Stephen King’s It is one of the greatest American horror novels of all time. It‘s shape-shifting antagonist — often taking the guise of Pennywise the Clown — acts as a composite of all the horror icons of the past and present, taking on forms that represent the entire history of fear-inducing pop culture. It also showcases the horrors and happiness of childhood and how we must embrace or confront those elements as we enter the world as adults.
There has long been an attempt to bring Stephen King’s It to the big screen (It was adapted back in 1990 as a TV miniseries with Tim Curry providing a landmark performance as Pennywise), most recently with True Detective and Beasts of No Nation director Cary Fukunaga attached. That project was permanently shelved, but New Line Cinema has announced that Mama director Andy Muschietti has picked up the adaptation and a new script — written by Annabelle scribe Gary Dauberman — has gone into production.
This new version will still be presented as a two-part film; the first part will focus on the main cast of characters during their childhood while the second part will be about their return to Derry as adults. The Fukunaga version was reported to have featured an updated timeline of events — the book takes place in the late fifties and mid-eighties respectively — and there’s no word that this new version will be changing that.
There’s a lot that can go wrong with this project. Whoever will be cast as Pennywise (Will Poulter was announced for the Fukunaga version, but there’s little to no chance of him being brought onto this new take) is immediately going to be putting themselves up against Tim Curry. However, a psychotic clown has definitely been played by multiple talented actors before (Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, Heath Ledger), so hopefully they’ll nail the casting in that regard.
The more difficult problem comes with the change in time period. It is steeped in iconic horror imagery from the 1950s and earlier. That kind of iconography just isn’t as present in today’s world. There are certainly more universal terrors that Pennywise can draw upon, but don’t expect a Rodan-inspired flying creature to show up like it does in the book.
The two-part structure is also a tough hurdle to jump. The 1990 miniseries has a very solid first part, but the second part is very weak. Will the new filmmakers be able to reconcile to the parts successfully?
It has the potential to be a breakout horror movie. It has fantastic name recognition, a fervent fanbase, and is the kind of tentpole horror we just don’t get anymore (not counting the under-performing but utterly excellent Crimson Peak). With the film beginning production this fall, we’ll be hearing and seeing a lot more in the coming months. We here at Fandom will definitely keep you posted.