One of the real highlights of 2017 horror movie It was Bill Skarsgård’s performance as Pennywise, the carnivorous clown that feasts on the people of Derry. Even though the actor had a fair amount of makeup on for his performance, a behind-the-scenes clip shows he was most of the way there already.
The video, cut from a documentary that comes with the home media release of the It monster movies, shows Skarsgård doing a screen test for the part. Running lines where he meets Georgie Densborough for the first time, he has the vibe down to a tee. The eyes, mannerisms, inflection in his voice, it’s all there, without a drop of white face paint.
“There was a strange balance that he brought,” Andy Muschietti, director of the It films, says. “A strange energy, because he is very child-like, with big eyes, this sort of childish, huge face, but he brings a darkness that is very unsettling. He can play this ambiguity, this dichotomy, very well. It comes very easy to him, he understands it.”
Skarsgård’s performance is one of the lynchpins of the two-part adaptation of It, which broadly splits the book into two halves: where the characters are young, and when they’re older. This is cover a 27-year timejump from Stephen King’s novel.
In the story, Pennywise is a monstrous creature that hunts the people of Derry for food every 27 years. At the start, young Georgie becomes one of his victims, causing Bill, Georgie’s brother, to look into what’s going on, and try and fight back.
The two films create an epic, sprawling story of innocence, pain, and what it feels like to be somehow chained to where you grew up. At the centre of its effectiveness is Skarsgård, who’s as menacing as you’d like a bizarre clown that literally feasts on people to be.
Skarsgård hasn’t quite left all the makeup behind either – he’s due to star in the upcoming reboot of The Crow.