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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!


  1. For being so damn long, this was a surprisingly quick read. It helps to have only 10-12 adult roles to cast, as compared to The Stand, which I think took me an hour just to read your casting post.

    Elijah Wood is a home run pick for Eddie. I found that to be an incredibly hard role to find the right actor for. I actually considered Seth Green for that role, since he's a little guy and I thought it would be interesting to have someone come full circle. It's an intriguing idea that Eddie might be a closeted homosexual. I'm now three-quarters done and that thought never occurred to me. I just thought of it as standard mommy issues from being smothered. I'm glad you didn't give in to the Melissa McCarthy idea. She seems to be the knee-jerk choice for any fat female role, which is insulting enough, but beyond that, she's become an A-lister and lost a significant amount of weight, too. I think she could (and should) pull off some impressive dramatic performances, but at this point, there could also be the unintended consequence of making people laugh as an overbearing mother in a role that really isn't meant to do that.

    Another great call is Joel McHale. I think he could definitely go dark. It's a little unclear to me which way to go with the look of Tom, since he and Beverly both have a definite white-trash background, but they're supposedly pretty successful financially.

    Anthony Mackie will probably do for Mike Hanlon, since as you say, there's not a lot of obvious candidates, and very few mainstream roles for bookish black men. I'd considered Chiwetel Ejiofor, because of his age and intelligence, and Donald Glover, but I believe you already used him. As Beverly's dad, I pictured Michael Rooker, who effortlessly plays all kinds of unsavory types, and nothing else that I'm aware of, come to think of it.

    I haven't watched the last couple of years of The Walking Dead, and never watched The OC, but they seem like good picks for adults Henry and Stan. I didn't realize that Henry was supposed to be 43. I know it says he got held back a couple of times. Being five years older than the Losers changes things. I agree that it's a shame not to be able to cast Patrick. Whatever kid gets that role is going to have a hard time ever getting cast as a non-creep.

    I haven't yet watched Daredevil, but Cox sounds good enough for Ben. I agree that Segel could be a great Ben, almost to the point of wanting to change the rules, but I'll stick to them. Bill Hader is probably as good a choice as any for Richie. I kept trying to think who has some of the over-the-top Jim Carrey-type qualities in the age range we need, and somehow I've seen a ton of movies with Will Forte and Kristen Wiig from that era of SNL, but not a lot of Hader's. I've seen a lot of comments about how much you hate King as a comedy writer, but I sense that Richie's mostly what King intended him to be, frequently annoying even to his friends. I know you'll probably say that some of his humor is supposed to work too, and they probably could punch it up so he's not someone every person wants to beat within an inch of his life, but I think being right on the edge of "do we really want to hang out with this kid?" is an essential part of the character.

    1. I honestly thought there'd be a lot of disagreement with Wood as Eddie. People don't realize how old he is now, plus people still think of him as Frodo. I'm glad that this pick is going over well.

      Michael Rooker would kill it as Bev's dad, but I don't want to waste him in a part that small. I did use Donald Glover, despite also considering him for this part. Ultimately he's just too baby-faced. Mike is supposed to look his age. I do like the idea of Chiwetel Ejiofer (for that matter, David Oyelowo would work) but he might be on the cusp of being too big for the part. I tried to stay away from A-listers for the most part because this will likely end up on TV. If Mike was the unquestionable lead, sure, but with an ensemble cast like this one, I opted for smaller names. Mackie is on the rise, for sure, but he's never headlined a movie, much less one that got him an Oscar nod.

      I actually don't know how old Henry Bowers is supposed to be. I said 43 because it felt like Bowers was the kind of guy who'd done 6th grade a few times already. He also is much larger than all the Losers, at least in the book, and even the movie has him and the other bullies being taller and having deeper voices than the Losers so the implication is that he's older. How much older I don't know.

      Bill Hader I admit to mostly being familiar with from SNL. I've seen several movies with him in it (Tropic Thunder, The To-Do List, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) but I'm honestly kinda glad he's not an A-lister yet so I can still use him here.

    2. I actually think Wood might be the best pick of the bunch. Do you already have another role in mind for Rooker? He's not really a leading man, and I guess it is a fairly small role, but it's a memorable one.

      I don't know if King ever spells it out for us, but I think Henry is just a year older than the Losers. The first thing it says about him is that he's not with his friends in the sixth grade because he was held back the year before, and in danger of having it happen again because of Ben's refusal to let him cheat off his paper. It's a young age to be such a complete bastard, but it sure felt like there were a handful of those kids in junior high. Between being a year or two older, an early bloomer puberty-wise, and an incredibly mean son of a bitch, that's enough to make him pretty compelling as a villain. Being in sixth grade at 16 doesn't seem realistic. The IMDB says he's 14, but that's in the miniseries, which I don't believe anyone wants to use as a guide.

    3. Not so much a role in mind for him, just if I'm gonna use him, I want it to be a fairly prominent supporting role.

      You're likely right about Henry. I still like Cudlitz in the role, though.


    Okay, now down to the issues and disagreements. I just find something very off-putting about the idea of Bryce Dallas Howard as Beverly. I hate to say it, because she's a good actress and seemingly a very nice person, and she is a rather attractive redhead. I don't know if I can quite put my finger on it, but I think at least part of it is that I can't see her as a capable ass-kicker. Beverly has a dual personality where she's let men abuse her, but when she's pushed to her limit, or fucked with at the wrong time, she's capable of unleashing some major damage. I mostly enjoyed Jurassic World, but about lost it when she gained superhero powers at the end. My choice was Alicia Witt, who I know is in her forties now, but I don't think she's unbelievable for a 38-year-old. All things being equal, I would have loved to use Amy Adams, who I believe is a fantastic actress as well as being the complete knockout the book describes Beverly as, but she's tiny and even less imposing than Howard, and Beverly's supposed to be tall and leggy. Laura Prepon has the physical requirements, but I've never seen her outside of That 70's Show and don't know if she's considered a good actress.

    Topher Grace: maybe... it's certainly a better role for him than freaking Venom. I never really considered him a redhead, but that's always subject to change in Hollywood. He's one of those that it almost depends on the lighting. Anyhoo, my Bill was Damien Lewis. Again, he's a few years too old, but he does have the boyish looks, and I think it would be fascinating to see him regress back to stuttering, and I just all-around consider him a real actor.

    Now, finally to Pennywise: I actually think Doug Jones could be a great choice. I don't know what his voice sounds like, because I just found out that David Hyde Pierce WAS the voice of Abe Sapien in Hellboy. For years it blew my mind that anyone else could sound exactly like Niles Crane, but apparently it was actually an uncredited Pierce after all, and that's enough that the world makes a little more sense now... anyhoo, back to the topic at hand, my only argument is with discarding Andy Serkis just because of Gollum. The Hobbit movies were probably the worst thing that could have happened to him, because since the LOTR trilogy, he's continued doing some pretty groundbreaking stuff in King Kong and the Planet of the Apes movies. If he's an option, in that kind of role I think you have to give him some heavy consideration before dismissing him. He's gotten serious Oscar buzz as both Gollum and Caesar, and in my opinion, it wouldn't have been undeserved. I suspect that at some point he'll get an honorary Oscar, if nothing else. So that's my two cents. Yeah, to some he'll always be Gollum, but to me, Pennywise couldn't be more different from that role. Gollum is often menacing, but ultimately pathetic, and Pennywise is his own level of sheer evil, and it would be delicious to see what Gollum could do with that role. I'm not the kind to use a silly word like that in relation to Hollywood gossip very often, but it's deserving this time.

    At any rate, I'm really hoping that this one gets made. I agree that a mini-series (with a minimum of six episodes) is the way to go. I'm surprised you didn't bring on a director for this one. I wish they'd allowed Fukunaga to do it his way. I don't know much about Poulter, but if you're familiar with True Detective, the differences between seasons 1 and 2 leave very little doubt that Fukunaga was a crucial part of the first season's success. Season 2 isn't as awful as some say, but it was definitely a significant drop in writing, story, and overall quality.

    Anyhoo, that about does it for me. It's getting late, and I've been typing this for 45 minutes, so I'll bid you toodles and check tomorrow what you think of my notes.

    1. Casting Bev is so hard. I'm just not sure who would be best, and the really good ones are all too old. I know Witt and probably Adams could still pull off 38 but for how much longer? Same issue with Jessica Chastain. Some actors hold onto their youth long after they should have started looking old while others don't seem to age at all. Compare two stars from The Office who are around the same age: Rainn Wilson looks pretty much the same as when he started playing Dwight, while Steve Carell looks like he's put on 15 years since then. After discounting Scarlett Johanssen I was pretty much left with the only redhead around the right age. That said, I think she has the potential to play Bev well (certainly better than Annette "Why is It so meeeeeeean" O'Toole) and apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so (see above).

      Topher Grace, and I'm saying this to Bryant, too, is one of the more underrated actors out there. His film projects have been misfires, but it's more bad scripts than bad acting. He sucked as Venom, yes, but that's because Venom was the wrong role for him. But could you see him as Peter Parker? Oh, yes. He's relentlessly likeable and feels like somebody you might meet in real life. I just really think he'll do well here.

      Doug Jones used his own voice in Hellboy 2, where he did a pretty good impersonation of how Pierce talks. He also speaks on camera in the lamentable (because the book was so good) John Dies at the End (he doesn't even use make-up in that one!) and as I said, he plays both Pan and the Grey Man in Pan's Labyrinth, and that's his voice there, too. He seems something of an impressionist himself, and heck, he had a brief guest appearance on The Guild himself, and there he did a flawless British accent. The man has so, so much talent. He'll kill it as Pennywise.

      I probably should have thought more about just what it is that makes me think Andy Serkis shouldn't be cast. It's not just LOTR baggage, it's also the fact that he's so short and I worry that he, too, could go over the top with it. I really like the idea of Pennywise towering over the Losers as children, and at 5'8", Serkis will likely be as tall, or even shorter, than the kids themselves. He definitely won't loom. I know camera angles and forced perspective can help, but why use that when Jones won't need it?

      I actually was really hoping for an Oscar nod for Serkis. Too many people likely didn't realize just how much Serkis they were seeing, though. The probably figured his voice was modified as well.

      I didn't bring a director to this one because the list of who could do it and do it well is pretty long. Fukunaga would be my first choice, if we can convince him to stick with Doug Jones instead of Poulter. I want to believe Fukunaga saw something in him that the rest of us haven't yet, but every image I conjure of Poulter playing Pennywise makes me think "young Tim Curry".

    2. Height is probably a valid concern for Pennywise. With motion capture, I would think it matters much less, but I don't actually know that for a fact.

      I'd much rather see Johansson than Bryce Dallas Howard, because of the aforementioned ass-kicking requirements. But she's also only 5-3.

      I should make clear, I have absolutely nothing against Topher Grace. You mentioned In Good Company to Bryant below, and I remember liking that movie a lot, and am somewhat surprised that he hasn't done more high-profile work in the last decade or so. My argument wasn't with using him, just questioning whether he fits as Big Bill. I can only assume you didn't think much of the Damien Lewis idea. I just believe in that guy's talent, and could disappear into the role with a bald cap.

      Last note: I'd still say that for a kid's movie and eighties effects, with the music they use, and the actress's voice and the big reveal at the truck stop, the Large Marge sequence is still a little creepy.

    3. There is little question that Alice Nunn's performance is a hundred times scarier than Tim Curry's as Pennywise.

      Again, that's the way you do it: intense, not loud! Expounding a bit on saying he should be like Heath Ledger's Joker; Ledger was loud in a couple of scenes, but think about the scenes in the jail cell or the hospital. Curry would have played those scenes loud and crazy. Ledger is quiet, intense, and creepy.

  3. It does my heart good for someone else to be onboard the "Tim Curry in 'It' is WAY overrated" train. He's just not great. He looks great, though, and that's what has stuck with people moreso than the actual performance. Granted, your average tv viewer wouldn't know a good performance from a mediocre one 99 times out of 100, so it makes sense.

    I'm not sold on Topher Grace as Bill, but otherwise, you nailed every single one of the Losers. I'm going to be a lifelong Bryce Dallas Howard fan thanks to "The Village," in which she is truly exceptional; so I was happy to see her pop up here.

    I was also very taken with the ideas of Natasha McElhone and Michael Cudlitz; those both just plain WORK.

    And for the record, I'd have been all about Bill Paxton starring in a version of this two decades ago (although he'd have been my Bill Denbrough).

    As for the format...well, by this point you know that I'm a more-is-more type of guy, so I say eight hours can't possibly do the novel justice. It was woefully inadequate for the recently-completed "11.22.63," and that novel has nowhere near the scope of "It." There are single paragraphs of "It" that could almost certainly form the basis of an entire act of an episode (if not the entire episode).

    As for Pennywise, I'm hung up on my idea of Serkis. But could Jones do it? Undoubtedly.

    Great post, Josh! You've really got this blog hummin', boy.

    1. I'm more than halfway convinced that 90% of the people crowing about how scary Tim Curry was haven't watched It since they were children, or are the kind of person who holds onto childhood fears. I was so terrified of Large Marge from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure as a kid that I literally had nightmares and trouble sleeping. I was sure Large Marge was coming for me. Today that scene makes me laugh.

      See what I said above about Grace. Have you seen In Good Company? Have a watch some day if you haven't. He's just so damn likeable. But I'm glad you like the rest. I was unsure about McElhone, so thanks for confirming that choice. Cudlitz just seems born to play a grown-up bully. The guy from the mini-series is so...pudgy. When he attacks Mike and calls him the n-word, it just feels wrong. I can picture Cudlitz growling "Ain't ya gonna say hidey, n----r?"

      I guess I've always pictured Ben as the handsome one and Bill as the slightly nerdy one, but maybe I'm wrong. This is why Paxton would have been my Ben.

      I said 8 hours kind of as a minimum. I wouldn't mind a full season of it, like 12 or 13 episodes. Of course, thinking like a screenwriter, there are some very long scenes that likely wouldn't, perhaps even shouldn't, be included (and I don't just mean the sewer scene that I alluded to earlier). Would there be any point on spending as much time on Eddie Corcoran's disappearance or the fire at the Black Spot? I'd leave in the Patrick Hockstetter subplot because Patrick Hockstetter is...well, I don't want to praise the character as a person, but as a character, King hit this one out of the park. I almost want to see him show up in another world some day so King can use him again.

      See what I said about Serkis above in my reply to Aaron. Could he do it? Undoubtedly. But to me he's a close second.

      Thanks for saying that last, I'm glad this blog is reaching people. And you're a valuable contributor!

    2. God, yeah, the racial slurs in the miniseries are just childish-sounding. If you're going to have racial slurs in your movie/miniseries, you want them to hurt, and I bet Cudlitz could deliver that handily. Plus, he just seems dangerous. He's one of the only things keeping me onboard "The Walking Dead."

      I haven't seen "In Good Company." Grace just seems like a lightweight to me, but maybe I've just not seen him the right way.

      I don't know that I'd give the Black Spot an entire episode or anything like that, but I'd definitely like to work in in and explore it to its full extent. But we live in a world when even a Hulu version of "11.22.63" is rife with omissions from the novel. Ah, well.

  4. I've been lurking around this blog for a while, but IT finally got to me...

    I actually keep thinking Sarah Michelle Gellar for Bev. She's been in and out of projects for a while and isn't QUITE so tied to being Buffy as she was 10 years ago. We know she can play an ass kicker but she could also do Bevvy-from-the-levy's more submissive side, and I think she could pull off red hair.

    Slight quibble about Stan (although I'm SOLD on Adam Brody, one of my favorite under-rated actors, who I also think could play Richie-from-the-ditchie). I always thought Stan's deal was that, as you say, he was too pragmatic and supernatural-resistant, which meant that he was the last to believe, but also that maybe Pennywise's forgetting-trick didn't work as well on him, so that he was the only one of the Losers (possibly including Mike?) who really knew what they were getting back into.

    1. Well, let me say welcome to the comments section and please don't hesitate to share what's on your mind in future and past posts! Thanks for reading!

      Gellar is a fine actress and you're right, she's not tied that closely to Buffy anymore. I think she's in danger of looking a bit old, though. She's only 39 but hasn't aged as gracefully as, say, Alyson Hannigan.

    2. Why there hasn't been a Buffy reunion movie is a complete mystery to me. Get on it, Joss.