Monday, May 4, 2015

Meet Your New Pennywise

As per Variety, the title role in the upcoming remake of It has finally been cast:
  
  
  
  
That's Will Poulter, a 22-year-old British actor who has been doing VERY strong work for nearly a decade in movies ranging from Son of Rambow to We're the Millers to Voyage of the Dawn Treader to (I assume) the upcoming The Revenant, in which he is the fourth lead behind people like Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio.
  
Word is that Poulter's audition blew away Cary Fukunaga (who will be directing It), and if Fukunaga -- whose recent run on True Detective indicates a talent for directing actors that is not merely considerable but superior -- is sold on him, then so am I.
  
I have not looked around the Internet for reactions to Poulter's casting, but my knee-jerk suspicion is that there will be lots of people who are upset along the lines of "HOW CAN THEY TOP TIM CURRY WHARRRRRRRRRRGARBLE" and who don't go any farther in their thinking than that.  I say this based purely on knowing how the Internet works; who knows, maybe this will be the moment things change.
  
But probably not, and in that case, I'd have to say that while Curry is certainly iconic in the role, he's by no means irreplaceable.  Here ya go, a list of half a dozen actors who could do it as well or better, right off the top of my head:
  
Andy Serkis
Hugh Laurie
Adam Driver
Guy Pearce
Tom Cruise
Jon Bernthal
  
You may or may not dislike some or all of those choices, of course; there's no accounting for personal tastes.  But folks, in a world where it has been possible to recast James Bond successfully not just once but numerous times, you will never be able to sell me on the idea that Pennywise can't be successfully recast once.  If you've got that mindset, good on ya; but you've got a very different one than I have, no doubt about it.
  
In any case, we'll see next year how this all works out.  Let's hope it's great!

27 comments:

  1. Tom Cruise as Pennywise is a very intriguing idea. That clicks.

    I don't know what to make of this kid, but we shall see what we see when we see it, I suppose. They're definitely casting a little young for the part, but who knows? Maybe it'll work.

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    1. It's a surprise, for sure. But as soon as my mind had processed that, it thought: why NOT? It will (potentially) add a really interesting dynamic in the second movie when Pennywise is suddenly "younger" than the adults.

      I like it.

      Potentially.

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    2. I was always for Daniel Day-Lewis as Pennywise.

      Don't think ANYONE expected this, which is certainly part of the reason he was chosen. I'd like to see that audition. Maybe more than I'd like to see the movie.

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  2. I suspect Poulter will be good, but ordinarily, casting this young an actor for a traditionally older part would raise my eyebrows a little--but I really trust Fukunaga to have something interesting in mind for this new interpretation. And I liked Tim Curry, but he's one of the only watchable parts of the original movie for me, so all in all, I'm just happy to have a new--and seemingly well-run--version in the works.

    King's speech at the Edgars when he won for Mr. Mercedes was really great, by the way: I should probably add this to the Mr. Mercedes post for posterity, but I'm being lazy today. He talked about coming up with the idea for the novel and then almost dismissing it because it's "not the kind of thing he writes": I was really happy for him winning on something he felt had been a stretch for him, because it would be so easy for him to get complacent, and he really hasn't. It's very cool.

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    1. Oh, and I forgot: he teased the return of Brady in the third Mr. Mercedes book, too!

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    2. King's lack of complacency has been a major highlight of his career, as far as I'm concerned. I wasn't a huge fan of "Mr. Mercedes" -- it's mid-level King for me -- but I certainly enjoyed it, and I think it's great that it won him a major award.

      Let's hope for a repeat with "Finders Keepers"!

      Agrred about Curry, by the way; the original movie is very weak sauce.

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  3. I've never seen this kid in anything before, but he does strike me as being far too young. Ian McShane would be my top pick.

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    1. McShane would have been good, although he might be a bit too old. The makeup will conquer some of that, though; and it ought to do in Poulter's case, as well.

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  4. I'm actually more open ended when it comes to the casting of this film.

    What concerns me more is are a few questions about the writing.

    I've said this elsewhere but maybe it'll sound different here.

    My concerns center around two aspects of the adaptation. The first is that it has always sounded to me like they are basing their script on the mini-series, and that they have updated the timeline to the current day, which would place the flashbacks in the 90s or thereabouts.

    In terms of the idea of re-doing the mini-series, well, I'm not gonna object all that much despite reservations, because i still actually like the mini-series, so if they think it was good enough once to try it twice, well, good luck I say.

    However, in terms of the timeline, I wonder. For me, the idea of setting the past events in a time which was remote even to 80s kids gives the story a necessary sense of weight and scale. You get the idea of how many past events have shaped the present and to how far back an extent it all has.

    I wonder if taking away that aspect might not lessen the story's impact.

    Either way, we'll have to see, one way or another.

    Also, something that's kinda neat. A bunch of fans actually made a demo reel of what an It film could look like:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eS0hQ2Xp3-0

    ChrisC

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    1. The updated timeline doesn't bother me in theory. The eighties (and early nineties) were still -- compared to today -- a fairly innocent and sedate time for children, so I think the story can be updated without too much damage being done to it. I do wonder, however, the exetent to which this will impact some of Pennywise's shapeshifting. Can he, in the context of the '80/'90s, still turn into things like the Wolfman and the Mummy and have it mean anything to the kids in the story? Surely he's not going to turn into, like, Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers or Pinhead or whatever. That's not doable from a rights standpoint, and it also changes things into a very different sort of tone.

      I'm sure Fukunaga has answers to all of these questions. I'm anxious to find out what they are!

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    2. "Can he, in the context of the '80/'90s, still turn into things like the Wolfman and the Mummy and have it mean anything to the kids in the story? Surely he's not going to turn into, like, Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers or Pinhead or whatever. That's not doable from a rights standpoint, and it also changes things into a very different sort of tone."

      You've just raised an issue I hadn't thought about.

      Part of the bigger issue it raises is what, if anything, scares modern audiences? That's I've sort of wondered about off and on. I'm not sure if most audiences would have the kind of automatic response to horror in film that they did, say, back during the 70s, let alone the 80s.

      I'm not saying I don't think that kind of reaction can't be brought back, so much as that it takes something like "A Serbian Film" (yeah, sorry) in order to get people to have a reaction that even comes close to the response of, say, the original Exorcist or the like.

      Another thing is that people seem to approach horror in terms of the carnival ride or roller-coaster approach, and that's just not the kind of style of any of King's works, even at his goriest, and I think it's safe to assume It is the pinnacle of King and gore.

      To give a concrete example of how modern audiences approach horror, I once heard a round-table discussion of what horror is, and what it's like. The thing is, they try and apply horror to video games:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azRbWMXSKE8

      I have to say I found myself disagreeing with their idea as to how horror works. They panel seem to agree to approach it on an emotional, gut reaction level, whereas I've always found that the best horror is psychological and/or intellectual. In particular, I've always felt that horror, at it's best, is driven by some form of guilt of some kind (can't put it any better than that, I'm afraid).

      So yes, there is that question.

      Also, another thing I kinda worry about is executive meddling. Specifically, I wonder about the irony of suits trying to make the material more PG friendly. This based on the fact that I suppose you could say most of King is, if not PG, then it's almost "user-friendly" (if that's the right word) and I wonder if trying to make it any more so would just defang the terror in the story.

      ChrisC

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    3. I highly doubt they would try and make this PG-13. It happens a lot these days, with the upcoming Terminator probably being the most recent example, but plenty of horror films still make money with an R rating so I think it will be fine. I'm more concerned that they'll try to tone down The Stand and The Dark Tower (or even The Talisman if a movie ever happens) in an attempt to appeal to fans of movies like The Hunger Games and Insurgent. Let's hope that the new Mad Max is a hit. That could prove there is still a market for big budget post-apocalyptic films made with an adult audience in mind.

      By the way, I watched Creepshow again recently and it was rated R just two years before the PG-13 rating was introduced. I may have miscounted but I heard only one "f word" and the violence and gore was FAR less than that of the first PG-13 film (Red Dawn). I believe it would have easily gotten a PG-13 just a few years later. I also believe that the MPAA has gotten much more strict over the past 30 years and that both Creepshow and Red Dawn would receive an R today.

      Despite my view that this actor is too young, I'm cautiously optimistic about the movie. I've always found that King works better on TV in general. To me the best film adaptations have been those based on short stories or (comparatively) shorter novels. Carrie, The Shining, The Dead Zone, Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption, Misery, etc. Silver Bullet was sort of fun. Most of the rest I haven't cared for. I despised the movie version of Christine despite the fact that it was directed by my all-time favorite director.

      His books are just far too detailed to condense into two-hour movies, but also too adult for (network) television. So what I like so far about the announced versions of It, The Stand, and The Dark Tower is that they are willing to break them up into multiple films. I'm also cautiously optimistic about Mr. Mercedes. Even if it ends up on network TV there's not a whole lot that will need to be edited in that particular novel. As for his novels that COULD make decent two-hour films, I'd say The Long Walk, Roadwork, Joyland, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and possibly Gerald's Game and Revival. I may be overlooking a few others, but I think most of the others should be on TV (preferably cable) or broken up into multiple films.

      One last thing before I quit rambling: a new version of Tales from the Darkside is in development at CW with Joe Hill writing and producing. We should know within the week whether or not it gets picked up to series. If it's a hit, it would join the UK's Black Mirror as a revival of the old anthology programs (American Horror Story and True Detective sort of qualify as well, but they tell a different story each season rather than each episode). Now would be the ideal time for a Twilight Zone-style program of Stephen King short stories. Preferably at HBO, but FX or AMC would work as well. There are some stories that are too long or too short to fit into a 30 or 60 minute episode (but there's no reason why they can't occasionally do special episodes with two or three stories), some have already had a definitive screen version and some they would probably have a tough time getting the rights to (thinking of Children of the Corn in particular). But what remains should be enough to fill up many, many seasons. Hopefully we'll get something like that one of these days. If not, maybe Joe will at least give one or two of his old man's stories a shot on Tales from the Darkside.

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    4. I'd heard about the Joe Hill reboot of TFTDS. I ran across it on wiki but I hadn't heard anything since.

      This is the latest link I could find on any word from that:

      http://bloody-disgusting.com/news/3340363/cws-tales-from-the-darkside-pilot-wows-joe-hill/

      Also, for "Locke and Key" fans, here's a link to a trailer that may prove interesting:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_KmKC5K8QU

      The bad news is this looks like a case of executive unwillingness to take risks, as I don't know when or "if" we'll ever see a release.

      ChrisC

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    5. Here's something a bit more recent. It's a very brief mention but it seems as if it has a real chance of being picked up. Generally that type of thing becomes official right around this time of year, so we should know by next week if not sooner. http://deadline.com/2015/05/pilots-2015-latest-buzz-1201419348/

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    6. Bad news on the Tales from the Darkside front. It seems that CW has passed on it. http://deadline.com/2015/05/pilots-dead-delores-jermaine-family-fortune-tales-from-darkside-1201422115/ That news isn't official yet and there's always a possibility that a basic cable channel or streaming service will pick it up, but if we see it it probably won't be as soon as we'd hoped.

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    7. I'm trying to think of all the appropriate curse words for the news right now.

      ChrisC

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    8. Instead they picked up a spin-off of The Flash and Arrow as well as DC's Legends of Tomorrow.

      I have nothing against comic books although I've never been much of a fan myself, but including the upcoming Supergirl and the announced Agents of SHIELD spin-off on ABC, there will be at least nine superhero shows on network television this fall. And yet we can't get even one decent horror show? What happened to variety? It's just superhero shows, lame police procedurals and lame sitcoms. No wonder I mostly watch cable these days.

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    9. I would point you toward "Hannibal" in terms of indicating that there is at least one decent horror show on tv. I've heard "Penny Dreadful" makes it at least two, and you could certainly make an argument for "The Walking Dead" being three. I know people who like both "American Horror Story" and "Bates Motel," as well.

      So I don't think the lack of horror on tv is as pronounced as all that.

      It's a bummer that there won't be a Joe Hill show on tv, but at the same time, that's more hours in the week for Hill to write novels, comics, and short stories. For my money, that's not a bad consolation prize.

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    10. To clarify, I was talking about network TV, not cable. Though I did indeed forget Hannibal. Haven't seen Penny Dreadful, but Bates Motel and American Horror Story are pretty good. I like The Walking Dead, but really wouldn't consider it horror at this point. The Strain on FX is also a fun little show. But, alas, no anthologies.

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    11. Apparently several networks and a streaming service are interested. http://deadline.com/2015/05/tales-from-the-darkside-interest-pickup-cable-digital-1201423547/

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    12. It seems like a better fit for one of those than for the CW, anyways. Maybe it'll all turn out well.

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  5. I agree with others that he does seem too young, however once he is in full pennywise costume and makeup it may not be a problem at all.

    Great blog by the way. I just found it a few weeks ago by way of your worst to best book list. slowly making my way through most of it (avoiding posts about books I haven't read yet). The post about King movie adaptations had me pissing myself laughing.

    steve

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    1. Thank you, sir. Every drop of urine I cause in someone else's pants is a cheerfulness point for me!

      I agree that the costume and makeup will be a big part of what makes the role work. Assuming it DOES work, of course. Or hey, who knows, it could end up being achieved via performance-capture so that the shapeshifting element can be exploited.

      I'm just excited the movie is finally happening! If it ends up being as good as I think it could be, we'll all be in for something terrifying.

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  6. I am really happy CW passed on Darkside. What a terrible cheap channel, hopefully it goes somewhere better with more money that can pay good writers and sets.
    I would love for anthology shows to come back. I just finished watching all the 80s TZs and first 2 seasons of Darkside. Darkside gets baaadddd quick but there are some good one in the beginning. I'm plodding through these terrible Season 2 of Masters of Horror now. Screwfly SOlution was actually pretty good the rest are joke bloody messes,

    Bryant I love Bates Motel, the 2 leads are amazing in it. There are super cheezy parts (Barby from Dome was in the first season...) and there's stuff that happens at a dock, any show that has stuff happen at a dock is usually a bad sign but I think it's very entertaining show that is elevated by 2 amazing actors. Good to see you post again!

    -mikeC

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    1. Thanks, Mike!

      I have heard some good things about several current CW shows, so maybe they are in the process of getting their act together. My worry with any show that I expect to follow is that if it doesn't do well, it won't survive. The bar for success on CW seems fairly low, so from that perspective I was okay with "Darkside" potentially landing there.

      I've only seen a small handful of "Masters of Horror" episodes. I think the only one I've seen from season 2 is "Pro-Life," which is complete crap despite being directed by John Carpenter. Not a recommendation, that.

      "Bates Motel" intrigues me, but I refuse to watch it simply because I refuse to watch any of the sequels/prequels to "Psycho." Probably not a valid reason, but so be it! I support any series that has the good sense to cast Vera Farmiga as one of its leads, though. She's great.

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  7. http://www.thewrap.com/cary-fukunaga-out-as-director-of-stephen-kings-it-at-new-line-exclusive/

    Looks like we're gonna have to just make do with the Tim Curry version for a bit.

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    1. Bummer. If Fukunaga is off, then my interest has plummeted. I'd rather no movie get made than a half-baked one.

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