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Stephen King talks Skarsgard's Pennywise, Stranger Things, & clown sightings

In the immortal words of Mel Brooks as King Louis XVI in HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART 1, "It's good to be the king." This is what I'd imagine the legendary best-selling author Stephen King says to himself at the beginning of every morning. The man has built quite the legacy for himself over the years, and has served as an inspiration to many as they've explored and honed their own talents that were build upon the foundation of his influence. 

Recently, King has seen several of his works adapted for both the big and small screens, with projects like Andy Muschietti's IT, Mike Flanagan's GERALD'S GAME, and the forthcoming CASTLE ROCK series representing just a few of the writer's works being translated from page to film. With King being a consultant on several of the projects, it's a wonder that he'd found time in his busy schedule to chat with Nick Schager of Yahoo Movies about everything from Pennywise the Clown to STRANGER THINGS and beyond.

While the conversation is a lengthy one, here are some highlights from the discussion that I thought might be of interest to you fine people:

When King was asked if he, after years of participating in adaptations, likes to be involved in the process of bringing them to the screen, the famed author replied, "Well, I’m primarily a book guy. That’s what I do; that’s what I’m best at. And at the time that It was in pre-production — it was in pre-production, it was out; it was green light, it was yellow light. And that was kind of in the corner of my eye. I usually have something that I’m working on that I can do, and I think you’re best when you concentrate on what you can do.

The other thing is, do they really want the writer in there to screw up what they’re doing? There have been some fantastic movies done that I had nothing to do with. Misery is one. Stand by Me is another one — I can’t remember if I saw that script. I saw the script for Frank’s [Darabont] film of The Shawshank Redemption, and my reaction was, “This is a fantastic script and nobody will shoot it, because it’s too much talk.” So that’s how that turned out.

If they ask me to get involved, sometimes I will say OK. But it’s usually reluctant, because it’s basically free work for them. And you don’t know what’s going to be accepted and what’s not. Because I’m sitting here in Maine, they’re out there wherever they are, and they have a team and they don’t necessarily want some guy calling signals from the bleachers, you see what I mean?"

Following that inquiry, King was asked to give his opinion on Andy Muschietti's rebooted version of IT. The lauded writer then stated that, “There are a lot of movies where, it seems to me, they bought the rights to something because they’re excited about a central situation or some of the visuals that are in the books. And then they do things to it that don’t really have that much to do with the book. I feel like they’re buying the launching pad but putting their own rocket on it — and a lot of times, the rocket blows up. This is not that case. They’ve stuck pretty close to the book, and where things have been changed, the changes make sense. They work.”

After giving that exceedingly mature answer, the multi-genre writer was asked if he'd seen the Netflix sci-fi series STRANGER THINGS. King then enthusiastically replied by saying, “I loved that show. The Duffer brothers have pretty much said that I was an influence on their show, so I’m not trying to pat myself on the back. This is something that they’ve said. But they obviously internalized the idea that the characters count. And they also found that sweet spot in American life, which is sort of middle class, and small town, and there’s a textured feeling to those characters.” The small-town bumbling sheriff who stands up for all the things that are good. And Winona Ryder was so goddamn good in that show as the mother. So all those things work, and the kids work.”

Eventually, the conversation came back around to King's terrifying tale of suburban supernatural horror, IT. Back in 1990, Tim Curry portrayed the nightmarish Pennywise the Clown. It was a stellar performance to be certain, and one that has stood the test of time in the eyes of horror fans all across the globe. With Bill Skarsgard now assuming the role, King was asked to compare the two actors and their efforts as the monstrous mischief making entity. King responded by saying, 

“I thought Tim Curry made the miniseries. He did. If Pennywise doesn’t work, obviously the thing doesn’t work at all, you know?...Pennywise is scary in the book, he needed to be scary in that miniseries, and he needs to be scary in the movie. And he is. They’re both good. I wouldn’t pick one above the other. I would just say that Andy [Muschietti] had more to work with in terms of modern technology and, for all I know, budget too. I’m sure he must have had more; I can’t remember what the miniseries cost — at one time I knew — but it wasn’t that much. It was a TV thing.”

Lastly, Nick asked Stephen if he had any thoughts on the bizarre rash of clown sightings that had occurred back in 2016. King was eager to give his opinion by saying, “I shrugged it off. Because clowns are scary. There’s just no way around that. Clowns can be as angry as they want, and that’s their right — they’re clowns! I mean, obviously they love kids. I came out in support of some clowns in Europe who asked me to say something nice about clowns because they go to hospitals and try to cheer up sick kids. I mean, if I were a sick kid and I saw a f–king clown coming, all the red lines would go off on my gear, because I’d be scared to death! So kids are scared of clowns.”

Damn right kids are scared of clowns! Adults are frightened of them too, and it's partially your fault, King! What? I'm just telling it like it is. Trust me, he's well aware of the horror he has wrought. This doesn't mean that I don't still love the man (and his expansive body of work). I'm simply stating what we all know in our hearts to be true. Nevertheless, Stephen King has given us an enormous amount of fantastic stories throughout the years, and I will continue to celebrate the man's legacy, even if he is very much to blame for the fact that I can't sleep because clowns will eat me.

Andy Muschietti's IT will float into theaters this weekend beginning on September 8th.

Extra Tidbit: Seriously, what is left of King's literary catalog that has yet to be adapted into film?
Source: Yahoo Movies

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