Those who were excited to see Cary Fukunaga’s rendition of the Stephen King classic It are going to have to find something better to do with their lives now, as the director and New Line Cinema have parted ways over budget concerns and disagreements about how best to structure the marathon story. Fukunaga, best known as the director of eight episodes of True Detective, was keen on casting Will Poulter of Maze Runner fame as the iconic Pennywise, and wanted to structure the film similar to the ABC two-part miniseries from the early 1990s by crafting the story as two separate installments. New Line Cinema was less keen on the idea of shooting two complete films, and would prefer a more recognizable actor play the eponymous creature in clown form. Unfortunately, these differences appear irreconcilable, and the director and production company have thus parted ways.
This hits the project hard, as it is now being reported that the property is in a state of limbo, searching for a director. Since the major contention that lead up to this point was the disagreement over the structure of the film, I started think how I would build a feature film out of the It story. The difficulty clearly lay with the structure of the narrative taking place over two different time periods, 27 years apart. In the miniseries, part I dealt heavily with the children of The Losers Club, and part II picked everything up with the members of the club as adults, determined to destroy the monster It once and for all. Of note, both parts one and two combine to form a three-hour film, which would be entirely do-able as a single piece in today’s environment of 2.5 hour action movies, but you have to handle the different time periods appropriately, or it will seem like two films slapped together.
In my mind, if It must be a single film, the best option is to take advantage of one of King’s original plot elements: when the member of The Losers Club leave the town of Derry, they forget the trauma that they have experienced. Only one character, Mike, remains in Derry, so he must remind the other members of the horrors they’ve experienced and the blood oath that they have sworn. A screenwriter could take advantage of this and place the audience in the same boat as these other characters. The initial scene in the movie should be very similar to the final scene of part I of the miniseries: Mike contacts the rest of the group telling them that they need to return, and Stan commits suicide in the bathtub, scrawling “IT” in blood (hell, this could be the opening title screen). The events in the past will be related to the audience in the same way that they are revealed to the member of The Losers Club, essentially using the first act to introduce us to the characters and their past, making liberal use of flashbacks. The second act can feature the battle against the monster in the past, and should culminate in the group experiencing total recall of the events, determined to finish the job they started. The third act can deal with the new battle in the present, and will reach its climax with the death of It, as we’ve seen before.
Clearly, you could craft the film as two parts, one in the past and one in the present, but I think It offers the opportunity to take advantage of a non-linear narrative, which can work very well in film. This structure dramatizes the theme of repressed memories and trauma, and allows a slow build-up of the terror. You could even keep Pennywise off-screen for a long time, or tease his partial appearance multiple times, thereby strengthening the effect of his eventual full appearance. Sadly, this is just me playing around with a idea, and there is no indication that this project will continue at all, let alone in the fashion I have described. Hopefully they are able to right the ship and produce something worthwhile, but the immediate future is looking pretty grim. What do you think? Do we even need a new It? How would you like to see the story told?
Image courtesy of nymag.com, and you’re welcome for not making it a gigantic Pennywise with teeth.