It’s not enough to defeat the monster. You have to destroy it.
Otherwise, it comes back even angrier and more savage than before.
The actor who brought to life Pennywise the Dancing Clown says fans should expect an even more bloodthirsty incarnation of the shapeshifting evil in It: Chapter Two.
The trailer for the continuation of Stephen King‘s story of the kids (now grown-ups) who gather in Derry, Maine to confront the entity drops tomorrow, and the movie hits theaters on Sept. 6, but Bill Skarsgård gave EW an exclusive preview about what to expect last year after the first movie came out.
Pennywise has changed over the course of 27 years.
“He’s been doing this forever really, so he doesn’t change in the sense that you would look differently. He looks however he wants to look for any particular prey at the time, but I do think there’s a change,” the actor says.
Pennywise nourishes itself on fear, but The Losers Club made the creature taste that emotion for real when they brutalized it back into hiding.
“The arc of the first movie is that he, for the first time, experiences fear himself,” Skarsgård explains. “His last line — ‘Fear…’ — is him experiencing it for the first time, and he’s sort of shocked and perplexed and surprised. Like, what is this?”
Brooke Palmer/Warner Bros.; Inset: Randy Holmes via Getty Images
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It’s like the bully, or the abusive parent or spouse finally getting punched back. That may save the victim in the short run, but the next attack is likely to be even more horrific as punishment. That’s where Pennywise’s deranged mind is when he resurrects.
“He’s inflicted fear on his prey, and he’s very focused on fear, but he’s never experienced it himself,” Skarsgård says. “Now he’s experienced something that he has been inflicting on others and … there’s a shift leading into the second movie.”
It was once a game to Pennywise, but the being is no longer simply delighting in the suffering he causes. He wants revenge. “It fuels hatred and anger towards the kids, who will be adults in this one, so I think there might be an even more vicious Pennywise,” Skarsgård teases. “He’s really going after it.”
Skarsgård also thinks It: Chapter Two will feature an even more bizarre version of the monster, pushing the limits of its mindbending manipulations. Twisting into the darkest things imaginable.
“There’s a lot to explore,” Skarsgård says. “You can change him or make him whackier, but he’s not really bound to continuity in the sense that a normal character would be. We can explore his unpredictability now that we’ve established the character for the audience. We can still sort of shock them.”
The thing that shocked him the most? The nightmares that came after he finished playing the character the first time.
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“After we wrapped, I was in my childhood home in Sweden, sitting having coffee with my mom at our kitchen table, and realized, ‘Oh, holy sh—, I don’t have to deal with this relationship anymore!’ It was a very quick shift of just feeling better, like, ‘Oh my God, I’m relieved that I don’t have to deal with the darkness of the character.’ I likened it to an exorcism – him exiting my body and getting rid of the Pennywise toxins.”
But after letting the clown into his head, Skarsgård found it hard to push him out.
“I was home, done with the movie, and I started having very strange and vivid Pennywise dreams. Every night, he came and visited.”
Appropriately, Pennywise took on different forms in these visions.
“It was in the shape of either me dealing with him, sort of Pennywise as a separate entity of me, and then also me as Pennywise in circumstances that I didn’t appreciate,” Skarsgård says. “Like, I’m Pennywise and I’m really upset that I’m out in public and people are looking at me.”
The actor is aware there is an evil interpretation to these dreams (Stephen King wrote a whole book, The Dark Half, about a fictional creation that comes to life independently to terrorize its creator), but Skarsgård thinks it was just his psyche’s way of gradually de-Pennywise-ing itself.
“This was a process of letting go of the monster,” he says. “It was amazing. It’s a daunting but exciting thing to sort of revisit him again.”
When he came time to returning to the monster’s form, they were already in touch in the dreamscape.
“I’m good with it,” the actor says. But who knows if Pennywise will follow him home again?
It: Chapter Two opens Sept. 6.