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Stephen King: It isn’t just a horror movie; it has resonance

Author Stephen King, often described as the ‘King of Horror’, discusses the craze behind the new release It, in which the evil clown Pennywise terrorises a group of young people.

hollywood Updated: Sep 12, 2017 18:36 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Hollywood,IT,Stephen King
Author Stephen King’s 1986 novel, It, which has been adapted into a Hollywood film, has been getting rave reviews.(AP)

Author Stephen King’s books have churned out some of the biggest films in Hollywood. The 1994 film, The Shawshank Redemption, which is adapted from his novella, titled Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, is rated as one of the best films of all times. The new horror film titled It, which has been receiving rave reviews across the globe, has been adapted from King’s 1986 novel by the same name. In an interview, King explains the secret behind the adaptations, It, and more. Excerpts:

When you watch a film based on one of your books, such as It, do you find yourself thinking about the changes the filmmaker has made, or are you able to just sit back and enjoy it like a member of the audience?

Both. I look for the changes and I look to see what’s there and what’s not there. But I like movies, so I have a tendency to just kick back in the third row with a box of popcorn and enjoy it as much as I can.

What, specifically, did you connect with in this film?

This film really feels like something different and worthwhile on every level. It isn’t just a horror movie; it has resonance. Andy (Andrés) Muschietti (the director) really caught the kids and their friendship. He captured the reality of kids growing up in the ‘80s, and I liked that because I raised kids at that particular time, so for me it was like a double dip. The things that these kids go through are things that I related to very much. When I wrote the book, I set the kids’ story in the ‘50s because that’s when I grew up.

You’ve said that you were a fan of Muschietti’s previous film, Mama. Can you tell us what you liked about that and how does it connect with It?

Andy has the same things going in It as he had in Mama — both movies have a visual lushness. But that visual lushness is always kept under control by the storytelling. The storytelling is always paramount in this movie. It never goes off track, never once. It holds onto the narrative thread completely so that everything else is just thrilling. You can really settle back and enjoy it. I like that.

Stephen King has been impressed by Bill Skarsgård’s portrayal of Pennywise.

There’s an old saying in Hollywood that casting is everything. Can you talk a little bit about the qualities that the seven young actors in It bring to their roles of The Losers, both individually and as a group?
It’s almost eerie how good child actors have gotten. I grew up in an era where they said the lines, looked cute, and that was the whole deal right there. But these kids in It are terrific. I enjoyed them all, but I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Richie Tozier. He was the wise-ass that I was as a kid. Finn Wolfhard is terrific as Richie.

Andy must have an amazing ability to deal with kids at a certain level, because the movie rises and falls on them. You hardly see the adults. But this film’s Pennywise, Bill Skarsgård, does a terrific job reinventing the character, who is the avatar of all scary childhood monsters. He’s maybe a little more eerie, a little darker than (Tim) Curry’s Pennywise (in the 1990s mini-series), but he’s terrific. The makeup is a little bit different, but it works just as well or even better.

How did you feel when you learned that this film covers about half of your book, and centres on the kids?
I thought it was perfect. It’s the only way you can do it that it will work. The book is like this rock that splits evenly into two parts.

There was a lot of advance interest in It. The first trailer had over half a billion views, which set a record. How do you explain that?
From the beginning, I understood the film’s potential to break out. I said to myself, they’re going to get everybody who remembers that mini-series, and how it warped them so badly. People will come up to me and say, “Tim Curry, you know, I still can’t go near a sewer grate without thinking about that clown.” At the same time, the film is going to get every Millennial, because they grew up in the ’80s.

A lot of your work deals with faith. Can you talk about the role that faith plays in this film?
Well, there are books that I’ve written that deal with faith in God as a power of good to counterbalance evil. The faith in It is about is about the faith you put in your friends. It’s about friendship under pressure.

This is a big time of the year for you, as far as filmed adaptations of your work go. In addition to It, there was the big-screen adaptation of The Dark Tower, and Mr Mercedes on TV. Have you experienced anything like this before, with Hollywood adapting your works in such proximity?

No, never. It’s like having everything come out of the oven at the same time. It’s crazy, but it’s nice. There are also the movies Gerald’s Game and 1922 coming soon, as well as a television series, Castle Rock, from J.J. Abrams. Then there’s a book I wrote with my son, Sleeping Beauties, that comes out in September. So, we expect to tour it on a wave of good feelings, knock on wood, because I think people are going to like It very much, and there’ll be a lot of talk about that.

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First Published: Sep 12, 2017 18:36 IST