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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Important, Non-Kingian Update

As my long-time readers know, I have been unemployed for the past three months. I have often complained that this did the opposite of freeing time up for me to read; it instead cut out the guaranteed two hours a day (roughly) that I could read uninterrupted. This being my commute (half-hour there, half-hour back) and my lunch hour.

However, I am now pleased to inform you all that I start my new job this coming Monday!

I gotta say, this economy sucks. Jobs exist, but the competition for them is crazy. Back in the mid-2000's, I would interview for the job, and usually from there would be hired, and then on the first day I would meet the twenty or so others who'd been hired with me. Now companies are only hiring one or two people at a time and you're lucky if you manage to be the one they choose. Some companies or recruiters would tell me how many people applied to a given job prior to me. It was always in the hundreds.

This process has been marked by, well, I'm not sure how many interviews. I didn't keep count. But inevitably I would hear that I was not the one selected. A couple of times I didn't feel the interview went so well, so I wasn't surprised to find I wasn't hired, but other times I walked out of an interview feeling like I'd nailed it, and was shocked to learn that I was being turned down. In some cases, if there was a second interview, I didn't even get invited back for the next round.

But the interview I had this past Thursday felt different than all the rest. It felt less like I was being interviewed and more like I was just having a friendly conversation with my boss. Don't misunderstand me; the standard interview questions were asked, but while talking with this guy (and yes, he is the one I'll be reporting to), I felt like he and I had similar attitudes and approaches to the work we do. By the end, we were laughing and joking together.

When I left, I was careful not to get too excited. I knew it was the best interview I'd had yet, but I didn't let myself think about that. I'd been burned too many times. I'd been told that I would hear from him early next week, so now I just had to play the waiting game. I was getting good at that game.

I had to pick my wife and daughter up from the mall, so getting home took longer than normal. I had my family in the car and was headed back to my house when my phone rang, and on the other end was the recruiter, asking how the interview went. I told her what I just told you, and she said "That's great, because I have some good news for you."

From the time the interview ended to the time I got the call I don't think more than an hour and a half had passed.

So, the good news is, I am indeed employed. From a blogging standpoint, that means I'll be glued to my book a minimum of two hours a day, meaning I can post faster, so we're all winners here.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Tower is Ever Outside My Reach

Folks, I gotta confess something.

I am on a great journey with this blog. It's taken me back to many familiar haunts and introduced me to new places as well. I've enjoyed each step of it, even the unpleasant ones.

And it's not over. Not by a long shot. I said at the beginning that I'll be reading all of Sai King's material, and I still aim to do so. This blog will not be over until Stephen King either retires or passes on.

But...and you could sense the "but" coming, couldn't you? Yeah, there's a "but". But...several things have changed since I began this blog. As I have said several times, my reading time has been cut nearly in half. Back when I was employed I had a guaranteed two hours (roughly) per day to read. Now I have to sneak it in when I can because I am home full time, and looking for work, going to interviews and helping my wife care for our 18-month-old daughter. As our little girl is now very mobile and incredibly active, much of this is simply playing with her or reading to her. And she's not a fan of Stephen King. She prefers the earlier works of Theodor Geisel and PD Eastman, with some Rev. W. Awdry thrown in for flavor.

But it's not just a lack of reading time. I'll be honest here; horror has never been my preferred genre. I like horror, even love it, but my first love is fantasy. It might not surprise you that I favor the darker fantasy works out there, including the currently-well-known George RR Martin and Joe Abercrombie, and some lesser known like Glen Cook and Steven Erikson. My book shelves are sagging under the weight of umpteen fantasy novels that I have yet to even crack open.

There is no question that I am devoted to finishing this blogging project, and by finish, I mean catch up to where King and Joe Hill are (yes, I still plan to include Joe Hill's works). But I hate to admit this; lately it's started to feel like a chore. I have started finding excuses not to read, and it's starting to take me far longer than it should even with my reduced reading schedule to finish a book. Even when I enjoy the book, such as It, which will always rank among my favorite King works, the feeling I get when I pick up the book and force myself to read is one of being burnt out.

This is probably for several reasons. One, I usually don't read the same author for this long. I'll read a series by one author, which generally contains three to seven books (there are some longer, but not many) and then I'll switch to someone else for a bit. But I have now read 23 and a half (roughly) books by the same man, all in rapid succession. I include in this the whole of Night Shift, Different Seasons and Skeleton Crew, and half of Nightmares and Dreamscapes. And as you've seen from my blog posts, it's been a bit of an up-and-down journey. Not everything King wrote was a winner, but I've read it all; the dizzying heights, the terrifying lows, the creamy middles. For 23 books straight.

Can you see why I might be feeling a bit burnt out?

Then there is the fact that I am desperately missing fantasy. I miss the armor, the leather, the swords, the lances, the troop formations, the world-weary soldiers, the devious wizards, the demonic invading hordes. I look at my book shelves and I long to read what's there. Sure, there's also the part of me that is eagerly looking forward to reading the King material I've never read before, and Gan knows there's a ton of that. But combined with my burnout feeling and my yearning for other worlds and times than these, I find myself at a bit of a crossroads.

I see this going two ways. One of them is that I continue to force myself to read King and King only, tiring myself out and getting slower by the day, eventually leading readers to ask if I'm giving up on this blog, or I can balance myself out.

What I think is a far more preferable option is that I start a second blog, one devoted to my fantasy reading. It doesn't have to be straight reviews or straight casting posts as I've done here; it can simply be my own thoughts as I read various fantasy series. Once I've read a full series (don't worry, the ones I read are usually short) and blog about them, I can come back to King and read him for a while, blogging all the way, and while that will mean that both blogs are updated slower, it will also mean that the likelihood of burnout is significantly smaller.

I know most of my readers probably aren't huge on fantasy. However, I often wonder if it's because you probably think, as many I've met do, that all fantasy is the same; Tolkien clones or RPG tie-ins full of fanciful magical battles and quests. My goal with my second blog is to show people that isn't true. I do hope that you'll give it a look. You just might find yourself interested in picking up a fantasy novel and reading along with me, as readers have done with this blog.

It's brand new, but if you're interested in following it, head over to There's only one post so far (the introduction), but more will come. I do hope to see you there!

Monday, April 4, 2016


Once more, we have arrived at one of the three beams holding up this blog. This is the last one, but then, not, because there's more Dark Tower posts coming.

In one very specific way, this story is one reason this blog exists. A while back, I was researching online for a possible blog post about the top ten essential King books, and I came upon The Truth Inside the Lie and Bryant Burnette's ranking of all King's books in his preferred order. I kinda got hooked on his blog and got involved in a discussion about who should play Pennywise the Dancing Clown in an It remake that was being planned then but appears to have fallen apart.

This book is, much like The Stand and The Dark Tower series, one of the more "near and dear" works of Stephen King to my heart. It's one of the first books of his I read, and the one I've read through the most often. I was surprised at how little I'd forgotten during this trip through it.

Non-CR's likely think of this one as "the evil clown story". It's so much more than that, naturally. Yes, the nameless monster that serves as this book's antagonist uses the form of an evil clown to both lure and frighten (often both at the same time), but that's far from the only form It takes, nor is it anywhere near as frightening as the implications of It's true form and how long It's been around.

What really prompted the discussion I mentioned above, though, is that one of the replies made the declaration that Tim Curry, who played Pennywise in the 1990 mini-series, is "irreplaceable". And yes, I'm gonna talk about the mini-series a lot in this post, because unlike some other King movies, this one I've actually seen multiple times and it's one of the better known King adaptations.

Unlike The Running Man, Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption, most viewers know this mini-series was based on a book, and unlike The Shining or The Dead Zone, they acknowledge that the book is better. But still, this mini-series is one of the more talked-about adaptations of King's works, and it's one that seems to still have its fans who remember it as one of the scariest things they'd ever seen.

There are also plenty of people who realize how cheesy and unintentionally funny the film was, but even these people seem to hold one caveat: Tim Curry as Pennywise/It. They still talk about how damn scary he was and how even to this day they have nightmares about Tim Curry coming to get them.

Ever feel like you're an X in a world of O's?

I just re-watched the mini-series recently in order to refresh my memory. I didn't remember Tim Curry being scary at all, and this latest re-watch confirmed it: Curry inspired far more unplanned laughs than scares. On paper, Curry seems like the perfect guy for the job. He has a naturally creepy face and seems to always play sinister people, and play them well. Here, I hardly recognized him. Seriously, if I didn't know better and you told me it was, say, Harvey Keitel, I'd likely have believed you. He's not really even wearing that much make-up, but I still can't see old Creepy Curry in Pennywise's face at all. He's also putting on this weird almost southern accent that rids him of any remaining creep factor.

There's not a piece of scenery left that he hasn't chewed all to hell by the time this thing is done. He's silly. He's also hampered by poor visual effects, and at one point you even see him duck his head out of frame so he can put in his scary monster teeth. Irreplaceable? Hell, he's in dire need of replacement. In fact, it won't be a matter of replacing him, just finding an actor who can do It justice.

I'm not sure that Will Poulter, the actor who was going to play Pennywise back when Cary Fukunaga was on board, is that guy. But we'll get to casting in a bit.

I think it's a shame that It is primarily remembered for the "evil clown". What really drew me in were the characters and setting. This is the novel that really introduces Derry, Maine, a setting King will return to frequently. Up until now his default setting was Castle Rock. Castle Rock is home to killer cops, killer dogs and white trash parents. Derry is the home of horror.

In fact, that last sentence is very literal. It's implied that Derry is in fact a haunted patch of land, and that weird, unexplained events have been happening since the first settlers got there. Just how long has It been there? Did It invade our territory or did we invade Its?

Every 26 or 27 years (every 30 years in the mini-series, because it's got to be round numbers in Hollywood, where viewers are assumed to be morons who would be thrown off by irregular patterns), the nameless abomination rises and feeds. It mostly feeds on children, and during one such feeding, in 1956, It murders a young boy named George Denbrough.

Bill, George's big brother, and six of his friends, later bond over the two things they have in common; they're all social outcasts and they've all had encounters with It and survived. Bill is called "Stuttering Bill" because, you guessed it, he's blind. Ben Hanscom is smart but quite overweight. Richie Tozier hides his insecurities with humor and attempts at funny voices. Eddie Kaspbrack is small for his age and babied by his overprotective mother, who is convinced that he's asthmatic and fragile. Beverly Marsh is from the wrong side of the tracks and is regularly beaten by her drunken father (and it's implied that he's working himself up to begin sexually abusing her as well). Stan Uris and Mike Hanlon's issues stem more from their racial background; Stan is Jewish and Mike is black in a time when open racism was still very prevalent.

Guided by a force they don't understand and only barely sense, the seven of them decide that it's up to them to take on and destroy It. This story is pretty much the poster child for the idea that adults are useless, as one of the ways It keeps successfully coming back to kill children is Its ability to ramp up adults' desire to ignore anything they can't explain. The mini-series tries to show us this, but ultimately it just makes our heroes seem quick to jump to conclusions about why adults in town don't seem willing to help.

While it seems like the losers' club's efforts have worked, they promise to come back to Derry if It returns for the next cycle. It does, and the kids, now 38 years old and scattered across the country, except for Mike, who purposefully stayed home and kept watch, each receive a phone call; It has returned, and it's time to make good on their promise.

The story skips around in time a lot, and I don't just mean hopping from 1985 back to 1958. It plays around with the order of events from the summer of '58, often mentioning events before we read about them, then later, sometimes much later, showing us the event as it happens. This is less confusing than it sounds, and somehow sucked me into the story even more.

Probably half the story, give or take, is set in the modern age as our heroes reconvene as adults and the other half takes place when they're 11-year-olds in the late 50's. I think I enjoyed the scenes from the the 50's more than I did the "present day" (read: thirty years ago) scenes, at least in the book. I recall enjoying the 50's scenes more in the movie, as well, but this last time I realized just how bad all the child actors are. They're really bad, especially when they're called upon to play up a big emotion. The adults, however, aren't especially good, either. They're played by a bunch of sitcom stars and a ponytail that looks like Richard Thomas. I don't have a problem with sitcom actors, but in a way that I've never experienced before, none of them became the characters in my eyes. This was especially true of John Ritter, who was just never Ben Hanscom to me.

Ever see a movie and really like it, then several years later see a play based on it? It's never really the same, and this is definitely the case here, even though these seven actors are the only ones who have ever played these characters. They're not all bad, really. Richard Thomas is a fine Stuttering Bill. But when he turns around, there's that ponytail again, and that just feels so wrong. Tim Reid, who to me will always be Venus Flytrap from WKRP in Cincinnati and no one else, did a fine job as Mike Hanlon, for that matter. Dennis Christopher was just sorta okay as Eddie, but Harry Anderson was genuinely awful as Richie. More on all these guys later. What really felt weird watching it this time around was how nearly all of them (Thomas and O'Toole being the exceptions) just looked too old to be 40. Yeah, even Dennis Christopher, who was only 34 at the time. The weirdest part is that only Tim Reid was genuinely older than his character was supposed to be by any real margin (he was 45 playing 40), but really, watch it again. Do Harry Anderson, John Ritter or Richard Masur look like they're in their late 30's, which they were, or verging on 50?

Let me tell you, the weirdest part of the casting process this time was realizing that in order to get the ages right, this time I had to choose actors that were around my age. Regular commenter Aaron talked about that in response to my post on Thinner, but nowhere has that hit home more than here, for some reason. I've been casting books I read for years now, and the first time I read this in full, I cast Nicolas Cage as Bill, Julianne Moore as Beverly, Bill Paxton as Ben, Blair Underwood as Mike, Hank Azaria as Richie and Michael J. Fox as Eddie. When you think about the fact that the characters are supposed to be 38 years old, that tells you how long ago I did that casting. Now I found myself considering and even casting actors that are in several cases younger than me, and for some reason, this really felt odd. Maybe it's because of how close I have always felt to this book. The first time I read this book, I resonated more with the Losers' Club when they were eleven. Now those parts are pure nostalgia, and the realities of being a grown man dangerously close to 40 got a bit too real.

Now we're gonna get to the casting, and before I start, I want to say that I didn't always follow the book's descriptions of every character to the letter. Two characters are described as going bald, and I could not find any actors of both appropriate age, acting skill and overall look that were losing their hair. Also, one minor character is described as having a beer gut, and my actor does not have one. I trust you'll see as we go that this really doesn't matter. Also, most of the actors playing the adult Losers are not 38 yet and the ones that are all look younger. This, again, is on purpose because I want them to remain age appropriate for several years. As always, I won't be casting the child characters, and in this case it's especially important to cast them based on how much they resemble the adult actors I'm choosing, so I'll leave that to a child casting director. All I ask is that they have real talent.

As far as format, there's really only two ways this can be done, as a a series of three films (not my preferred method at all) or as an 8- to 10-part mini-series akin to what 11/22/63 has gotten. I'd strongly prefer that option as it will help us get in as much of the town's and characters' histories (and yes, they are important) as possible. The book is over 1100 pages, and I'm hard pressed to think of a part I'd want cut in this adaptation. The mini-series took a hacksaw to the story, paring it down to three hours. Three. Hours. This book. Just one of many reasons why I can't stand the mini-series.

Also, just to answer the question of to modernize or not to modernize, I'm heavily in favor of not modernizing. So much of what happens is tied to the attitudes of the late 50's and would not at all work in the 80's, which is when it would have to be set if we modernized. The mini-series moves up the date to 1960 so that it can be exactly thirty years prior to 1990, the year it aired and the year the modern day scenes were set. But that wasn't a huge change. Moving the action to 1988 or 89 absolutely would be.

I'm starting with the Losers' club. We'll work our way up to Pennywise Itself because I'm a cruel bastard and I want to keep you in suspense as long as possible and let's face it, you just scrolled down the list looking for him, didn't you? Come on back up, I'll wait. No, seriously, I want to spend some time on the protagonists because I have this feeling that most people will read about who's playing Pennywise and skip the rest. The Losers' Club is the true heart of this story, and they're coming first.

William "Stuttering Bill" Denbrough is fairly close to the lead in this tale; he's the de facto leader of the losers and he's the Stephen King stand-in, being that he's a horror writer whose career seems, in many cases, to mirror King's. Bill isn't King, however, and it's clear that King has a lot more respect for Bill than he does for himself, as Bill is pretty much the ultimate good guy, the guy you can count on, the true soul. He's certainly the character I appreciated the most (Ben being a close second) and the others in the group naturally defer to him. Despite that, Bill is something of a nerd, bookish, bespectacled and, in the novel anyway, balding. Richard Thomas played him in the movie, and carried his John-Boy Walton likeability factor with him. It worked, mostly. He was one of the few casting choices I was more or less okay with. I still wonder what he was thinking with the ponytail, which seemed out of character and I found it very distracting. Jonathan Brandis played the young Bill, and while I appreciated that they put a matching mole on his face so as to be more convincing that he'd grow up to be Richard Thomas, the simple fact is that he had yet to develop as an actor. It's genuinely cringe-worthy to see him obviously focusing on getting the stutter right and shouting "You killed my brother, you bastard!" in a tone of voice that suggests Pennywise ate the last of the breakfast serial. As I said, a while back I picked Nic Cage for this role (this was well before he got a reputation for ludicrous overacting) and later I wondered about Anthony Edwards, who played the perfect "good guy" on ER, but both are far too old now, and I went with someone that might be a tad unconventional. Topher Grace is a very likeable actor who can easily be believed as just a very good guy, plus he's got red hair like Bill and in the past he's played characters who've stammered a lot, so I know he could pull off Bill's stutter when it returns years after he apparently beat it. And he may not look it, but he was born in 1978, which means he'll be 38 before this year is over.
Mike Hanlon is another important character, an armchair historian who, even as a kid, is very interested in the history of the town and begins to notice the patterns of destruction. As a young black kid, however, he is automatically an outcast, and one of the favorite targets of the local bullies. I admit I had a harder time with this one because Mike is supposed to look bookish, like a teacher, and most of the black male actors around the right age look more like action heroes. Even Tim Reid was more conventionally handsome than Mike describes himself in the book, and heck, he was the ultimate cool guy back in the 70's. I decided Anthony Mackie was a well-rounded actor who could bring some natural gravitas to the character, and is also totally believable as an armchair historian who works in the library.
Ben Hanscom was harder to cast because his defining characteristic as a child is his obesity, while as an adult he's lost all his weight and turned into a handsome young man and successful architect. The mini-series got him wrong twice. The child version of the character is mildly stocky at best; if anything he looks like a bulky wrestler or football player. The bullies keep talking about his gut, but he doesn't actually have a gut. Even the baggy clothes they put the kid in fail to convince us that he's anything more than thick of frame. As an adult, he's played by John Ritter, and heaven help me, I can't see him as anything other than John Ritter. He simply never became Ben to me. Even the others were more convincing. Casting him presented a bit of a problem. Initially, I chose Jason Segel, but since I've already used him in Firestarter, he was off the table. I considered Mark Duplass, a tall, handsome actor who still made me feel sorry for him in Safety Not Guaranteed, making me think he'd kill as Ben, but Ben is described as looking much younger than he is, and Duplass is 39 and looks every year of it. Ultimately I chose Charlie Cox of Daredevil because he's only 34 but can pass for older.
For Eddie Kaspbrack, it was a no-brainer. I knew exactly who should play this part. Eddie is a small, wimpy guy who grew up with the queen of overprotective mothers, taking a placebo for asthma that he doesn't even have, and as an adult turning into a full-fledged hypochondriac. Dennis Christopher played him in the mini-series, and had me convinced throughout my first time watching it that he was Malcolm Gets of Caroline in the City fame, playing him as a fairly stereotypical nebbishy nerd. And I could be wrong, but I think Eddie is supposed to be a deeply closeted man, never fully secure in who he is and unwilling to admit it even as an adult, which is why his marriage to a woman frighteningly like his mother seems so passionless, and why, when he's stalked by It, It takes the form of a syphilitic hobo offering him a blow job. Then there's his overly defensive reaction when it's mentioned that all seven Losers have no children. In the mini-series, they change his character to still be living with his mother, unmarried, as an adult, and have him later confess to being a virgin, because he could never have sex with someone he doesn't love, and he's never loved anyone "except all of you." The scene plays like a man coming out while still not daring to say the words. All this comes together to suggest Elijah Wood, who is 35 but looks younger, small for a grown man, weak-looking and, let's face it, kind of effeminate. He also has the "wide, staring eyes" that Eddie is described as having.
Richie Tozier (how do you pronounce that? In the mini-series they say "TOE-zher", but I think it's supposed to be kinda French, Toe-ZHAY) is a bit of an odd man out among the losers, in that he's really not a loser. He's just a guy with an odd sense of humor and a penchant for impressions (it's a running gag that as a kid his impressions never sound right but as an adult they're so perfect that over the phone people think another person just jumped on the line) and thick glasses that get him teased at school. But when it comes to teasing, he gives as good as he gets. It's only when fists come out that he doesn't measure up. As I said, the first time I read this I pictured Hank Azaria, and later thought Seth McFarlane could play him, but alas, he's a bit too old now. Harry Anderson played the adult version of Richie in the mini-series, while Seth Green, of all people, played him as a kid. Green was actually pretty good, even if he looked and sounded much older than 11, but Anderson was truly terrible, playing Richie like a Jay Leno-style talk show host and managing to be about as funny as...well, as Jay Leno. Part of the problem is that Richie is an impressionist, not a stand-up comic, so why did they hire a comic and sitcom star instead of, say, Phil Hartman? Hartman may be gone, but we've still got Bill Hader, who I have always liked and would love to see him get more work. And yes, I considered casting Seth Green, but Green as an adult just doesn't feel like Richie to me.
Then there's Beverly Rogan nee Marsh. I confess, I was a bit stuck with her. Honestly, I'm kinda conflicted about her character. I'd better address the elephant in the room; Beverly's issue is that her father is physically abusive and damn near obsessed with the idea that Beverly is catting about town whenever he's not paying attention. Yeah, at 11 he's worried that she's a slut. It's implied pretty heavily that this stems in large part from his own inappropriate feelings for her that he's very close to acting on (at one point he even demands to be allowed to examine her to make sure she still has her hymen). But meanwhile, Beverly might not be screwing the entire male population of her school, but all her friends are guys, and she does flirt with pretty much all of them. And then there's...the scene. If you've read the book, you know the one I'm talking about. If you haven't, maybe it's better that I not talk about it. Suffice it to say that Beverly grows up to marry a physically abusive man, and her character arc is her gradually gaining the strength to never let herself be abused again. That's all we need to see, and the scene that I'm deliberately not talking about was not in the mini-series, nor even alluded to, and that's one of the few cuts it made that I firmly agree with. Annette O'Toole played adult Bev, and while she got the weak, cringing aspects of Bev down cold, she, like John Ritter, never felt like Bev to me at all. It didn't help that this version of Bev was a brunette instead of a fiery redhead, which makes it odd that they keep in Ben's poem about her, which talks about her hair being "winter fire, January embers". If they're not gonna keep her a redhead, why keep the poem about her beautiful red hair? Anyway, after rejecting Rose Leslie for being too young and Scarlett Johanssen for being too famous (and too young), and finally Alicia Witt for being too old, I decided on Bryce Dallas Howard.
The final loser is Stan Uris, a Jewish boy who grows up to be a successful accountant, and it's through his scenes that we begin to suspect the adult Losers' Club is cursed. Stan's major issue is that he has a hard time accepting that It is actually real, even when confronted with obviously supernatural happenings. As an adult, the concept of returning to Derry is too much for him to face. His part will be small, but memorable. The mini-series had him played by Richard Masur and for whatever weird reason decided to add in the idea that Stan had some sort of death wish and longed to be killed by It. This is not in the book at all, but I felt like he needed to be cast. Jewish actors of appropriate age are actually plentiful, but I picked Adam Brody.
And now, the moment you've all been waiting for, except that I know you scrolled down and read this first; the casting of the title character Itself, aka Pennywise the Dancing Clown, aka Bob Grey, aka the Mummy, aka the leper, aka the werewolf, aka the giant bird, etc. It has many forms, and while the clown is the most prevalent, I wanted an actor who can disappear into the make-up and make each form It takes be distinct and frightening. But before I get to casting him, let's talk about how Pennywise should be played. He should be the Joker. That's pretty much what's called for; Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker. Ledger himself is not available, of course, nor would I cast him if he was, because I wouldn't want the parallels to be that obvious. Pennywise always seems morbidly amused by whatever's going on, and the parts where he actually talks to the kids, he's actually kind of understated, muted, not in-your-face yelling, the way Tim Curry played him. My band teacher once told us what he really means by playing with "intensity". He asked us what's more intense, then singled out a student and yelled and screamed at her for a few seconds. He asked us if that was intense, then leaned down close to the same student, his eyes wide and angry, and very softly said "If...I...ever...have to talk to you about this again..." We all agreed that the second approach was intense. The first was just loud. Tim Curry was loud. The new guy needs to be intense. There's a lot of names I've seen tossed around. Way back in the day I thought Robin Williams could do it. But going for a comedian is the wrong path, because they'll all be tempted to take it over the top. So how about an actor known for "ink suit" work, which is to say one of the growing number of actors known for their mo-cap or heavily made-up work. Your basic Alan Tudyk, your basic Andy Serkis, your basic Doug Jones. Tudyk I discounted because I think he probably would go for zany instead of intense, but I waffled between Serkis and Jones for a bit. Serkis we know can do creepy, we know can do a variety of voices, and even without make-up he's a pretty scary-looking guy. But something felt wrong about casting him. Serkis is just so well-known for being Gollum that I worried about there being constant comparisons to Pennywise and Gollum. But I've had my eye on Doug Jones for a while. He doesn't have a scary face, but he is very odd-looking, like an alien or something. If you think he's too cuddly and doesn't know how to be creepy, all I can say is watch him in Pan's Labyrinth, where he plays both the title character and the sinister Grey Man, or his performance as one of the Gentlemen in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Hush", or as the Ice Cream Man in Legion, or as Slenderman himself in Always Watching. Oh yes, he can play creepy. At 6'3" he'll tower over the child actors, and his thin frame looks skeletal and otherworldly. He also can do just about any voice you ask him to do, and he's a contortionist to boot. Doug Jones will make a truly terrifying It.
Now for some of the minor roles. I've mentioned Henry Bowers before, but I haven't fleshed him out. Bowers is Derry's local bully, a truly psychotic kid who even scares his henchmen. He's probably one of the earliest examples of King's bully trope; that is, bullies with literally zero redeeming qualities who are fully capable of murder. Even Ace Merrill would be afraid of this guy. He's described as very large, with short red hair that he wears in a flattop. As ever, I didn't cast the child version of this character, nor did I cast Victor Criss, Belch Huggins or Patrick Hockstetter, some of the kids that follow him around (I was loathe to not cast Patrick, a truly creepy character who will live in your memory, but he's only 12). Henry is the only one we meet as an adult, when It decides to use him to hurt the Losers. He's definitely older than the Losers, and his hair has tuned white after his childhood encounter with It, but for some reason the mini-series decided he should look like Matlock. He should still be large and powerful-looking, just with dyed white hair. Now, before I started reading, I had picked Charles Halford for the role, with Ryan Hurst as a possible backup. Both men are physically large enough, but when I read the description of red-haired, flattopped Henry, I knew who his adult version would look like: Michael Cudlitz of The Walking Dead fame. He's 51 but could easily pass for a hard-living 43-year old.
Eddie's mother is a smaller role, but incredibly memorable thanks to her hilarious overreactions to just about everything. This role really is comic relief and perfect for a comedienne. She's also described as being very overweight, and after I beat down the thought of Melissa McCarthy in the role (too famous), I went with Robin Thorsen of The Guild fame, who truly is overweight and the right age.
Bill's wife, Audra Phillips, is an actress described as five years his elder, with a British accent from years of living across the pond, rather than being natural. For whatever reason, the image of Natascha McElhone got into my head and wouldn't leave, but I kept thinking she was too old. However, she's only 44, which is perfectly within the right range to play Audra.
Then there's Bev's husband, Tom Rogan. This is one of the chief characters I've cast who won't really resemble his novel description. Tom is a physically abusive man, described in the novel as having a beer gut that he did not have when he and Bev met. I decided the beer gut wasn't necessary, because the man I've cast is otherwise perfect. Joel McHale might be a comedian, but he's fully capable of going serious and he has this ability to look very angry, with wide, glaring eyes and a jaw set that makes me think he's about to murder his co-stars. Could he play a physically abusive jerk of a husband? Oh, yes.
I won't be casting any of the other spouses, by the way, because none of the others play a major role in the story. But I will cast Beverly's dad, because much like Eddie's mom he's a pretty memorable character, just for very different reasons. I've already talked a lot about him, and don't really need to say more, except that he reminded me of the abusive, incestuous Calvin from True Blood, played by Gregory Sporleder. There's no reason Sporleder can't play Mr. Marsh.
And that's the last role large enough to cast. So there It is, a cast I've been working on for months if not years, finally set down in print for the world to see. Much like my Dark Tower and The Stand posts, this one was a long time in coming and I'm really glad I've gotten this far.

And now to admit something: I'm not actually finished reading it. I felt comfortable casting it because I remember it so well, but I am going to finish it before moving on to the next one, which is thankfully much shorter. That said, I know exactly what post is coming next.

Next up: Eyes of the Dragon!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Creepshow 4

I've been thinking back to my earlier refusal to do anthology films, and I keep wondering why I am so against it. After all, they've been hits in the past, and they're starting to make a comeback (see the V/H/S movies), and some of King's better stories are his shorter ones.

I have wondered for years why King and George A. Romero never did another Creepshow film after the second one. Yes, there was a third one, but it had nothing to do with King or Romero, and was considered by all to be an utter waste of time. But there's no reason the two masters can't reclaim the title and put it to good use.

There are so many great Stephen King short stories out there, so narrowing them down to just four was kinda hard. But I chose the ones I did because one of the hallmarks of the Creepshow movies is that they focus on stories that aren't as well known (often not even collected) and they tend toward the cheese as much as genuine scares. So, here are the stories I've picked for Creepshow 4, and the lead actor for each I trust you will agree I chose well.

Here There Be Tygers
This fascinating story touches on two basic fears I think we've all had over the years; the fear of being embarrassed by a teacher because she forces you to say the word "bathroom" when you'd prefer to say "basement" and the fear of walking into the bathroom and finding a tiger in there. I can't tell you how many times I've been afraid of that. I mean, we all call the bathroom "the basement", right? It's just ingrained in us at this point. I have two basements in my house. I call the sub-ground room the "pool". Don't you? As for the little boy in the story, I decided to break my rule and cast a preteen actor, but just so I can avoid the trap of the actor aging out of the role in just a couple of years, I cast infant actors Dashiell and Fox Messitt of Fuller House fame, whom I am sure are headed for Olson-Twins style careers in their future.
As for the tiger, I considered first casting the EssoTiger but I haven't seen him around lately and considering he's been in those commercials since I was a kid, there's a possibility that he's dead. So I chose a different tiger as well; one that is known for creepily hanging around with kids as they eat breakfast and encouraging them into dangerous challenges even when they'd rather not participate.

King's wickedly funny take on the old west story is crying out to be filmed. It isn't scary, but it definitely fits the tone of these movies. Probably the best way to really sell the satirical tone of the story is to cast someone who is the antithesis of an old west hero, so I went with Danny DeVito.

The Blue Air Compressor
I would genuinely love to see this film go full meta, including this story of a man so grossed out by a fat woman that he blows her up with an air compressor. The beauty of this story is that King stops in the middle to introduce himself and talk about the sexual nature of his hero's crime. King would, naturally, play himself, and I think Melissa McCarthy could play the fat old lady. She wouldn't even need a latex suit.
Finally, no good Creepshow film doesn't have a solid framing device. In this case, I think we could open on a sunny, peaceful neighborhood with a cheerful-looking milk truck making its rounds, driving from house to house as each story gets told. Of course, this is no ordinary milk truck. This is the vehicle of the dreaded MILK MAN, the diabolical Spike Milligan himself! And he would be played by...Scott "Carrot Top" Thompson. I mean, come on, is there a creepier guy around?
So, King, Romero, you've seen the potential for a fourth movie, I say get on it.

And with that, I wish you all a fine, happy April the First.