Oh, what could have been.
Sin Nombre and True Detective (season 1) director Cary Fukunaga had been working on a new adaptation of Stephen King’s It since 2012. A production date was being eyed and Will Poulter had been all but locked in to play the evil clown, Pennywise. Then everything fell apart.
Initial reports had it that Fukunaga decided to walk from the project after being unable to find common ground with New Line Cinema regarding the budget. His vision was calling for two films, which would see the first focusing on the children as they are haunted by the evil clown and the second meeting up with them as adults. It was an ambitious plan, but word was that, apart from the budget, disagreements on locations and casting (apparently Fukunaga initally wanted Ben Mendelsohn to play Pennywise, but he was too expensive) led to the project being halted.
Well, Fukunaga himself has clarified what really went wrong, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the budget. In an interview with Variety, Fukunaga made it clear that it basically came down to one thing: creative decisions.
“I was trying to make an unconventional horror film. It didn’t fit into the algorithm of what they knew they could spend and make money back on based on not offending their standard genre audience,” Fukunaga said, pointing out that there was an agreement that the films would be budgeted at around $32 million each.
“It was the creative that we were really battling. It was two movies. They didn’t care about that. In the first movie, what I was trying to do was an elevated horror film with actual characters. They didn’t want any characters. They wanted archetypes and scares. I wrote the script. They wanted me to make a much more inoffensive, conventional script. But I don’t think you can do proper Stephen King and make it inoffensive.”
The filmmaker said his plan to make Pennywise “more than just the clown” and to really draw the lead characters in a layered manner. Although he acknowledges that it would be “a slow build”, he said both films would have had worthy payoffs.
Ultimately, Fukunaga pointed out, he and New Line simply “didn’t want to make the same movie.”
“It was being rejected. Every little thing was being rejected and asked for changes. Our conversations weren’t dramatic. It was just quietly acrimonious,” Fukunaga explained.
“We didn’t want to make the same movie. We’d already spent millions on pre-production. I certainly did not want to make a movie where I was being micro-managed all the way through production, so I couldn’t be free to actually make something good for them.”
It’s quite a shame that Fukunaga’s vision didn’t come to fruition. Fukunaga’s take certainly sounded like something ambitious and different, which is what seems to have turned New Line right off. The studio is apparently still keen on getting a new It to the screens, and Mama director Andy Muschietti is said to be in talks to direct once a new screenplay is developed.
Fukunaga’s next feature is the Idris Elba-starring Beasts of No Nation, which will be hitting Netflix on October 16.