As a horror fan, I had the incredible privilege of being part of a roundtable conversation with the protagonist of the new film IT, Bill Skarsgård (Pennywise) and its director, Andy Muschietti.

Both talents described the fascinating process of crafting a new version of Stephen King’s shapeshifter.

On choosing Bill to play Pennywise

Andy Muschietti: I picked him because I saw his audition and it blew my mind. I saw a tape that he did before we talked about the character, and without any direction, and he brought something that I was looking for: the madness and unpredictability of someone that is disguising himself as a bait, basically. That balance of sweetness and darkness is already wired in Bill, and his first reading already contained that. We started to shape that and there were hours and hours of exploration. It didn’t take him a lot to convince me.

On what Bill wanted to do, at the beginning, with Pennywise

Bill Skarsgård: Honestly, I don’t know. It feels like a lifetime ago, and thousands of hours away. What I remember is that I was really excited about auditioning, like all other actors in LA. There was so much room for creativity. I never had a role like this! It was the stormdrain scene, and I spent three days playing around with voices and facial expressions, trying to figure out something that was unique to me and that I could enhance. So I did it and Andy and Barbara responded to it and then we started a process. After I got the job I started the research, and Andy an I really bonded as people and had an amazing collaboration throughout the whole thing.

On the look of Pennywise

Andy Muschietti: I did a sketch, very early on, and it looks very close to the final incarnation. It doesn’t have the smile, but besides that, it looks like a baby-looking, wall-eyed, horrifying monster. There were references to animal anatomies thrown in, but not in a classical way. It never looks consistent, but always weird and surrealistic.

On crafting the physicality of Pennywise

Bill Skarsgård: Something that I discussed with Andy is that, what really scares me, is the unpredic…TABILITY! [He raises his voice suddenly. Everybody gasps and then laughs].

Andy Muschietti: It works everytime. It never gets old!

Bill Skarsgård: But it is true. If you have explosiveness and quick changes, it is something very unsettling. And also, that tension of a balloon that is about to burst. So I wanted to incorporate that, but also the goofy weirdness in my physicality.

Andy Muschietti: He brought something else. In the book it’s mentioned this other dimension, this macroverse. I didn’t want to include it here because I didn’t want to make a fantasy, but rather concentrate on these kids’ journey, their magic versus the horrors of growing up, incarnated in this monster. The way that Bill incorporated the other side into his performance is fantastic.

On Bill meeting the kids on set as Pennywise

Bill Skarsgård: Andy had the idea of keeping me away from the kids. They had their excursion trips to build their comradery, and this was the opposite. My first day of shooting I had this very intense scene with Jack [Dylan Grazer], and during the scene he screamed and looked very frightened. When they cut I asked him “Are you alright?” and he goes “I fucking love what you are doing, man!” [Laughs]

On Pennywise mocking a kid

Bill Skarsgård: That wasn’t scripted. When we were working on the character I kept thinking “What defines real evil?” Mocking a crying child, to me, is the most horrific thing that you can do. He really hates this kid that he is about to kill. That was horrifying so I wanted to amplify it so the audience feels the same way.

IT will be released in theaters on Friday September 8.


In the Town of Derry, the local kids are disappearing one by one, leaving behind torn body parts/remains. In a place known as ‘The Barrens’, a group of seven kids are united by their horrifying and strange encounters with a clown called Pennywise.