had done,” Mixon, who designed Pennywise’s iconic look, remembers. “I was like, ‘Should I be flattered or offended? I don’t know how to feel about this.'”

5. The police were called on the child actors.

Being a group of rambunctious adolescents, it’s no surprise that the Losers Club child actors were often a lot to handle. At one point executive producer Jim Green had to reprimand them (although first assistant director Patrice Leung contends that the adult cast were even noisier than their counterparts), but worse was when the police were called.

Young Ben Hanscom actor Brandon Crane discloses, “We were dropping water balloons off of our balcony onto people’s convertibles. I think one time we managed to do it with Kool-Aid, and the person was fairly upset.”

The police were called and spoke to the kids, explaining that it was not a good idea – especially because, as Americans filming in Vancouver, they were not citizens. “We thought we were going to get deported!” Crane exclaims. Thankfully, the police let them off with a warning.

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6. Tim Curry almost left the project.

Having already had most of his body covered in prosthetics for his role as Darkness in Legend, Curry wasn’t eager to go through that process again for IT. “His only reservation was too much makeup,” Wallace explains. “He wanted to be able to use his face. We pushed and pulled about how much makeup to do.”

“He did want to go as light as possible with the prosthetics, so there was some evolution,” Mixon adds. Mixon took a lifecast of Curry’s head and then produced three busts on which he did clay sketches to try out potential prosthetics before doing makeup tests.

Curry dutifully agreed to try them all out, but he said, “If you want me to wear this scary makeup, then I think you have the wrong actor,” associate producer Mark Bacino recalls. “He said, ‘Look, just make me as a straight clown, and I will scare the audience,’ I thought, ‘Of course. That’s why we have Tim Curry. He will scare us. We don’t need all of that.'”

Curry was right, of course. Ultimately, it was decided that the only appliances he needed were one on the top of his head to make it bulbous and another for the nose, partially inspired by Lon Chaney’s iconic makeup in The Phantom of the Opera. “He was totally right that his face is so expressive that it was good to not see it too done up with rubber,” Wallace admits.

Learn all of this and more by streaming Pennywise: The Story of IT exclusively on SCREAMBOX.

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The post 6 Things You’ll Learn from Watching ‘Pennywise: The Story of IT’ on SCREAMBOX appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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