James Ransone is no stranger to appearing in horror movies. Having played Deputy So and So in the Sinister movies, he now stars in It: Chapter Two as the grown-up version of Eddie Kaspbrak, the hypochondriacal mama’s boy from the first film.
We talked to Ransone about his experiences working on this mega sequel, why he doesn’t watch very many movies and his favorite Stephen King book.
IT: Chapter Two hits theaters this weekend on September 6, 2019!
LRM Online: I was curious if, before being cast in this movie, you saw Andy Muschietti’s first chapter of IT?<
Ransone: Yes. I saw it, but only when the initial conversation came up. But I rarely see anything. I saw two movies last year.
LRM Online: Wow.
LRM Online: Are you more of a book person?
Ransone: Yeah, I read a lot. I’m a really big reader. I think just, it’s also sort of like, I work in the sausage factory, so I’m a vegetarian. Do you know what I mean?
LRM Online: Yeah.
Ransone: It’s hard to enjoy movies in the same way that I used to do when I was a kid.
LRM Online: Because you know how it’s all done behind the scenes and everything.
Ransone: Yeah, and by the way, I think that it’s not like I don’t want to ever like poo-poo on anybody who enjoys it. Do you know what I mean?
LRM Online: Yes.
Ransone: It’s not like, “No, it’s stupid.” I understand the love and joy of watching movies, and it’s better to not know how it’s made. Haven’t you ever met a musician that you thought was just going to be so awesome, you were so disappointed?
LRM Online: I could see that, yeah.
Ransone: That’s happened to me a number of times when I was younger. Yeah. It’s just better to have some distance on that stuff, I think.
LRM Online: And how about the TV adaptation? Were you a fan of that?
Ransone: Oh, yeah. So the truth is that I actually like horror movies if they’re done really well, because I think it’s a great way for filmmakers that maybe get to be a little subversive in things that they’re trying to say because horror will always be profitable. And so, I’m a really big John Carpenter fan. Huge John Carpenter fan.
LRM Online: My favorite director, by far.
Ransone: Yeah. I actually think that he and Kurt Russell’s Thing is like an underrated combo. You know how certain directors have relationships with their actors and like-
LRM Online: Scorsese and De Niro.
Ransone: Yeah, Scorsese and De Niro a hundred percent. I feel that their thing is just equally awesome when they work together.
LRM Online: Oh, I’m right there with you.
Ransone: Totally. Like from Big Trouble to The Thing. It’s awesome.
LRM Online: Did you ever see the Elvis TV movie that they made together?
LRM Online: Oh, you should see that. Kurt Russell’s very good. Yeah, that’s what started their collaboration.
Ransone: That doesn’t surprise me.
LRM Online: It’s pretty great. So then how did you come to be cast in IT: Chapter Two?
Ransone: So I had auditioned for the first one. I’m not going to tell you what role. If you want to interview Andy, he’ll tell you.
LRM Online: Okay.
Ransone: And then I had a feeling that he was going to call me about it. It was weird just because my brother saw the movie way before I did and he said, “You look a lot like that kid.” And I thought that that was interesting because I really did. I thought, “That’s really weird how much I look like that kid.” But truthfully, Andy called me, he wanted me to do it. I was the only person he had in mind, or at least that’s what he told me. But I just felt really lucky to get it, because there’s plenty of actors who have been around way longer than me, that are more talented than I am, that could’ve done that role too. Like this thing is pretty big. When you get to a movie like this, this size, some of it’s just luck. It’s like a winning Powerball ticket. I don’t feel like I beat anybody out. I feel it’s just my number got pulled and I was just lucky enough to do it.
LRM Online: That’s great.
LRM Online: Some people, like you said, wait their whole life or their whole career for that. And did you feel like because there was the existing performance of Jack Dylan Grazer in the first one and it was so specific, did you feel like you could still make this performance your own or were you worried about trying to mimic him?
Ransone: Again, that was like the hand of God luck. He played to a lot of my strengths anyway. I have so many tricks in my bag, like three, and he just played to all of them. And so I thought all I have to do is match his speed because he’s so fast. I’ve never seen a kid have that innate ability. He’s just so fast on camera and I was really impressed when I watched it and actually slightly intimidated. I thought, “Oh man, this is going to be really tough. To match that speed is going to be a challenge for me.” But other than that, all I tried to do is just mold my performance after what he did from the first movie. That’s it.
LRM Online: I feel like some people would feel constricted by that.
Ransone: No, no, no. I’ve been doing this now for 20 years in big parts, bigger parts, small parts, some success, little success, but just been like a steady working actor and under the radar. I’ve never been in a pop culture phenomenon like this, so I don’t get precious about that stuff anymore. I thought like, “Oh, this is cool. I actually don’t have a lot of work to do.” I’m also a lazy person.
LRM Online: Well, that pays off then with this. Haha.
Ransone: Yeah, yeah.
LRM Online: To me it seemed, looking at your filmography, is this the biggest budget film for you to date?
Ransone: I don’t know if it’s the biggest budget to date, it will definitely be the only… I’ve never been part of something like this. But again, like a pop culture phenomenon. Never in my entire life.
LRM Online: Did you guys have to do much green screen? I know there are a lot of visual effects.
Ransone: No, there’s not a ton of green screen that we did. Now it’s actually really fun to work on, and I’m talking, just me as a person, and we only have our experiences in our life. We don’t get to have other people’s experiences. And the thing that I’ll really take away from it, aside from I had a lot of fun joking around with Bill Hader and Isaiah on set. We screwed around a lot. It was kind of like summer camp. But the thing that I’ll take away from it was a lot of those practical set pieces, it just reminded me of when I was a kid, and I don’t know whether you had this experience, but you know when you would see the behind the scenes of like Jabba the Hutt or some massive set piece of like… they shot the Titanic and you thought, “Oh my God, the amount of work that went into this so we could all be here to do this thing in this moment in time.” And just the scope of it, it felt cool. Do you know what I mean?
LRM Online: Yeah.
Ransone: And I don’t mean I felt like I was part of something big in a pop culture phenomenon. It just felt like old school, massive Hollywood movie. Like I’m used to painting with like three watercolors and then somebody just wheels out like, “Here’s all of the paints that have ever existed. And you can drill them all over any canvas that goes from here to the next County over.” Does that make sense?
LRM Online: Sure, it makes sense. I was going to ask you briefly about the scale of this versus shooting something on an iPhone with Tangerine.
Ransone: Well, what’s weird though is I did the same thing because Tangerine is almost all improv. And then a lot of the jokey stuff between me and Bill was all improv.
LRM Online: Yeah, it came off that way.
Ransone: Yeah, and I mean, and again, not to the discredit of the writers, it was just because sometimes when you’re on set you’ll exhaust the material that’s in the script. So, some of it’s probably in there already, but then other stuff is just me and Bill clowning around.
LRM Online: Well, he has that whole SNL comedy improv thing. You were definitely able to keep up with him.
Ransone: Oh, thanks man.
LRM Online: It’s admirable.
Ransone: Oh, thanks. Well, he taught me a lot about how to stay in the joke, how to not burn it out. It was cool. It’s like watching somebody who had been camping before and knew how to keep the fire going all night. He’d be like, “This is what you do.” And it was a really good skill for me to learn.
LRM Online: That I’m sure will serve you well in the future.
Ransone: I hope so.
LRM Online: The next Judd Apatow movie or something you’re cast in.
Ransone: I hope so.
LRM Online: You were saying that you do read a lot. Do you have any particular favorite Stephen King books?
Ransone: The book that I went with, which I keep talking about. I’ve read probably a couple of them, but the one that I remember reading kind of like over the summer was The Stand. So that was the one. And that actually scared me way more than It did.
LRM Online: Really?
Ransone: Because it felt more possible. Because you know how there’s like a big virus and then it’s the end of the world, and I was like, “Oh, that feels possible.” I mean, granted Tim Curry really scared me when I was a kid. I remember watching that many times. It was like everything shut down at my house when It originally aired.
LRM Online: Oh really?
Ransone: Oh yeah. Yeah, totally.
LRM Online: It was like a big pop culture moment.
LRM Online: I still have to catch up to the TV version.
Ransone: Have you never watched it?
LRM Online: I always found the running time a little daunting.
Ransone: Oh, it’s not that bad.
LRM Online: Yeah. But now that I watched the first movie, I wanted to finish it in movie form and now I’m going to go back. Everybody has said so many great things about Tim Curry in it.
Ransone: Yeah, Tim Curry’s so good in it. So good in it. I mean, I think Skarsgard gives him a run for his money. I really do. And I didn’t know if he was going to at first and then watching a little bit of his performance, I think he did.
LRM Online: Well, what’s next for you? What are you up to after promoting this?
Ransone: Honestly, I have no idea. I just had a baby, so I’ve been in a kind of dad mode.
LRM Online: Oh, congrats.
Ransone: Thanks, man. Yeah, it’s been awesome. I’ve been kind of just home with my son.
LRM Online: Awesome.
Ransone: And I actually just like… I’m kind of into that right now. Since IT, I didn’t work. For some reason or another, I just didn’t work most of this year and that was fine, because I thought I’d be doing the second season of that TV show for Hulu. It didn’t come back, so…
LRM Online: Was that the Sean Penn show?
Ransone: The first, yeah.
LRM Online: Yeah, okay.
Ransone: He’s still really good, by the way. It was crazy. He’s still so talented. He can do things so small and just convey so much.
LRM Online: That’s great if he’s still fresh because he’s been around a really long time and he’s been giving great performances since at least Fast Times…
Ransone: What was the prison movie he did or something like that?
LRM Online: That I don’t know off the top of my head.
Ransone: Dammit! I’ll look it up.
LRM Online: He is good in that, I imagine?
Ransone: Yeah, I think it’s actually before Fast Times...
LRM Online: Oh nice. Okay.
Ransone: So yeah, it’s awesome.
LRM Online: Well, good luck with the release, and thanks for taking the time to speak with me.
IT: Chapter Two hits theaters this weekend on September 6, 2019!
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