For better or worse, a huge portion of It Chapter Two is spent following our characters' descents into their own personal hells: Beverly again confronts her issues with her father and the abusive upbringing in her small apartment; Eddie must once again fight off the leper.
Most tellingly of all, Bill (James McAvoy) must once again face his guilt around the death of six-year-old brother, Georgie, having seemingly put the issue to rest 27 years ago. That's not how life works, though, and returning to Derry in It Chapter Two reawakens the torture Bill put himself through the day his brother was eaten by Pennywise.
Perhaps sensing this, Pennywise lures Bill and another child into a messed-up carnival funhouse complete with a swirling, gravity-defying tunnel, a gauntlet of life-size swinging clown dolls, and a hall of mirrors. Bill knows it's a trap, but can't help but right his perceived wrong and save the next kid he has to save. GQ talked to both McAvoy and the director of both It movies, Andy Muschietti, to find out how it all happened.
GQ: Tell me about how this scene came together.
James McAvoy: It wasn't in the script at first. It was originally just a scene with Pennywise and the kid. I was very concerned we were missing a couple of things from the book. I didn't want all of them put back in, but I felt we were missing a moment where Pennywise attacks Bill by going for his Achilles heel. There's a scene where he gets scared, but not for any reason. I thought we were missing something massive.
So we were sitting in the bar having a glass of tequila and I told Andy, and he just started riffing. It was like Minority Report with that big screen; he was pulling pieces from other scenes and putting them into this new one we were creating right there in his head—just during a chat. Eventually, we had this sequence that would probably cost another few million dollars and add another week to the shoot.
I take my hat off to Andy because I've been on set before, saying, "We're missing something," and you have these incredible conversations and then... nothing happens. They move a couple of punctuation marks about. You come back in and they're pulling handkerchiefs out their arse thinking they've won the fuckin' Nobel Prize for screenwriting. And I'm like, "No! You've done nothing." But Andy, over a glass of alcohol, fixed it. And fixed it superbly.
Andy, is that how you remember it?
Andy Muschietti: Yeah. It's a tough story because there are so many characters; It's a balancing act. That sit-down was Bill's—sorry, not Bill, he's Bill to me—James's concern, that Bill's story wasn't really paying off. So we sat down with Jason Fuchs, who was writing a draft. We started spitballing, and I came up with the funhouse, but the essence was about delving more into Bill's journey.
A lot of this film is based around physical manifestations of psychological trauma. For Bill, obviously that's clowns, but it's also facing himself. Hence, the mirrors.
Muschietti: Yeah, Pennywise really takes it to the limit. He's basically telling him, "Yeah, I killed Georgie because you weren't there. Now watch this: I'm going to do it again."
McAvoy: It's a scenario tailor-made for Bill's trauma. And then we get it again! This scene informs that later scene where I'm in the basement confronted by Pennywise/Georgie again. That scene changed massively as a result of the hall of mirrors scene. It becomes way more complex and maybe a bit meta.
Bill's already lost his brother, what does it do to him psychologically to lose that second kid he tried to save?
McAvoy: It robs him of who he is. Think about who Bill is in the first movie: he's the glue holding the group together. He's the one making things happen. Then you look at this movie and it's the complete opposite, He's on his own the whole time, even when he's with the group, he's lost in himself. And so that only gets worse after the hall of mirrors.
Muschietti: It's his lowest point. Pennywise rubs it in his face that he killed Georgie, but that he killed Georgie because Bill wasn't there. He takes it up another notch.
I think in the first film when Bill confronts [Pennywise/Georgie], it's a bit of a patch. A Band-Aid. There's something deeper still. You see it on his face, when Pennywise eats the second child and there's the splash of blood. Bill's face... it's the cherry on top of the cake.
So, James, how do you run repeatedly into a wall and make it look convincing and painful?
McAvoy: I actually do this thing a lot where when I'm walking down the street I'll pretend to whack my head on a lamppost and I'll kick it at the same time so it makes a big "ding!" noise. I'm good at knocking my head back, and whoever I'm with is like "Oh my god are you all right?" and I'm like "Hahaha!"
But to be honest, you've just got to whack your face. We had one-sided mirror glass so the camera was right on the other side. You've just got to whack your face. Not as hard as it looks, obviously, but you can't fully fake it either.
Muschietti:James is a dedicated actor, so he was banging hard on the glass when Pennywise has the kid. I think he had some pain at the end of the day.
Tell me a bit about the technical side of shooting that scene.
Muschietti: It's so hard to shoot in a hall of mirrors. We built the entire set. The cameras were being reflected at all times, so we made one-sided to make that less of a problem. It's very winding with sharp turns, so we needed to make sure the camera rigs and circuits were small. We had one leading him and one following him through the glass. But yeah, it still wasn't easy. There were still a lot of problems, but it was also a lot of fun.
McAvoy: Usually on set there are a lot of cameras and lights and people doing their jobs really well and all that, but we couldn't get all that in the mirrors, so strangely I felt like I had a lot of space. I was in my own little world.
Let's talk a bit about Bill Skarsgård and his work as Pennywise, in these scene and as a whole. His scenes might have been too silly in the wrong hands.
McAvoy: Sure. I think if I were in a hall of mirrors and trying to rescue a kid and suddenly there's a clown there licking the glass, it could be silly and hammy, yeah, but I'd also be fucking scared. Now, add to that he's a selfish, ancient eater of worlds and it's fucking terrifying.
[Bill] is... brilliant. I honestly find it hard to look at him in his get-up. He's not in character the whole time, but when they call "action" you see it happen immediately. You don't see how much he's killing himself to play this role. He's killing his voice, he's killing his body. He's shaking all over, he's sweating buckets after a few takes. He's like... vibrating. It's disconcerting to be around.
Muschietti: He brought the clown to life! We talked about the hair and makeup and costume, but he took it to the next level.
A huge thing for me is the voice.
Muschietti: The monster is first of all unpredictable. And a lot of that's the voice. You can hear elements of the clown in there, like [vocalizes like a clown] that falsetto thing.
It's almost Mickey Mouse-y.
Muschietti: Yes! Someone compared it in the last film to Winnie-the-Pooh. [Winnie-the-Pooh voice] Hello!
The actors open up about Richie’s unexpected arc, and finding the funny in the frightening.
There are different kinds of scary. Where does the new horror blockbuster fit in?
The actor, who plays the adult version of resident hypochondriac Eddie Kaspbrak, says his greatest fear is... a divorced Pennywise crashing on his couch.
With a nearly three-hour runtime and a plot that rambles, this eagerly anticipated Stephen King sequel falls flat.
A movie made more enjoyable when you can turn your head and see Pennywise sitting next to you.
Originally Appeared on GQ