It: Bill Skarsgard on Becoming Pennywise the Clown

We spoke to Bill Skarsgard about becoming Pennywise the Clown for the It remake. Here's what he told us...

The year of Stephen King truly kicked off with the big screen adaptation It, which reintroduced the horrifying Pennywise the Clown for a new generation of screaming kids. More than $600 million later, It has became a major box office hit — an incredible feat for a horror flick. In fact, in less than two months, It has become the highest grossing horror movie of all time. 

A lot of the film’s success has to do with its monster, of course. Bill Skarsgard (Hemlock Grove) did the honors this time around, following up the iconic performance by Tim Curry in the 1990 TV miniseries. Skarsgard is formidable as Pennywise, less wacky perhaps, and certainly more feral. The monster is more visceral and less of a jokester. Skarsgard presents a true monster that you’d never dare mistake for a friendly clown. What was little Georgie thinking?

Den of Geek sat down for a chat with Skarsgard during the Castle Rock roundtables at New York Comic Con, and he told us all about what it was like transforming into Pennywise. 

“Before I had the makeup on, everything was just hypothetical in terms of who the character was,” Skarsgard said. “I did a lot of work sort of intellectually about what the character would be, and I tried different things, but ultimately I didn’t know how he would translate with the makeup on.”

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The design for Skarsgard’s Pennywise is decidedly more Victorian and grayer than Curry’s clown, who you could ALMOST see at a birthday party, blowing up balloons full of blood. The new Pennywise looks aged and dirty, like he’s been crawling through the sewers for centuries, which he has. The bright colors of Curry’s Pennywise are nowhere in sight. 

“The first time I had the makeup on, I spent a few hours with the mirror figuring out how everything would translate. I think I had the full makeup on maybe four or five times before we shot my first day. But I had a lot of time to figure out what worked and what didn’t work. That was the final stage of getting the character right.”

further reading: The Best Modern Horror Movies

Skarsgard has a pretty full schedule when it comes to Stephen King projects. He’ll next be seen in the upcoming Hulu series Castle Rock, which brings King’s crazy and interconnected universe to the cursed little Maine town. Skarsgard plays a prisoner at Shawshank State Penitentiary. Then the actor will once again don the clown makeup for Andy Muschietti’s It: Chapter Two, which will see the Losers’ Club return to Derry as adults to vanquish the evil clown once and for all.

Castle Rock is due out in 2018 and It: Chapter Two will bow in 2019.

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