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Thursday, December 28, 2017

The It Crowd

As I mentioned in my last post, I saw Andre Muschietti's It this past fall, and I thought it was really well-done. Not a perfect movie, by any stretch, and there were some things I wish had been done differently, but overall, it was a far better movie than it had any right to be. Adaptations of King's longer works typically suck the caulking off the walls of movie theater bathrooms, but It knew what the novel was trying to do, and did almost exactly what was needed to translate that to the screen.

One of the greatest strengths of this movie was its cast, which is something I never thought I'd say, considering that child actors can often be excruciating, and in Tommy Lee Wallace's mini-series, that was absolutely true, with the exception of Seth Green. Muschietti's young cast were all very solid, even if some of them were better than others. I didn't dislike any of them, although I have to say my favorites were Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie Kaspbrak and Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozier. I liked Wolfhard's performance a lot, but that didn't really surprise me because I know Wolfhard from Stranger Things (has there ever been a more King-like TV series that wasn't based on King's works?). Grazer really surprised me, because he took a character who could have been really annoying and made me truly root for him. This kid is going places.

As for Bill Skarsgård, he was surprisingly good as Pennywise/It, and I'll admit, he blew my expectations out of the water. I wasn't sure what I'd think of him, and honestly I still kinda wish they'd gone with Doug Jones, who can literally be anything, but hey, that's just me wishing, not to take anything away from Skarsgård. In a match between Skarsgård and Tim Curry, well, there just is no contest. Skarsgård beats Curry eight ways from Sunday. It says something about his performance that they only real complaint I've heard about his performance was that he was too scary, as in, some critics suggested that as scary as he was, he was never going to lure any children to him.

To that I say: spoken like someone who's never read the books. The Pennywise persona is not intended to lure. In fact, the only real scene where he could be said to even be trying to lure a kid is when he's talking to Georgie from the sewers, but in the book it's pretty clear that Georgie just wants his boat back and is maybe kind of enticed by the idea of a circus in the sewers, but he never trusts the clown and feels like the situation is wrong. Countless times it's described that children, even sleeping babies, begin crying and feel afraid as soon as he comes around, clown persona or no. Besides, Pennywise doesn't need to lure the kids. Once he's decided to eat you, you are food, no matter how fast you run (unless you're one of the Lucky Seven being protected by the great Turtle Maturin). Lure the kids? Pennywise is trying to scare the kids and dang if Bill Skarsgård doesn't do just that. Adults too.

As for the other kids, I liked them a lot, some perhaps more than others. For example, Sophia Lillis is a bit too much on the tomboy side for Bev, and I don't understand the decision to have her cut her hair, that thing that attracts Ben so much to her, but hey, at least they kept her a redhead this time. Jaeden Leiberher was just kinda there as Bill, which is bad as he's supposed to be the leader of the pack. It wasn't a bad performance at all, and I did like their adding in Bill's fervent belief that Georgie might still be alive. It lent a real weight to the scene where It pretends to actually be Georgie, and I tell you, that scene got me, in more ways than one. It made me weep, and then it made me afraid...afraid that Georgie might actually have been kept alive by It, waiting to trick Bill into being the hand that murdered his brother.

Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor and Wyatt Olef were all very good as Mike, Ben and Stan. Ben was actually fat! Yay! Stephen Bogaert was a superbly creepy Al Marsh, Molly Jane Atkinson was freakin' perfect as Sonia Kaspbrak, and to be honest, both are better choices than the ones I came up with. Nicholas Hamilton and Owen Teague were different choices for Henry Bowers and Patrick Hockstetter than I expected (as in, neither really looks like the characters as described) but were appropriate for the new time. And yes, the new time actually worked a lot better than I thought it would. I even said in my casting for this book that the "current" setting is now 30 years old, so Muschetti apparently realized, as I did not, that it's now a nostalgic time period itself.

But this brings me to today's actual topic which is two-fold. Topic number one is, do I want this film (and its announced sequel) to be a part of my considerations for the SKCU I'm setting up on this blog? The answer is yes, because you can't have the SKCU without It, and this version was plenty good enough to not require a remake. But as the first film covered only the Losers Club as children, it remains to be seen what adults will be cast.

In an odd move, the child cast were all asked who they would like to play their characters as grown-ups, and it sounds like Muschietti and company at least are taking this somewhat seriously. Gan knows how many of them are going to sign on, but let's go through them and see how each of them would do. As the kids in the movie (set in 1989) were aged from 11 (their ages in the books) to about 12 or 13, and assuming Muschietti intends to set this in modern day (for accuracy's sake he should probably pick 2016), then we'd need actors who are, or look, about 39 years old. For the most part, I still like my picks, but let's stack them up against the Loser's Club's choices:

Jaeden Lieberher (Bill Denbrough) picked Christian Bale to play adult Bill. Now, Bale is one of those actors who can transform himself to be whatever kind of character you want, even losing or gaining weight and muscle, and playing around with his hairline. My pick was Topher Grace, most famous for That 70's Show but still working and visibly mature from that era.
As the bags under those eyes clearly show
Grace isn't really losing his hair, even though I'd kinda like to keep that aspect of Bill, but as Bale has shown, that can be faked quite well. Bale is a youthful 43 which means he's unlikely to age out of the role, as filming is to begin in 2018. Now, I want to make clear that if Bale is cast as Bill, I won't complain. I don't have any doubts about his ability to play this part, with or without the male pattern baldness, but here's my hang-up; Bill is the ultimate good guy, but he's also a nerd. I feel like that while Christian Bale is absolutely able to play a nerd, Topher Grace is a nerd, and therefore he'd be a more natural fit. He also looks more believable as an older Jaeden Leiberher.
Then again, Bale can go from hot to butt ugly even with no makeup...
So, I won't say absolutely not to Bale, but I still kinda want Grace.

Sophia Lillis (Beverly Marsh) wants Jessica Chastain for Beverly Rogan (whom I do hope they have as married, with Tom included as a tertiary antagonist, as in the book). As I was casting a TV miniseries with no clue when or if one would happen, I went with Bryce Dallas Howard as she'd be a fine fit and wouldn't age out, or break the bank. But as this is a movie, there's no need to worry about the actors being too expensive (within reason) and Chastain has already expressed her willingness to do this, which should be surprising as she's worked with Muschietti on a horror movie before. She's 41 and looks at least five years younger than that, she's beautiful and has the necessary red hair (I always prefer matching the actor's natural hair to a dye job) and she's probably in talks for it as we speak. I see no problem casting her. I had, however, chosen her for the lead role in Crouch End. That role can easily be switched with Bryce Dallas Howard. At some point I'll probably update that post.
I can believe Bill and Ben would both want her
One thing I want to mention before I move on, though, is that I really hope the BBB (Beverly/Ben/Bill) triangle is handled differently in the movie. I didn't like that Bill cheated on his wife with Beverly, and I really would like to work it so that perhaps Bill isn't married and Beverly believes this is her chance to be with the man she loves, but after spending time with Ben, realizes that while child Beverly let her hero worship of their stalwart leader turn into love, it's actually Ben who truly loves her for who she is and she who loves him. They removed some of the squickier scenes involving Bev from the movie and ramped up some others (the novel's version of her father Al is much less openly rape-y than the version in the movie), which worked fine, but I don't want to compound it by having her sleep with a married man, especially since she ends up with someone else.

Honestly, Beverly as written is kind of a problematic character for me. She's supposed to not be a slut, despite her reputation, but King has her doing several slutty things. For that matter, he subjects her to quite a heap full of Male Gaze, taking great care to describe what she's wearing and how beautiful she looks in it (even as a child) and even going so far as to frequently have her clothing be too small, and thus, revealing. Which kid is it whose shirt rips open when they confront It? Bev's, natch. Whose shorts are from last year and now look like Daisy-Dukes? Bev's, of course. This translated into every male character in the film casting lustful glances her way, which is odd since they picked a rather boyish actress for her.

Anyway, enough of that.

Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben Hanscomb) picked Chris Pratt for adult Ben, and dangit if that's not a casting coup. This kid hit the nail on the head. I was never totally happy with my choice (Charlie Cox), But Pratt, with his natural charm, ability to play serious or kooky and good looks, he's the perfect guy for Ben to have grown up to. An even better reason; Pratt was once a good deal fatter than he is today, and has gone through the same transformation Ben was supposed to go through.
Boy, did he ever go through it
To pick an actor who's literally done what Ben did is genius. Kudos to young Mr. Taylor.

Chosen Jacobs (Mike Hanlon) picked Chadwick Boseman to play Mike as an adult. Now, I understand they're changing Mike's character a bit to have him turn to drugs as a way of coping with his responsibility. I'm not sure how thrilled I am about that, but it does give Mike a bit of a Kingian complex, and thus make him, indirectly, another aspect of King's past. I don't know much about Boseman beyond seeing him as Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War but he'd be a fine choice. Sure, I'll swap Anthony Mackie for Chadwick Boseman.
Or, Falcon for Black Panther
And of course, there's Finn Wolfhard who has picked Bill Hader to play the adult Richie Tozier. Readers of my blog will know that I picked Hader, as well, and I really, really hope this happens. I also wish I could meet Wolfhard, so I could give him a high-five for that one. Really, there's only one choice for Richie, and that's Bill Hader.
He'll be better than Harry Anderson, that's for damn sure
Now, at this point, it might seem like I'm ready to toss out all my choices (or most of them) in favor of who the actors picked. But it stops right there because I don't agree at all with Wyatt Olef or Jack Dylan Grazer's picks.

Grazer, who played Eddie Kaspbrak, wants Jake Gyllenhaal, while Olef, who played Stan Uris, wants Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Eddie is described as still being small, gaunt and sickly, with a sunken face and wide, staring eyes. Again, Grazer wants Jake Gyllenhaal.
Gyllenhaal is six feet, and while he can play a softer type, he's handsome, well-built and not the kind of guy you naturally pity. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is shorter, much skinnier and a bit more of a nerd...
The glasses help my first thought was "why not just switch them"? They're both Jewish, so either one has that for uber-Jewish Stan, who also isn't described as particularly handsome, but wouldn't be hurt by being played by a handsome actor, and I do like the idea of Stan being played by a recognizable actor, giving non-readers the impression that he'll be a major character, thus taking them by surprise when we get to the twist. Between the two of them, I think Levitt's younger look probably wouldn't work that well. He's 36 but looks ten years younger (which would work if he was to play Eddie) while Gyllenhaal looks his age. So, I think I pick Gyllenhaal as Stan, not Eddie.

For Eddie, I maintain that Elijah Wood is the only choice. Like Gyllenhaal and Levitt, he's 36, and like Levitt, he looks younger but at the same time, not. I have always thought of him as looking kind of pathetic, like a grown man whose body refuses to admit he's not a child anymore, and there's no question that he can do sickly, and has the gauntness and wide, staring eyes. I even tweeted Jack Dylan Grazer about this, hoping to change his mind.
Even his glamour shots look a bit pathetic
So, I look forward to It: Chapter Two and I will keep this blog going with these actors in mind for our Derry-set stories.

I'm nearly finished my It re-read, and then I'll be reading the short story The End of the Whole Mess which I may or may not be casting, so for now I'll not end this post with a "Next Up", although I do know that my next full novel to read, The Eyes of the Dragon will be getting an adaptation.

See you all in 2018 with my first casting in nearly two years!

Edit: Sorry, I don't know why part of this is highlighted in white, and I can't get it to go away.

Also, I really do hope they keep It's true form in the sequel, and I hope DOES NOT look like a giant spider. It is not a giant spider. That's just the closest the Losers can come to describing it. It's more like something Lovecraftian, that threatened to break their mind. Just as I've heard some people describe Cthulhu as a "lobster" or "octopus", despite neither of those descriptions doing him even close to justice, I hope It looks something like this:


  1. (1) I agree with you -- I think Skarsgard trounces Curry. And I don't by any means dislike Curry's performance.

    (2) I do not agree that Bev being more tomboyish was a bad move. I think that a complicated relationship between hair length and budding sexuality is something many, many girls/women have gone through, and I betcha that element of the movie was a component that a lot of the movie's audience loved.

    (3) I think my favorite suggestion for adult Bill is Ewan McGregor. But Topher Grace would be fine.

    (4) I'm with you; I hope Bill and Bev don't hook up in the second movie. I could probably live without Audra altogether, if I'm being honest; although if you had her in the film and then cast Amy Adams in that role, that'd be cool.

    (5) I'm fat enough that I'd kill to look like the "fat" version of Chris Pratt!

    (6) I'm not a fan of Chadwick Boseman playing Mike, for some reason. Great actor, so if he got the role, I'd be cool with it; but he wouldn't be my choice. I can sure understand why Chosen Jacobs would want him to get cast, though.

    (7) They'll have to work REAL hard to find somebody better for Richie than Bill Hader.

    (8) The first movie already played down some of Eddie's sickly tendencies, so I don't think adult Eddie will be much like the adult Eddie of the novel. Which is fine with me, to be honest.

    (9) I'm very excited to see what some of the visuals for the "real" Pennywise look like.

    (10) Welcome back!

  2. 1. I do. I think Curry just didn't care. He's capable of being truly funny and truly scary, but all he did was chew scenery.

    2. I'm not bashing Lillis at all here, or even really the script. I just don't think I would have gone in this direction. Also I didn't get why even the adults were leering at her. Maybe I just don't particularly like actually seeing that kind of thing played out. It was icky enough just reading about it.

    3. MacGregor would be a fine replacement for Richard Thomas, but he's nothing at all like book Bill. That's maybe not a necessary thing, as plenty of good, even great movies have utterly changed how characters look, but I'm not really as sold on MacGregor as you are. I'd prefer Bale over him, and Grace over Bale.

    4. Yeah, there's three ways to do it; leave Audra out altogether (she's really not an important character whatsoever) and have Bill and Bev ALMOST hook up only for both of them to realize it's not right, leave Audra out altogether and have her and Bill hook up and THEN realize it's wrong, or leave Audra in and have Bill TEMPTED to hook up with Bev, who's already realizing that Ben is her true love. Out of them all, I prefer the first.

    5. Me too!

    6. I don't know who would be the best Mike. I understand they're going in a different direction from the novel; Mike will have developed a drug problem to cope with his still living in Derry and watching for It, and it's while on a trip that he has the vision from the smoke-hole. If we're going strictly book-accurate, I'd invent a time machine and steal Denzel Washington from his early film days.

    7. I know, right?

    8. They still had him much smaller than the others and portrayed as a hypochondriac and worrier. This says Elijah Wood to me. I just can't see that Eddie growing up to be Gyllenhaal. I could almost see him growing up to be Levitt, but I agree with you that Levitt is too much like a natural winner. Eddie is a natural loser. Wood's perpetual worried look is Eddie all over the place.

    9. Oh, me too. Let's hope they don't screw it up. Please, Muschietti, don't take the whole "giant spider" thing so literally!

    10. Thanks! Good to be back, and I forgot how much I enjoyed your blog, for that matter. I just started really wanting to read fantasy again, but it started to feel repetitive after a bit, and so many fantasy authors seem to fall down on actually executing their high-concept ideas. King does, too, but there's few authors whose entire canon I care about so much.

    1. 1. It's a valid criticism. He chewed that scenery memorably, though; but it does feel a bit as though he was slumming it. Nevertheless, I think his performance and people's nostalgia for it was about 50% of this new version's box-office.

      2. The adults leering at her, I think, was another thing that probably endeared Beverly to a large number of females in the audience, many of whom likely had to put up with instances of that during their own adolescence. A lot of them probably learned how to safely turn it to their advantage, too. But I think you're right to be icked out by it; I was too, I just saw it as more of a feature than a bug, you know? I don't think it was in any way accidental. I just hope Lillis herself doesn't suffer any unfortunate real-world ramifications from it.

      4. I'm on the fence. Without Audra being present, I think it hurts either Bill or Ben or maybe both. But at the same time, it's by no means one of my favorite elements of the story. I'm very curious to see what they do.

      6. Oh, man, if only!

      8. Wood gets the role, I'm gonna be perfectly okay with it. And by the way, I totally agree that Gyllenhaal would be wrong for it. I could see him as Richie before I saw him as Eddie.

  3. I hate to start with a criticism, but I really feel like you missed how terrific Sophia Lillis was in this role. She may have been the best thing in the movie. They did play up the tomboy thing, but I disagree that Lillis herself is boyish. With shorter hair, sure, maybe a little, but that's probably true of most tween girls. Shortly after the movie's release, I started seeing comments about how much of a resemblance Sophia Lillis has with Amy Adams, and heavens to Mergatroyd, they're right! I think a lot of us would say that Amy Adams is a knockout. And interestingly, she's playing the young version of Adams' character in an HBO miniseries next year. Anyway, I think there's a lot of subtext going on with Beverly. She chops her hair, the way I interpret it, because her father's lustful looks are graduating to overt incestuous actions. I'm not sure what you're referring to as "slutty". She takes advantage of her newly discovered feminine wiles to distract the pharmacy creep, but she's only become aware of it through her nasty father. Other than that, what? She strips down to go cliff-jumping, same as the other kids, and she has her first kiss at the end, which to me came off really sweet.

    I definitely object to Christian Bale. He's obviously an excellent actor, but I like the Topher Grace idea. My suggestion a few months ago was Tobey Maguire, who looks like he could be Jaeden Howeveryouspellhisname's father, and I think could capture the quiet dignity of Bill. I actually thought the kid did a great job, and I had no problem with them accepting him as their leader.

    Not sure how to feel about turning Mike into a drug addict, but I'll reserve judgment until I see the finished product. One idea I saw that I loved (but Bryant did not) was putting Seth Rogen in as Stan. One problem is that they look nothing alike, but here's the explanation in the columnist's own words: You laugh, but here's the explanation in the blogger's own words: "When I set out to select actors for this list, I determined not to use any huge names. No one unrealistic. However, I strongly believe there is room for a little bit of stunt casting when it comes to Stanley Uris. Since poor Stan decides to kill himself rather than return to Derry, casting a recognizable face, a friendly and likable face, only to watch him vanish into a pit of despair and desperation and take his own life within moments, could make for a remarkable scene in the sequel. So while the choice of Seth Rogen began as a joke when I started brainstorming Jewish actors to fill the shoes of Wyatt Oleff, it lingered in the back of my mind until it stuck. It would be truly painful to watch Rogen, with his mischievous grin and contagious laugh, slit his wrists in a bathtub. It would certainly set a tone." Another possibility here that might work better for appearance would be Johnny Galecki. I like the idea of casting some unknowns, and a relatively famous actor as Stan, for all the reasons already discussed.

    Gotta head out for now, but I'll comment again if I think of anything else I missed.

    1. I don't want to seem like I'm slagging Lillis. In fact I kinda regret saying anything at all, but somehow, after seeing her this fall and then re-reading the book I just somehow felt like the Bev of the film and the Bev of the book were two different characters.

      As for the "slutty" comment...that was about Book Bev, not Film Bev. As I said, some of the squickier stuff got left out. I can't recall if you read the books, but if you did, there's a scene you will probably never forget no matter how much brain bleach you use that, in my mind, is not only hideous in what it presents but also undercuts the entirety of Beverly's character.

      I mentioned in this post that Beverly's dad in the books is less openly rape-y, and what I mean by that is that for most of the book he masks his pedophilic and incestuous feelings for his daughter with physical abuse and an overbearing "worry" that his daughter is slutting around town. He accuses her of stuff she hasn't done, and it's plainly obvious to the reader that he thinks this way of her because he's already thinking of molesting her.

      But, when he first starts accusing her, she's innocent. But then comes the final scene where she does exactly what her father accuses her of. WTF?

      As I said, though, the worst part of it is the near-constant Male Gaze that King employs while writing about her. Occasionally he will describe what the other kids are wearing, but with Bev he nearly always does, and it's nearly always something that's not "revealing", per se, but still feels like he's getting off on describing how she looks in it. A few times he explicitly does say that her shorts are too short or her pants too tight (he excuses this by saying she is wearing clothes from the previous year and is now outgrowing them, but did we really need constant reminders of how short her shorts were and how much leg she was showing?).

      I also prefer Grace, clearly, but Maguire...I don't know what it is about that guy but he rubs me the wrong way.

      As for Rogen as Stan, I gotta say I'm with Bryant on this one.

      But, regardless, I'm glad to see you back and commenting, and though we're not always gonna agree, I love the conversation.

    2. Thanks for clarifying. Yes, I've read the book, and yes, I know exactly what scene you're talking about. Like almost everybody else on this planet, I prefer to pretend it doesn't exist, and try not to even get in the mindspace of what the hell King could have been thinking putting that into an otherwise near-perfect book.

      It's been close to two years since I read the book, so the constant mention of Beverly's clothes isn't fresh in my mind. He may be a dirty old man, but I'll give him a pass just on the basis of art. You could really question how healthy anyone's mind is who creates, whether it's books or TV or music that feature some really disturbing shit and have to have been thought of in great detail, and we can only hope that whatever cortex controls that is separate from the one controlling actions.

      I'm generally neutral on Tobey Maguire, and I don't know that I've seen him in anything in the past decade, but I guess I like him well enough that I thought of him as Bill. The Rogen thing I get, I just like the track the columnist was on in sort of toying with audiences (many of whom will see Chapter Two without ever opening the book). Bryant's criticism was age, but Rogen's 35 now, will be 37 when the second part comes out, leaving him just shy of the age, but I argued that his schlubbiness could easily allow him to pass for someone pushing 40.

      Also, I 100 percent agree that Eddie was a surprise standout, and the actress playing his mom was terrific. Elijah Wood is a great choice for age and small frame, but I think at this point they'll probably have to go with someone who has at least a passing resemblance to the kid. Wood's got the brightest blue eyes on the planet. Maybe that's another potential Galecki role, should he want to expand his range? Anyway, good talk. Have you decided whether to do End of the Whole Mess? I had to Google that to remember, but now that I have, that seems like a great candidate for inclusion in a King anthology series, but I don't know about a full-length film.

    3. I think I'll be skipping The End of the Whole Mess. It doesn't feel very cinematic and the story is problematic. I'll explain more once I have enough material for a "Skipped Stories" post.

      I'm about a fourth of the way through The Eyes of the Dragon and I'm confident there will be a full post about that one.