Though Pennywise’s look and design were heavily inspired by 1990s clowns for Tommy Lee Wallace and Tim Curry’s two-part miniseries all those years ago, director Andy Muschietti traveled back further still, all the way back to the 1800s, to mine inspiration for his own interpretation of Stephen King’s horror classic, It.
Per Collider, Muschietti stressed the importance of conveying Pennywise as an ancient being – hence the decision to dress Bill Skarsgård’s demon in 18th century attire. It is an “ancestral clown,” as producer Barbara Muschietti told the outlet. Imbued with supernatural power and the ability to shapeshift at a moment’s notice, Pennywise the Dancing Clown is also a force to be reckoned with, which leaves our Losers Club in a very precarious position as they set off to confront a monster as old as time.
That’s a horrific legacy that Andy Muschietti originally planned to showcase in It, but budget constraints ultimately forced him to scrap a scene that would have unveiled Pennywise’s first encounter with humanity. And though that may be disappointing, here’s what the filmmaker had to share on Skarsgård’s appearance:
Yeah. Well, the fact that this entity has been around for thousands of years… I’m more drawn — I never — aesthetically, I don’t dig the 20th century clown. I think it looks cheap, and it’s too related to social events and stuff and circus and stuff, which circus is fine, but I’m more aesthetically attracted to the old time, like the 19th century clown. And given that this guy has been around for centuries, I wondered myself why, why not, having an upgrade that was 1800s.
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On the topic of how Pennywise’s design evolved throughout the course of production, Muschietti recalled an early concept that imagined King’s harbinger of death as a wide-eyed monster with a volatile mood. And at least based on It‘s nerve-racking trailers, that mercurial attitude and short temper remain intact.
I had a sketch. One sketch. It was like a baby. It was like a Gerber baby. With something very off, because his eyes were wide-eyed – the eyes like, slightly apart. And then, to be honest, it didn’t evolve much from that point. And then the Pennywise you saw today is special because his hair is crazy, but the rest of the movie is different. I’m playing a little bit with his mood, and his mood sometimes in terms of the hair. There’s like two hairs maybe. But the official shape is more like a weird baby.
It Part 1 – The Losers Club has been earmarked for a release across theaters – both IMAX and standard – on September 8th. Assuming the numbers are to New Line’s liking, a second, conclusive chapter will revisit The Losers Club as adults as they go up against Pennywise for the final time.