Stephen King’s ‘It’: Was Cary Fukunaga’s Controversial Departure A Bad Thing?

Visionary and highly praised director Cary Fukunaga was originally supposed to direct It. Many fans were (and still are) extremely upset that Fukunaga left the production, but due to the daring but strange ideas about how Stephen King’s tale should have played out on screen seen in Fukunaga’s script, it actually seems like the decision to switch him out for now-director Andres Muschietti might have been for the best.

The upcoming movie adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel It, which is being directed by Mama alum Muschietti, is a bona fide sensation online. Stephen King-specific fanpages like the dedicated King subreddit have basically become forums dedicated to the movie, and the first official teaser trailer released last week has already become by far the most-watched movie trailer in history with over 246 million views in the first 36 hours alone, according to /Film. A big-budget Stephen King adaptation was almost sure to gain a lot of exposure, but this is way more than even optimistic King fans could have hoped for.

New Line's 'It' poster, fan-made
A fanmade poster for 'It' featuring Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise the Clown. [Image by CAMW1N/Deviant Art]

Although the movie’s pre-emptive marketing has been a tremendous success under Muschietti’s watch, many Stephen King fans and online news sources voice the opinion that the film would have been even better had Cary Fukunaga remained in the director’s chair.

Birth. Movies. Death, for example, recently published an article stating that the Fukunaga-helmed version of Stephen King’s It was going to be a “Great American Horror Film” and casting it as much more nuanced and cerebral take on horror that remains truer to Stephen King’s work while injecting some brilliant new content. The article was in response to the copy of the Cary Fukunaga script for the movie that leaked online last week.

“What the script revealed,” said the article, “was an incredibly detailed, faithful take on King’s horror classic that not only breathed life into the juvenile Losers’ Club… but fashioned Derry, Maine into a character unto itself via several allusions and flashbacks to the town’s mysterious history.”

“In short, it was the Great American Horror Novel, condensed into 134 riveting pages and ready to be brought to a screen near you.”

The article goes on to call Fukunaga’s version supremely “mature,” and it essentially insinuates a lot of potential was lost when control was turned over to Muschietti.

Many fans have echoed this opinion that Fukunaga’s script would have been awesome, but now we have to compromise for a watered-down version.

“He was a damn great choice and I’d love to see what he could’ve done with the material,” wrote Reddit user Nick_1138 on the Stephen King subreddit.

“Beyond disappointed,” added Zzaproot.

Fukunaga’s own take on why he left the Stephen King retelling only contributes to the dismay some feel with him leaving.

“In the first movie, what I was trying to do was an elevated horror film with actual characters,” Fukanaga said in an interview with Variety during 2015. “They didn’t want any characters. They wanted archetypes and scares. I wrote the script. They wanted me to make a much more inoffensive, conventional script. But I don’t think you can do proper Stephen King and make it inoffensive.”

Lots of people distraught over Fukunaga’s departure feel assured he would have done a great job with It because he did such wonderful work directing the HBO series True Detective, which many people note had a similar tone to what Stephen King conveyed with the writing of It.

A portrait of Cary Fukunaga
Cary Fukunaga. [Image by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP Images]

Would Stephen King fans and movie buffs really have been happier with Fukunaga’s It, though? Is his exit from the production really resulting in a missed opportunity?

Many of those who have actually read the script leaked last week say no, claiming it is not faithful to Stephen King’s vision. More importantly, it includes some pretty disturbing stuff, and not in a good way.

For instance, the Inquisitr reported last week, Fukunaga’s script called for a decent amount of sexual abuse directed at children that would be explicitly shown on screen.

According to the Birth. Movies. Death. article, it also contained a scene where Stan Uris, one of the child protagonists and one of the only Jewish characters Stephen King wrote, uses a women’s restroom at his temple and encounters a rotting naked woman. The woman proceeds to tempt Stan, even going so far as to touch herself in front of him.

Neither of these scenes were included in Stephen King’s book, and the fact that Fukunaga felt it so important to add scenes of such a sexually explicit nature to an adaption of a book that Stephen King did not write to be associated with such adult themes is a little weird.

Not only that, but the script contains a scene in which the Losers’ Club (Stephen King’s name for the septet of main protagonists) beats Pennywise nearly to death with baseball bats and chainsaws. That is definitely not in the spirit of Stephen King’s terrifying vision, which stresses that the titular monster can really only be combated using psychological means. And It certainly does not support the whole “cerebral” element many sources claim elevated Fukunaga’s script.

Unfortunately, the script has been pulled off the internet since it was leaked as per the request of New Line, the studio producing the film.

Whether Stephen King’s It, which is one of the authors most popular works, is in good hands is of course still an unknown. We can’t be sure until the movie actually comes out on September 8. Stephen King fans don’t have to fret about Fukunaga’s leaving too much, though, as Reddit user Infoghost very succinctly puts it, “it was for the best.”

[Featured image by SickJoe/Deviant Art]