By this point, we’re hoping that everybody has already seen both chapters of the “IT” story, starring Bill Skarsgard as everybody’s favorite creepy clown. As much as many of us remember (and love) Tim Curry as Pennywise from the classic TV movies of the early 1990s, Skarsgard brought the tale of the killer clown into a new era and terrified us far more than Curry did when we were children. The movies were as much about childhood and youthful relationships as they were about horror, but they were big hits and will live long in the memory. They’re also a complete saga. The character of Pennywise never appeared again in any of Stephen King’s horror novels, and so there’s no more source material to work with. In theory, that means that there’s nothing new to show us in a film. This is Hollywood, though, and when there’s money to be made, anything can happen.
The potential hazards of creating televised or cinematic fiction that goes beyond its literary source are well known. The writers of “Game of Thrones” found that out in the cold glare of public ridicule with the show’s poorly-received eighth and final season a little over a year ago. George R. R. Martin, the writer of the books upon which the TV show was based, was a little too slow in creating new material on a TV production schedule. That left D. B. Weiss and David Benioff to write a conclusion to the tale themselves based on a few advisory notes from Martin, and all but the show’s most loyal fans concur that this was a bad idea. Character arcs that lasted years were shattered without good reason, and one of the show’s least popular characters ended up in the fabled ‘Iron Throne.’ Stephen King is, to many people, the master of the horror genre. Taking a King character and having someone else write for it would be a risky move – but if it was handled correctly, it could be a success.
The idea of making a new “Pennywise” movie isn’t the same as the idea of creating a new “IT” movie. We don’t have to bring back any of the child or adult characters from the King novels. We don’t even have to follow up on the story that was concluded at the end of the second chapter. As was clearly stated within the official canon of the films, “IT” was an entity that had stalked the town of Derry for centuries, leaving death and devastation in its wake every time it appeared. We could go back in time and watch one of its earlier visits to the beleaguered town. More enticingly than that, we could go all the way back to the character’s arrival on Earth and examine its origin story. There are ways to create new stories with Pennywise without changing or taking away from what we’ve already seen in text or on film, and, if handled sensitively and intelligently, they could even add to what we’ve already seen.
Part of the reason we’re discussing this is because of the extraordinary popularity of both the Pennywise character and Skarsgard’s interpretation of it. Although many people find clowns creepy by default, Pennywise is the ultimate ‘creepy clown’ character. It’s the standard to which all other ‘killer clowns’ are held. Such is the enduring appeal of Pennywise that there’s even a horror-themed “Pennywise” online slots game available at many online slots websites. The critical distinction to make here is that this isn’t an online slots game that’s based on “IT” – it’s a game based purely on the character itself. The fact that people spend significant amounts of money playing this casino is evidence that there’s an appeal to the character beyond the confines of the film, and one which people would happily part with their cash to see if it was presented to them the right way.
We’re not just writing this article because we’d love to see Pennywise again. There seems to be at least an outside chance of it happening. Bill Skarsgard was explicitly asked about the possibility of returning the role during an interview he gave toward the end of 2019, and he refused to rule out the idea off-hand. He chose his words carefully and was at pains to point out that he’d only consider it if it was approached the right way, and the story was worth telling. He didn’t quite manage to keep his enthusiasm in check, though; he also said that he thought it would be fun to play the clown again. It’s clear that he loves the character as much as people loved watching him play it, so all it would take is the right script and the right production company – and, of course, permission from Stephen King himself to use the character in a context outside of his own work.
As the only saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Just as importantly as that, money talks in Hollywood. The second chapter of the “IT” tale didn’t rake in quite as much at the box office as the first, but it still brought in almost half a billion dollars when all was said and done, and it turned a healthy profit. As we’ve seen time and again in recent years, movie studios will push a franchise for as far as they can push it if they think there’s still money to be made, and for a property as valuable as this, it’s hard to imagine they’ll leave it alone. If Skarsgard is on board and director Andy Muschietti could be persuaded to return to the director’s chair, there’s no reason why Pennywise couldn’t be back on our screens scaring the wits out of us and offering us all balloons a few years from now. Stephen King has been known to be generous with licensing fees for his work in the past when he feels like the project is worthwhile, and the chance to explore the history of one of his most famous creations might even appeal to him. The tale of “IT” might be over, but we’re hopeful that there’s more to come from “Pennywise.”