Pennywise? Not Quite

Stephen King’s ‘It’: How Child Sexual Content Has Changed The Film For Good

The upcoming movie adaptation of Stephen King’s It may be a very hot topic on the internet right now (keep your eyes peeled for the film’s first trailer dropping later today), but even those who have been following the production intently probably don’t know about the strange and mildly disturbing sexual content that was included in the original script and which ended up changing the production in a very big way. In fact, many parents of the child actors slated to be in the film at the time pulled their children out of the film because of the discrepancy.

It, the horror fiction masterpiece published by Stephen King in 1986, is a huge book. Even for Stephen King, whose novels regularly exceed 500 pages, It’s hefty 1,138-page count is very high. It is no wonder that, with so much source material to cover, the iconic 1990 TV miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s tome, a lot of details were left out. Some of those omitted details were things that would have been too sinister or explicit to be included in a network TV miniseries – most of Stephen King’s books are not exactly PG.

Stephen King's Pennywise
[Image by Fasslayer/Deviant Art]

One detail in particular that did not make it was the twisted and sexually abusive relationship between Beverly Marsh, the main female protagonist to be played by Sophia Lillis, and her father Al Marsh. It is completely understandable why the makers of the 1990 adaptation would have chosen to leave this out; it may add a bit more depth to the story, but sexual abuse towards children is not going to fly on ABC’s primetime. Cary Fukunaga, the original director of this year’s film version of It, felt differently about the issue. He was not so interested in pulling punches, and he insisted that the content be kept in the script.

Keeping the content is also an understandable decision. After all, Stephen King’s work does not actually show anything happening; it only hints at it. It does seem a bit strange, though, that Fukunaga felt the need to take the content a step further than Stephen King himself had. Where King had implied, Fukunaga wanted the script to actually depict what was going on.

Not too surprisingly, this pretty quickly drew the ire of some parents of the child actors supposed to be in the film. Several of these parents got together on Professional Actors Resource Forum, a forum for parents of child actors, to discuss their immense distaste for the situation.

“I don’t remember it being anything more than suggested in the original,” one parent handled Bellarose13 wrote, referring to Stephen King’s book. “But it goes farther than that in this script. Much farther in a couple scenes, the father kissing her bare stomach, hands up her skirt to slip off panties, in addition she describes being gang raped to another character. Add it all up and it’s just to much for us. We were so excited when we got it, but there was a pretty hefty email from agent to read script and approve before agreeing due to content [sic].”

Presumably, the script would not have been approved by that parent even if they had been Stephen King’s number one fan.

“This is just gross,” another user named Gypsydax chimed in. “And I’m not talking about the content… I’m talking about directors/producers who want to hire underage actresses to make out with creepy old men.”

As this last quote conveys, many of the parents’ opinions of Fukunaga and his ideas on where he wanted to take the Stephen King adaption were lowered severely because of the incident.

It seems this disagreement with Fukunaga’s vision for the film was not just limited to the actors’ parents, either. Cinema Blend reported after Fukunaga was let go from the Stephen King production that he had left because he and the studio disagreed on the direction in which they wanted the story to go. Even Fukunaga himself would later explain to Variety that Warner Bros. just would not let him be “out there” enough with the film (which is saying a lot when you’re talking about a Stephen King story featuring a sewer-dwelling child-eating clown).

“I was trying to make an unconventional horror film. It didn’t fit into the algorithm of what they knew they could spend and make money back on based on not offending their standard genre audience.”

Let’s hope that Andres Muschietti, the director who replaced Fukunaga in helming the Stephen King-inspired flick, can bring us a great movie even without any sexually explicit scenes involving minors.

Are you riding the hype train for Stephen King’s It? Make yourself heard in the comments section below!

[Featured Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]

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