I’ve often wondered what it must be like for successful authors, like Stephen King, to see their works adapted for TV and film; sometimes it works out great (The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me) and sometimes not so much (Dreamcatcher, Maximum Overdrive). King, who’s published more than 90 books in his 69 years of life — nearly all of them optioned by Hollywood — has certainly had his share of adaptation ups and downs.
It is, however, exceedingly rare for any single novel to be made into both a TV mini-series and also a movie (although that is becoming less unusual these days). King published the horror novel, IT, in September 1986, and it’s traveled a long, strange road ever since. The book was first adapted as a television mini-series in 1990, starring Tim Curry as the evil Pennywise the Clown, and then was again optioned by Warner Bros. in 2009 for a feature film… and that’s when things got really weird.
Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy) and Cary Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation) both took cracks at crafting a film version, to no avail, before current director Andy Maschietti (Mama) was finally hired. Why so difficult getting this off the ground? Have you actually seen the actual book? It’s bigger than the Los Angeles phone book (remember those?) King writes big, sprawling stories packed with lots of broken, misfit characters — a typical King adaptation throws away far more than it keeps, often with poor results (see: The Dark Tower).
So, it’s exciting that the early press and fan responses to the film have been overwhelmingly positive. King has often been highly critical of his own work on TV and film, but as you’ll see in the interview above, he’s feeling pretty good about this one via Geekztor:
“I had hopes, but I was not prepared for how good it really was.”
King explains how he came to write IT way back in the 80s, and what he put into it:
“I’ve written some books and [I’ve] gotten this reputation as a horror novelist, so IT will be my final exam. I’ll bring back all the monsters that I remember from my childhood… Because the entity that is Pennywise focuses upon whatever that particular child fears the most.”
This quote is really interesting. Jammer and I both read IT years ago, and we each formed our own opinions about Pennywise’s physical appearance and voice; we disagree on it’s various interpretation in the mini-series and the new film. As King expressed, I think we both channeled our own fears and childhood terrors into our mental images of Pennywise, which I’m not sure either of us can adequately articulate. The success or failure to deliver a truly horrific Pennywise will surely make or break this movie. So what does King think of Muschietti’s and actor Bill Skarsgard’s interpretation:
“They kept the core idea that Pennywise gets to these kids by finding out what they’re afraid of, and being that thing.”
That’s a tall order for any filmmaker to achieve, but it’s becoming clear that maybe Muschietti found a way to snatch lightning and jam it into a bottle. King’s comments in this interview ring true and authentic; so perhaps we’ll finally get another great adaptation of King’s horror works to sit alongside The Shining, Carrie, The Dead Zone, and Misery (your personal King preferences may vary, but these are terrifying films).
What did you think of Stephen King’s comments about Pennywise and Andy Muschietti’s IT adaptation? Let us know in the comments down below!
IT floats into theaters on September 8, 2017.