Swedish actor Bill Skarsgard, who will play the nightmare-inducing cannibalistic shapeshifting clown in this September’s adaptation of Stephen King’s IT, sat down for a chat with brother Alex Skarsgard on Monday. The in-between was transcribed by Interview, and it contained a few fascinating nuggets of information about how Bill feels in regards to his terrifying rendition of Pennywise.
In specific details, Bill Skarsgard recalled how the iconic Tim Curry take on Pennywise had scarred many of his 10-year-old peers for life when he was a child, and he talked about how strange it felt knowing he would probably be doing the same thing.
“It’s a really weird thing to go, ‘If I succeed at doing what I’m trying to do with this character, I’ll traumatize kids,'” Skarsgard said when his brother asked him if it felt weird knowing his would be the face children and maybe even some adults will be seeing in their nightmares for years to come.
He added that he is pretty sure his iteration of Pennywise will do just that (traumatize children), because he really freaked out the child actors on the set of IT early on in the shooting when they were not used to him yet. In fact, Bill recalled, he actually made some of the kids cry when he first unveiled his Pennywise makeup and character to them.
“I tried to maintain some sort of weirdness about the character, at least when I was in all the makeup,” Bill Skarsgard commented.
“At one point, they set up this entire scene, and these kids come in, and none of them have seen me yet. Their parents have brought them in, these little extras, right? And then I come out as Pennywise, and these kids—young, normal kids—I saw the reaction that they had. Some of them were really intrigued, but some couldn’t look at me, and some were shaking. This one kid started crying. He started to cry and the director yelled, ‘Action!’ And when they say ‘action,’ I am completely in character. So some of these kids got terrified and started to cry in the middle of the take, and then I realized, ‘Holy shit. What am I doing? What is this? This is horrible.'”
Skarsgard added that after the experience, he made sure to apologize to the children.
“Then we cut, and obviously I was all, ‘Hey, I’m sorry. This is pretend.'”
Bill did not clarify whether he was talking about the members of the Losers Club (the name of the film’s main group of protagonists) or some of the younger child actors, like Georgie Denbrough (played by Jackson Robert Scott).
As mentioned above, Tim Curry’s 1990 ABC miniseries portrayal of Pennywise is arguably one of the more iconic horror movie villains of all time. His turn as Pennywise the Dancing Clown has influenced pop culture and how physical horror itself is portrayed in such a profound way that Skarsgard taking on the role is a bit like batting after Hank Aaron. Bill Skarsgard is giving it the old college try, though, and, as Bloody Disgusting points out, his anecdote about taking on the role of ocular rain-maker suggests his efforts are proving fairly effective.
Bill admits that he has a distinct advantage over other modern horror villains going in, in terms of being scary, because just the concept of a killer clown tormenting children is so unbelievably terrifying even before acting prowess is counted into the equation.
“I remember It being the scariest thing that existed for a kid,” Skarsgard reminisced.
“There were other horror films, like Friday the 13th or Halloween, but this was the really scary one because it was children and a clown. So many people go, ‘That film really destroyed my childhood,’ or ‘I hated clowns after that.'”
Even though he has some hang-ups about causing countless hours of lying awake in fear, though, Bill Skarsgard has made up his mind to go for broke in the scares department.
“Hopefully, there will be a lot of 10-year-olds who will be traumatized forever based on my performance,” he laughed.
Alex Skarsgard noted that some 10-year-olds will be kept from seeing IT because of the R rating that has been confirmed for the film, so at least there’s that.
Still, though, September 8 will hopefully bring a new wave of coulrophobia upon the iGeneration and the world at large.