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IT CHAPTER TWO

About The Production (Con'd)
IT COMES BACK

Come out and play, Losers!
-Pennywise

While a mixture of reasons compels the Losers to heed Mike's calls and return home, Muschietti knows that Pennywise wants them back for one of the oldest reasons in human history. The director asserts, "He basically wants them back to take revenge. That becomes very evident at the beginning of this film. Mike hears about a violent crime near the bridge, and he goes to the scene and sees the message 'Come Home' written three times in blood. Pennywise is goading them. IT remains a very cryptic character in the second chapter, but in this aspect, he's very clear. And he's back with a vengeance."

Barbara Muschietti adds, "He's been waiting all these years, but he knows they'll return because he knows the kind of courage it took to defeat him the first time around. And while they've been away, he's been planning..."

The return of Pennywise also means the real-world reappearance of Bill Skarsgard in the role he brought menacingly and memorably to life in "IT." Muschietti says, "This time, we really pushed Bill to the limit, and he accepted that and then went even further. Pennywise appears in many forms and, many times, he is completely out of control. Bill did not hold back, ever. He always had this terrifying unpredictability to the character. Sometimes, he would even be unpredictable to me, and to himself, probably. But we always trusted each other, and the relationship that started on 'IT' continued."

Once Skarsgard and Andy Muschietti began to collaborate on Pennywise well before shooting began on "IT," the actor and director never stopped conversations about the character and how he would figure into both chapters. Many of these nascent ideas later showed up in Dauberman's screenplays for the films.

With regard to his time away from performing the character, Skarsgard says, "I was in L.A. for an unrelated reason, and Andy wanted me to do a test for some of the performance capture that would be used for the new film. It was months before we were to start shooting. I thought I'd basically be in a chair, just sort of going through it, but it was a full scene from the screenplay. I show up, and then Andy says, 'Action!' And Pennywise was right there. I guess he hadn't really gone away and he just exploded out of me-even more disturbing, without the makeup. I was really shocked at how much of him remained, and how continuing to work on him developed the character even more.

"What's really changed for him is, this time, he wants them back," the actor offers. "So much about what happened in the past was about scaring the kids away. Now, it's about getting them back, because he missed them in his own way. I think that makes for a stronger villain. Fear has always been his weapon, his tool. He instills fear in humans, but he'd never understood what that was until the Losers, and then he felt it for himself. I think a strange bond was formed then. To have an opponent that almost matched him is intriguing. And after a long absence, a craving can develop for the things that one misses."

The director points out another skill the shape-shifter has developed while away. "One of the first encounters he has with a child in this film, we recognize it as a mirror scene of what happened with Georgie. But now, there is a sophisticated manipulation that he employs. He's more cunning and therefore, deadlier. Perverse and much more dangerous. It's chilling."

Barbara Muschietti says, "This incarnation of Pennywise is an entity created by Andy and by Bill. They both brought a lot to it, and they both realize just how much the other contributes. It's really symbiotic. And the big difference between Chapter One and Chapter Two is that, the first time, they were finding Pennywise. This time, they know very well who Pennywise is, and he's a smarter villain. He's been planning for all these years, and he's going to show them all."

The expansive cast filling out Muschietti's vast canvas for the epic struggle between the Losers and the creature called Pennywise also includes: Joan Gregson as Mrs. Kersh, an elderly lady now living in the old Marsh apartment, who welcomes Beverly with a most disturbing homecoming; and Teach Grant as the adult Henry Bowers, who's been institutionalized ever since his arrest for the death of his sheriff father.

A TOWN THAT DOES FORGET

Something happens to you when you leave this town.
The farther away, the hazier it all gets.
-Mike Hanlon

For his own return to Derry, Andy Muschietti assembled an impressive group of artists and designers, including a substantial amount of department heads with whom he has previously collaborated: director of photography Checco Varese, editor Jason Ballantine, costume designer Luis Sequeira and composer Benjamin Wallfisch. Fresh to the mix is production designer Paul Austerberry whom, quips Barbara Muschietti, "we've been wanting to work with for a long time...even before he won his Oscar."

To accommodate the structure of the second chapter-hopscotching between 1989 and present day-production incorporated sets and locations previously utilized in "IT" and addressed their contrasting appearances 27 years apart. In addition, the story was augmented with new environments, ultimately expanding the visuals and backdrop for the final showdown between the Losers and Pennywise.

Varese treated the previous film as a touchstone, repeatedly referring to footage in order to continue the look of "IT" into the newly shot flashback sequences, while the scenes in present day featured their own unique feel and tone. He employed various types of lenses-MiniHawks spherical lenses with an anamorphic bokeh for the past, and spherical lenses for the present-to differentiate each time thread.

The cinematographer further sought to distinguish the two periods with lighting. "It's a darker tone," Varese explains about the world of the grown-up Losers, "and a darker mood. These characters come with their own baggage. For their adult lives, they've been living with their nightmares, and they bring those with them. We wanted to make the lighting part of the nightmares." Tempering the atmosphere, Varese is quick to note, "They also bring their humor, love, irony and friendship as well."

Andy Muschietti says, "The visual interest of this movie lies in the transitions, how we move from present to past and back to the present day. For me, it's part of the style, but it's also a lot of fun, because you get to choose when those jumps occur and execute them through images."

With his background as a cameraman in news and documentaries, Varese was accustomed to the camera-as-participant scenario. While filming scenes of the adult Losers forging through the cistern-where previously, the young Beverly hovered, transfixed by the deadlights-the cinematographer bounced light thrown by the practical flashlights with his gloved hands, using varying shades of white-to-gray for lighting each actor. The rule on the set: when Checco's in the water, everyone else goes in, too.

Every shooting and lighting choice was executed to keep the visuals in sync with Muschietti's storytelling vision. Varese comments, "I've seen my grips and arm operators doing things that I wouldn't even know how to do with a needle and thread. They push this 50-foot technocrane through doors, walls and people, to get the shot that Andy wants. Drones, cranes, sliders, handheld, in fire, through blood, underwater, above the water, in the middle of the water... Close-ups, macro, 'Can you go closer?' 'Sir, the pupil of the actor is touching the front of the lens.' 'Oh, okay, so we cannot go any closer.'"

Most of the director's vision was initially shared through drawings. An accomplished artist, Muschietti began character explorations early on with sketches, which were then fully developed by concept artists. During production, he also arrived every morning to set with his own storyboards as a beginning blueprint for shooting the day's scenes.

Varese adds, "Andy's a fantastic artist, and the fact that he's extraordinarily good at storyboards helps him understand the shots. It gave us all a thumbprint to start from, and then we started developing."

Production designer Austerberry started his work on "IT Chapter Two" by also immersing himself in Chapter One, additionally looking to references from sources as diverse as 18th-century Italian art and American carnivals of the past. Austerberry says, "What I loved about the first film was it really sold me on that small-town Maine. The color palette was really lovely. It's been quite exciting to take it to the next level and tell an even larger story."

During pre-production, the designer also visited Port Hope, Ontario, which serves as Derry, Maine in both chapters. Leveraging his training as an architect, Austerberry noticed the interestingly structured clock tower above the town's library. After venturing inside with Muschietti, he persuaded filmmakers to move Mike Hanlon from his originally scripted featureless apartment to a rent-free lair inside the attic and tower (later reimagined and built on a soundstage, rooms, tower, clock workings and all).

Previously established settings now revisited by the present-day Losers were modified or rebuilt, mostly to accommodate the changes brought on by the intervening years, both in Derrytime and real-time. Since 2017, the town's existing pharmacy had downsized by a third, and production had to reclaim the whole space to match with "IT." The Marsh apartment had previously been a practical set, but now, was re-created on a soundstage, to make way for Beverly's return and homecoming tea with Mrs. Kersh. The town park statue of Paul Bunyan was beefed up, ultimately standing around 21-feet tall.

Taking a cue from Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi's etchings of Roman ruins, Austerberry refashioned the cistern inside a soundstage water tank, 75-feet in diameter. In "IT Chapter Two," the space is now studded with large chunks that have fallen from the ceiling and walls. The water level is higher than in the 1989 confrontation with Pennywise, and his circus wagon has been reduced to a split open husk, still surrounded by mounds of rotting children's toys. When filled with 180,000 gallons of heated, filtered and chlorinated water, actors portraying adult Losers faced dark water four-and-one-half feet deep; the same level hid submerged scaffolding, which allowed the crew to stand in only a foot of water while filming.

In a pivotal early scene, after so many years of separation, the Losers meet up in the local Chinese restaurant, dubbed the Jade of the Orient, which was actually a small-chain eatery redressed with faƧade and the more private interior dining room, where the reunion takes place. The out-of-towners have rooms at the Derry Town House, in actuality, the cinematic marriage between an exterior in Port Hope and the interior of a converted 1880's mansion in Hamilton, outside of Toronto. The institution that has housed Henry Bowers since '89 is actually a disused hospital, which was marked for demolition immediately following production.

One of the largest new settings is the carnival, held adjacent to the town, in celebration of the annual Canal Days Festival. Muschietti notes, "The carnival is a new evil phase that basically concentrates all of the bad vibes of Derry. It's all happiness, color and music, but you know there's something wrong. The horrible face of the town is personified by a huge clown that looks over it all."

Much of the fair set consisted of redressed carnival rides and attractions, with the big exception of the newly built funhouse. Austerberry looked to funhouse designs from the last century, which influenced the leering clown head and the entrance through its mouth, as well as the room of clown punching bags and the hall of mirrors.

Fans of King's novel will also appreciate the appearance of the young Losers' clubhouse, which is constructed by Ben in a hollowed underground space, where the kids spend time during the summer of 1989. The set, along with all others constructed for filming this time around, were housed in six soundstage facilities in and around Toronto.

All of this construction was to allow Muschietti and production teams the chance to capture as much of the story in-camera as possible, later enlarging spaces or events too big or otherworldly to capture with film. The dictum was, use practical to go as far as it could go, and rely on visual effects for moments beyond the scope of the build.

A shining example of this philosophy involved a scene with Jessica Chastain, as her character comes face-to-face with a fear that has haunted her since childhood. In "IT," Beverly is seen holed up in a school bathroom stall, while she is bullied and belittled by the cool clique. Pennywise now flings her back there to face an even more nightmarish scenario.

Eschewing the digital, the production trucked 5,000 gallons of "blood" (a proprietary formula of methylcellulose and red dye) from an effects house in California to set in Toronto. Multiple tests were conducted to see that their leading lady would not be turned pink by the stuff. To achieve the speedy inundation effect Muschietti desired, a system of ten wide-bore pipes were built to fill the space with two-and-a-half tons of blood. When the time came to shoot, the system worked, and Chastain gamely filmed two separate takes, falling in, swimming down, counting to five and shooting back up again.

"It was disgusting," the actress laughingly admits. "It got in my eyeballs, my ears, my nose. We filmed all night. Then, Andy was saying, 'It's so great. I'm so happy.' I said, 'Okay, well, you're gonna find out how happy you are!' At the very end of the shooting day, I gave Andy and Barbara the biggest bear hug. They blew up this picture and gave it to me-it's all of us just covered in this slime. But we all look really happy."

Some of Chastain's castmates emerged from their filming paces with tiny reminders of their more physical scenes. James McAvoy confesses, "I've done a few action movies in my time- some with serious action for most of the film. But, I've never been as banged up as I have on this one. Andy would call 'Cut!' and say 'It was perfect, absolutely perfect. Best shot we've done... Okay, one more time.' I'm like, 'Wait a minute. How can you improve on perfection?' 'Sure, it was perfect. Once more, please.' But I admit, I was a bit of a glutton for punishment. I kind of enjoyed it." He quickly adds with a smile, "But that's what happens when you have a bunch of 40-year-olds running around, doing an action movie."

Bill Hader picks up, "I didn't do anything crazy. I'm used to being across from someone at a desk, not being chased by giant clowns. PJ [Ransone], James, Isaiah and Jay were literally falling, somersaulting and crashing into shit. I pulled a groin muscle because I ran."

Chastain reasons, "I knew this from working on 'Mama.' When you're working with Andy, it's going to be long days. For him, there's nothing that he loves more than being on a film set. There's this childlike wonder that he has. He's so excited, and that is really contagious. And Barbara is the only producer who could put a film like this together. The reason why we have these beautiful films that Andy makes is because of the partnership between him and Barbara."

In between the gore, scares and extremely long days for the filmmakers, cast and crew found pockets of relaxation, joking and musical interludes. Between takes, Andy Muschietti would often play piano, with Chastain a talented chanteuse.

For the music to accompany the inevitable cinematic return of the Losers and Pennywise, Benjamin Wallfisch returned to create the score. He explains, "One of my earliest discussions with Andy was how we could take what we did for the first movie and give it more scale and ambition, to reflect the scope of the film. To start, we used a much larger orchestra and choir, and also created several new themes. When we occasionally reprise moments from the first score, we re-recorded them with more complex and ambitious arrangements, like the music itself had gone through 27 years of maturing.

"But the most exciting challenge," Wallfisch expands, "was how to develop the original themes and create new ones that fit alongside them. There was a lot more music required, which really allowed room for the original themes to develop and evolve in a way driven by the emotional complexity of how the Losers' Club grapple with inner demons from the past and painful memories, and ultimately unite to confront their biggest fears. Pennywise is even more flagrant this time, and the music had to also reflect that increased darkness, while never losing sight of the adventure and emotion that are at the core of the movie."

That sense of adventure, laced with emotion, is what initially drew Barbara Muschietti to adapting King's enduringly popular novel, and what she takes with her from the experience. She remembers, "When we realized that we were about to film the last shot, Andy created another shot because none of us wanted to let go. We've watched these kids grow and become who they are and now, they're family. We've been eating, breathing and sleeping-not a whole lot-this amazing book for four years, making these two movies that have changed our lives. These characters have connected with so many people, especially when you hear kids talk about the Losers, and how they found these people onscreen that they could relate to. That, for me, is why you make a movie."

King asserts, "With 'IT,' Andy made a horror movie, while also putting the people, the kids, first. In 'IT Chapter Two,' the interaction between the Losers as adults and their younger counterparts shows up in flashbacks, illuminating moments from the first chapter. In revisiting these moments, we see a wider perspective from an adult point-of-view. Again, Andy is placing the characters front and center. As a result, this creates a high-stakes horror movie experience."

Andy Muschietti once again returns to his love of the filmmaking process when he says, "Making a movie is an exercise in chaos, you plan and prepare yourself as much as possible to counter that chaos. At the same time, you have to be open to things that change on the day. It's very important that you have a good understanding of every beat, every scene and what each character is going through at every point in the process. I'm always open to the question. A lot of times, actors will bring you to understand the story in deeper and deeper levels.

"This project," he concludes, "has attained levels I never dreamt of. To be trusted with this epic story and be able to tell it over two films has been unbelievable. I'm deeply grateful how much it connected with audiences, and how they are waiting, like me, to watch and see how the journey ends. I truly believe you are going to be very scared, but you will also leave the theater uplifted."

For 27 years, I dreamt of you.
 I craved you.
I've missed you!

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