Clown Choreography and A Terrifying Gerber Baby: Visiting the Set of Stephen King's IT

RT traveled to Toronto to visit the film's director, producer, and members of its young cast in the middle of filming.

by | July 27, 2017 | Comments

“What size galoshes are you?” is simultaneously the question I do and do not want to be asked as a horror movie fan visiting the set of a film I’ve been anticipating since its announcement. Like it or not, that was the final transmission I received before leaving for Toronto to step onto the set of IT, which opens in theaters on September 8, 2017. I met with director Andy Muschietti, his sister and producer Barbara Muschietti, and some of the film’s young cast to talk about the new adaptation of Stephen King’s bone-chilling novel, which appears both reverent of the source material and still innovative enough to make me forget it’s ever happened before. Here are five things I managed to grasp from the set when I wasn’t hyperventilating from fear and excitement.


(Photo by Brooke Palmer/Warner Bros. Pictures)

After the release of 2013’s Mama, Andy and Barbara found themselves on an unintended three-year hiatus because they hadn’t found the right project, Barbara said. When this opportunity arose, they wanted to do justice to source material they knew very well. Barbara said, “You die while you’re shooting. It’s a war. You have to do it for something you love.”

Andy insisted that he loved making an adaptation, and “there comes a time in the process where you start feeling good with your interpretation of it, and your contribution to the story.” In the months following this interview, King sent videos to fan events saying how happy he was for them to see the project, and Andy was obviously thrilled. The two didn’t collaborate together in the writing process — something Andy expressed a certain amount of relief about, since at some point it was likely he would have had to say, “Your words and moments don’t work” for this version of the story. The key elements from the source material, Andy said, are in full effect, and overall it’s a very faithful adaptation. There’s a certain lightness to it, and deep emotion, but it’s gruesome and doesn’t pull any punches with some of the gorier deaths (hence the eagerly-anticipated R rating). Andy insisted that “it IS fun.”


(Photo by Brooke Palmer/Warner Bros. Pictures)

Producer Barbara Muschietti explained that since the film is set in more of a grounded 1980s, with a subtle, non-hit-laden soundtrack and toned-down period costumes, they put special efforts into minimizing CG so as to not yank audiences out of the film (they don’t prefer it as filmmakers, and New Line Cinema doesn’t either, Barbara said). For similar reasons, 2013’s Mama employed some puppetry to impressive results. Therefore, when building this vision, the Muschiettis realized that a more physically active Pennywise would require not a puppeteer, but a choreographer. Barbara said that CG will be mostly used as a transition when something the audience sees is “impossible.”


(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)

Barbara referred to Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise as “the ancestral clown,” shunning 21st century modern clown characteristics and instead harkening back to 18th century aesthetics with “upgrades.” King has gone on record saying that, in his novel, Pennywise was influenced by Bozo, Clarabell, and Ronald McDonald. Since those images don’t hold the same cachet with modern audiences as they once did, the producers focused more on only one sketch Andy had done of something akin to a Gerber baby “with something very off.” Andy said nothing much changed after that initial drawing because the baby had a sense of childlike wonder that he felt was an absolute necessity in this interpretation of the character, which he eventually found in Skarsgård’s performance.

Don’t expect just one shade of Pennywise, though. His hair sometimes reflects his mood, which varies wildly, along with his persona and voice (which, at the time of this interview, was not altered in post). Pennywise is hard to pin down, but rest assured, he was terrifying and scaring everyone on set (although Skarsgård is not a method actor, Barbara notes, and is kept separate from the children on the set while shooting).


(Photo by Brooke Palmer/Warner Bros. Pictures)

The minute these actors arrived in Toronto for shooting, they started building the kinds of bonds that only clown-fear (and team building exercises and sleepovers) can encourage — and it worked. No one saw Skarsgård in Pennywise gear until they were shooting a scene in which Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben) is injured, and Taylor said he’d been trying to put it out of his mind ever since. But once the cameras stopped rolling, even after an intense take, the kids were laughing about what life was like in the 1980s (sending something in the mail!), or about the fact that they were covered in slime and hugging. More than one of the kids referred to it as the best summer of their life, especially during days on set where, as Finn Wolfhard said,  there are “four dead bodies in the water and it’s like, ‘Oh cool, this is my job, and this is my life.’”


(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)

Claude Pare, the Production Designer, took us through the creation of the film’s practical sets, such as an entire house restoration in Oshawa (look for another round window with a pattern in it, similar to Pare’s work in Rise of the Planet of the Apes), along with a wine cellar that turned into the Oshawa set’s basement well. They purchased an ominous-looking tree from a neighbor, screwed it into a larger base, and sat it next to the house to the delight of onlookers who turned it into the subject of several YouTube videos.

Pare’s crowning achievement was the water-filled sewer that we wandered through, which is where the aforementioned galoshes came into play. In a feat of both engineering and artistry, towering 30 feet over the ground, lay the toys of Pennywise’s victims (in the film, it’s even taller due to a bit of CG and an entirely separate tower of toys that sat nearby for specific shots). Pare said special attention was paid to water drainage for the sewer, as well as the water marks that he said echoed those of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The structure itself was imposing enough, but when you began to focus in on the details, it was unsettling to see the antique baby buggies nearly crushed underneath the weight of more modern rollerblades and See ‘N’ Says up above, indicating a gruesome chronology of death.


(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)

But you’ll have to pay attention.

IT opens everywhere on Friday, September 8.

Tag Cloud

slasher dramedy festivals ITV Pacific Islander psychological thriller BET 2019 Song of Ice and Fire Nominations Red Carpet Paramount Plus Kids & Family Film Festival stop motion 90s Baby Yoda quibi satire Creative Arts Emmys Netflix Christmas movies archives video on demand SundanceTV New York Comic Con debate BET Awards rom-coms Black History Month slashers rt archives Image Comics rotten movies we love Hallmark Christmas movies rt labs werewolf razzies Grammys football heist movie technology monster movies Vudu Logo Ovation target FXX children's TV HBO Go mcc TLC Marvel golden globes Tomatazos screenings Apple TV+ Disney streaming service docuseries San Diego Comic-Con Amazon Prime cartoon spy thriller crime drama comic book movie doctor who sequels Musicals sag awards biography President Photos CNN Acorn TV Super Bowl adenture hist Certified Fresh Lifetime Christmas movies YouTube Premium Tubi Esquire best Columbia Pictures The Academy Shondaland supernatural cancelled TV shows king kong ABC Cannes cats History south america Amazon Prime Video legend Trailer Election Opinion Sci-Fi Nat Geo ViacomCBS PaleyFest king arthur know your critic spanish language Alien TBS MSNBC movie Comic-Con@Home 2021 VICE SXSW GIFs Reality cooking police drama black chucky Year in Review classics YA game show Character Guide NYCC Nickelodeon Marathons Amazon fresh witnail 72 Emmy Awards Video Games TV Pet Sematary Emmy Nominations comic book movies aliens TruTV what to watch Marvel Studios spanish Spike boxoffice die hard E! Rocketman pirates of the caribbean ABC Signature 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards cancelled television series Winners mockumentary Disney romance sitcom latino TV Land book adaptation jamie lee curtis ESPN child's play feel good name the review Toys 2015 kong strong female leads Freeform El Rey ABC Family Walt Disney Pictures USA true crime canceled A24 kids Netflix award winner japan all-time BAFTA 2021 73rd Emmy Awards emmy awards Lucasfilm spain comic criterion Drama Cartoon Network action-comedy LGBTQ discovery YouTube cops RT21 Spectrum Originals streaming CMT WGN 20th Century Fox Exclusive Video gangster cancelled TV series Spring TV fast and furious Crunchyroll marvel comics medical drama dogs Pop TV transformers Crackle crossover X-Men cancelled dragons Apple saw 2016 ID dexter directors Adult Swim CBS All Access biopic toronto Premiere Dates Teen Sneak Peek venice blaxploitation Marvel Television Superheroe DC Universe Christmas revenge casting Rock Legendary Epix rt labs critics edition Pop high school Mary Tyler Moore scene in color Hear Us Out worst PlayStation 93rd Oscars ghosts Comedy Central FX Set visit basketball Martial Arts nbcuniversal joker TV One spinoff dark Black Mirror Captain marvel royal family worst movies free movies Quiz Disney Plus E3 renewed TV shows obituary Hulu adaptation Ghostbusters mutant American Society of Cinematographers television USA Network natural history comiccon space hispanic binge Food Network wonder woman hollywood Endgame Extras WarnerMedia Starz movies The Walking Dead Polls and Games TCA Awards Sundance Now IFC Films Heroines DC streaming service Travel Channel Chernobyl thriller Reality Competition TCA Winter 2020 HBO Max BBC The CW international parents TNT blockbusters book a nightmare on elm street 007 GLAAD 99% stoner Tumblr halloween tv popular FX on Hulu First Look comic books live action hispanic heritage month OWN DGA First Reviews BBC America spider-man Turner Classic Movies christmas movies CW Seed screen actors guild anthology Television Academy Showtime cars Women's History Month aapi Calendar 24 frames trailers Valentine's Day 2020 disaster unscripted Watching Series prank based on movie Country breaking bad See It Skip It FOX jurassic park 2017 docudrama crime thriller Fall TV Discovery Channel The Witch foreign CBS Britbox sequel Paramount posters NBA Musical ratings indie Star Wars TCM Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt finale Animation National Geographic vampires Ellie Kemper Film TV movies mission: impossible Trivia new york streaming movies Arrowverse Best and Worst SDCC concert critic resources Amazon Studios Cosplay The Arrangement independent Countdown Rocky Mary Poppins Returns scorecard blockbuster TCA harry potter Comic Book festival justice league Wes Anderson italian Emmys james bond Dark Horse Comics nature Awards Tour Sundance TV Schedule Summer miniseries Stephen King Thanksgiving documentaries toy story batman japanese Tarantino comics indiana jones Awards Trophy Talk Avengers Elton John Writers Guild of America romantic comedy politics cults tv talk universal monsters godzilla Biopics 1990s GoT nfl new zealand singing competition Tokyo Olympics Pixar BBC One YouTube Red Mindy Kaling halloween TIFF NBC new star wars movies Box Office teaser Fantasy Podcast versus Pride Month hidden camera diversity talk show 45 IFC TV renewals Music deadpool 21st Century Fox Mudbound cinemax AMC theme song war Infographic RT History Chilling Adventures of Sabrina sports Bravo Apple TV Plus boxing Classic Film VH1 robots green book Television Critics Association psycho Family kaiju Lifetime PBS richard e. Grant french telelvision rotten australia period drama Horror scary movies 71st Emmy Awards elevated horror game of thrones Warner Bros. zombies suspense crime news films Mystery adventure Brie Larson Hallmark Disney Channel critics Interview Sony Pictures dc laika dceu documentary animated Binge Guide Western comedies Holiday reboot science fiction 4/20 The Purge canceled TV shows historical drama superhero 2018 Funimation MCU Comics on TV young adult Turner zombie Mary poppins lord of the rings golden globe awards The Walt Disney Company VOD Rom-Com Oscars video composers APB remakes Fox News stand-up comedy twilight Superheroes Pirates zero dark thirty DC Comics LGBT Masterpiece TCA 2017 Peacock Universal Comedy anime Anna Paquin Winter TV social media Star Trek Academy Awards political drama reviews Action A&E DirecTV Sundance asian-american Holidays women MTV marvel cinematic universe OneApp franchise Paramount Network superman Broadway Syfy serial killer Lionsgate Disney+ Disney Plus HBO travel Fox Searchlight olympics facebook Shudder