Floating The Idea: Stephen King Explains How He Created Pennywise In 'It'
Horror hound Stephen King certainly wasn't "clowning around" when he wrote It, his nightmare-inducing novel about clowns, in 1986.
Horror hound #StephenKing certainly wasn't "clowning around" when he wrote It, his nightmare-inducing novel about clowns, in 1986. The book had something of resurgence thanks to ABC's miniseries in 1990, which famously starred Tim Curry as #Pennywise the dancing clown.
We all know that It is getting the 21st century treatment and #BillSkarsgård will be taking over from Curry for #AndrésMuschietti's upcoming remake. However, as Curry became synonymous with the role of the stereotypical creepy clown, Skarsgård has some pretty big clown shoes to fill.
There is no denying that It was one of the scariest horrors out there, however, it is almost universal that the book was even scarier. For those who read the novel before they saw the three-hour epic, King had crafted an even scarier monster, complete with tangled wig and honking red nose. So, just how did King create one of the best fictional monsters to grace page and screen?
It's all child's play.
The website Club Stephen King has pieced together two videos with the famed author, which not only give us the origins of Pennywise, but also the crazy story of the time King sat next to Ronald McDonald on a plane (no, really!).
Talking about the birth of the evil entertainer, King said that he wanted to bring to life the primal fears that we have as children, so drew on one of the strangest things that kids are afraid of — clowns:
“I had an idea when I was in Colorado that I wanted to write a really long book that had all of the monsters in it. I figured if people think I’m a horror writer — I never considered myself to be that myself, I’m just a writer-writer — I thought to myself, ‘I’ll get all of the monsters together as I possibly can; I’ll get the Vampire, I’ll get the Werewolf, and I’ll even get the Mummy.’ The Mummy has never really scared me because it’s like the Mummy is after us, let’s all walk. It’s not a terribly scary monster, but he had to be there because he’s one of the classics. But then I thought to myself, ‘There ought to be one binding, horrible, nasty, gross, creature kind of thing that you don’t want to see, [and] it makes you scream just to see it.’ So I thought to myself, ‘What scares children more than anything else in the world?’ And the answer was ‘clowns’."
Although It is often credited as the cause of many people's coulrophobia, King argued that children have always been afraid of clowns, he simply made us more aware of it. This idea has been explored in both the novel and the film that "It" was some evil entity that has always been and manifested itself as what the kids from The Losers Club were most afraid of:
“So, I created Pennywise the Clown. Then, what happened was, ABC came along and said they wanted to make a mini-series out of it and wanted to cast Tim Curry as Pennywise. I thought it was a strange idea but it really worked and it scared a whole generation of young people and made them scared of clowns, but clowns are scary for children to start with.”
The rest as they say is history, while both novel and mini-series went on to earn cult followings.
The Flight From Hell
The second half of the video strays into some eerie Twilight Zone territory where King found himself in his own "Nightmare at 20,000 feet." Imagine if you had imagined the world's most evil clown, then end up sitting next to Ronald McDonald on a flight from Chicago.
The story comes from back in 2005 when King was promoting his book The Colorado Kid and was on a flight to an interview with Conan O'Brien:
“I was on a book tour and I was on my way home…the plane started to pull away from the gate…and then it pulls back in. The door opens again and Ronald McDonald gets on the airplane. He’s fully dressed [and] sits down next to me – because I attract weirdness, I’m a weirdness magnet – here he is orange hair, orange shoes, the whole nine yards. He sits down next to me – this is years ago – plane takes off, ‘no smoking’ light goes off, he pulls out a pack of Kents, lights up and he orders a gin and tonic from the stewardess…I said the only thing I could think of, ‘Where did you come from?’ He says, ‘McDonaldland’, which is a real place in Chicago."
Only time will tell if Muschietti's work can top the #horror of Curry and co. to capitalize on King's original work; however, from the first trailer, it looks like we are due a baggy-pants-sh*tting, one-way trip into the sewers. Let's just hope that this one "floats" and doesn't sink!
(Source: Club Stephen King)