It’s Bill Skarsgard Reveals What It Was Really Like Playing Pennywise – Exclusive
There’s no clowning around in showbiz, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun — even when your character eats children for breakfast. Stephen King’s “It” has been terrifying children for generations — once with the book, once with the ’90s film, and then again with the 2017 reboot starring Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise.
Looper spoke to Bill Skarsgård during an exclusive interview for his new film “Nine Days,” in which he dished on what it was like playing the iconic villain, being a big Tim Curry fan, and differentiating between the original film. On whether he’d ever gotten frightened on set, he said, “No, I was never freaked out on set. I actually had a lot of fun doing the character. My job is to put myself in a character’s point of view, whether it’s someone like Kane or a child-eating clown like Pennywise. So I get a thrill of trying to understand something or someone that’s very different from who I am, and then building that perspective into a fully-fleshed character.”
Skarsgård then added, “Which is harder with someone like Pennywise because it’s even more crazily abstract than ‘Nine Days.’ It’s this weird entity that lives in the figment of children’s imagination. So it’s like, ‘Okay, what are the rules here?'” One of the rules, apparently, is that Pennywise must eat children.
Two evil clowns walk into a bar
“I was having an ongoing conversation with Andy, the director of those films,” Skarsgård said. “We came up with something that became a structure and rules for that character. And then, once you have those, you know which parameters you’re moving in. And once that is set, it’s easier, and it’s a lot of fun.”
On how he tried to differentiate his role from the original, he explained, “Yeah. I mean, the original is amazing. Whenever you do a re-adaptation, or a remake, or however you want to phrase it, you want to do something that feels different from what’s already been done. And I think even Andy, just casting me in the role, meant for it to be different than Tim Curry’s version of It.”
Unsurprisingly, Skarsgård is a big fan of Curry — particularly his performance as the original Pennywise. “I’m a huge fan of Tim Curry’s,” he said. “And I’m a huge fan of that performance. But for me, I didn’t honestly think about that performance all that much when we got into making this one.” He explained the process, saying, “It was like, ‘Okay, we’re going a different direction with it.’ And then I felt that I just had to focus on my interpretation and building this character based off of Andy’s vision, which was based off of the new version of the script. So it became a separate thing.”
Anyone who’s watched both versions of “It” can attest to how different they are — with both Curry and Skarsgård’s performances taking a unique and captivating approach to the character. Skarsgård concurred, adding, “I think the result became very separate, different as well. I don’t even really see the point in comparing the two. It’s like, they’re both great in very different ways. Not to say that my performance is great or anything, but the movies. So it’s two different adaptations.”
“Nine Days” is in theaters nationwide now.