That Academy Award winning actress Tilda Swinton is an extraordinarily talented performer can hardly be denied, but confirmation that she was considered for the role of Pennywise in the upcoming big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s It makes for a fascinating glimpse of what might have been. The role ultimately went to Bill Skarsgard, who has long since proven himself to be terrifying in the footage so far released – but producer Barbara Muschietti has now confirmed that the actor was not the first choice.
Speaking to JoBlo during an on-set visit, Muschietti confirmed that, among those initially considered for the role, was Tilda Swinton.
“She wasn’t available. No, no I swear to god. She was not. We had a slot to shoot the movie and she wasn’t available so she didn’t even audition. But of course, we all thought about it.”
Of course, even Andres Muschietti – the director that will finally deliver It to cinema audiences – was not the first filmmaker to be attached to the production, with Cary Fukunaga having been originally slated to take the reins. Fukunaga had cast Will Poulter as Pennywise, but when the director departed the project, Poulter soon followed suit. What’s most interesting about the re-casting process for the iconic role is that the Muschiettis specifically chose to open the concept up to those beyond the male-centric idea of the character projected by the 1990 television series and, to a certain extent, the source novel.
“We auditioned literally hundreds of potential Bob Grays or Pennywises and it was an amazing process. We got to audition people that don’t audition anymore and a huge gamut of talent; women, younger age, older age, we really went through the spectrum of actors.”
Certainly, it’s absolutely clear that Bill Skarsgard has turned in an exceptional performance as the child-eating demon in this new version of It, but it’s still interesting to ponder the potential impact such a different approach might have had. It’s a fairly safe bet, for example, that a sexist backlash would have occurred – as we saw recently with Doctor Who and Ghostbusters – in which certain male viewers will predictably have claimed their enjoyment of the original 1990 Tim Curry version of Pennywise had somehow been tarnished by the casting of a woman in 2017. The thing is, Pennywise is a shape-shifting entity, so why wouldn’t it be as likely to manifest as a woman?
As interesting as such speculation is, this snippet of information is actually important in terms of the marketing of the film, because it gives a clear indication of the approach of Andres Muschietti and his team. If they gave serious consideration to casting ‘outside-the-box,’ that means we should expect a cinematic version of It that’s unlike any interpretation of the story that’s been seen before. Indeed, this promises to be something very different indeed – and that can only be a good thing.