Warner Bros. Had ‘Kind of Mean’ Marketing for ‘It’

Warner Bros. Had ‘Kind of Mean’ Marketing for ‘It’

Bill Skarsgård was braced for fan backlash playing clown Pennywise in “It” thanks to a marketing stunt pulled by the studio.

Pennywise was first brought to the screen by Tim Curry in a 1990 two-part TV movie. Warner Bros. took on the film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel for two films, the first released in 2017.

Skarsgård recalled to Esquire that the release of a first-look image of him dressed as Pennywise only rattled him further during production. The photo was released in 2016 before he started filming.

“They did a thing that I felt was kind of mean,” Skarsgård said of the studio’s marketing tactic that spurred online backlash to his casting. “I was so incredibly nervous to start this job, and then the internet is having so many hateful opinions on the weird, strange look of the thing.”

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Skarsgård even questioned why he took on the role in the first place, especially when Tilda Swinton was approached to play Pennywise.

“When you are twenty-six, you don’t feel young at all, but now, looking back at it, I was a kid,” he said. “It was fairly early on in my career to take on something that had so many eyeballs and expectations on it.”

Yet the fan experience led him to reach a new understanding as an actor: “You can only make this performance to please yourself,” Skarsgård said. “It unlocked something in me, and it gave me the confidence that I can take on any challenge. At least, that’s how I feel when I accept these things.”

While Skarsgård admitted he’s not a big horror-movie fan, the actor is continuing to take on beloved characters in “The Crow” and Robert Eggers’ upcoming “Nosferatu,” with Skarsgård playing the undead Count Orlok AKA Dracula.

So where exactly did his horror-action career beat come from?

“My dad [actor Stellan Skarsgård] was morally against violence. So I wasn’t allowed to have toy guns. But I’ve never held those ideals,” Skarsgård said. “I grew up in a different time. I don’t think playing a violent video game makes you a violent person. I’ve always found violence fascinating.”

And Skarsgård holds that duality in each performance, saying, “It tends to become life-and-death for me. I want to explore my own limitations.”

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