Brilliant director Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) was set to start shooting the first film in a two-part adaptation of Stephen King’s IT for New Line this summer, but he unfortunately bailed on the project amidst creative issues. This week Fukunaga spills the beans, and his experience is very concerning.
Per Variety, Fukunaga reveals that his departure had nothing to do with budgetary restrictions, as rumored, but rather was entirely an issue of New Line not agreeing with the approach he and Chase Palmer took with their script. In so many words, the studio isn’t all that interested in telling a great story.
“I was trying to make an unconventional horror film,” noted Fukunaga. “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. Our budget was perfectly fine. We were always hovering at the $32 million mark, which was their budget. It was the creative that we were really battling.”
“It was two movies. They didn’t care about that,” he continued. “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 director explains further…
“The main difference was making Pennywise more than just the clown. After 30 years of villains that could read the emotional minds of characters and scare them, trying to find really sadistic and intelligent ways he scares children, and also the children had real lives prior to being scared. And all that character work takes time. It’s a slow build, but it’s worth it, especially by the second film. But definitely even in the first film, it pays off.”
“It was being rejected. Every little thing was being rejected and asked for changes. Our conversations weren’t dramatic. It was just quietly acrimonious. 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. I never desire to screw something up. I desire to make something as good as possible.”
“We invested years and so much anecdotal storytelling in it. Chase and I both put our childhood in that story. So our biggest fear was they were going to take our script and bastardize it. So I’m actually thankful that they are going to rewrite the script. I wouldn’t want them to stealing our childhood memories and using that. I mean, I’m not sure if the fans would have liked what I would had done. I was honoring King’s spirit of it, but I needed to update it. King saw an earlier draft and liked it.”
Fukunaga’s comments reflect a worrying trend in the world of Hollywood horror, as studios have become less interested in characters and story, and more focused on things like worthless jump scares. It sounds like he had something special planned, and now I can’t help but worry about this project’s future.
Andy Muschiette (Mama) was recently brought in to replace Fukunaga in the director’s chair, and a new script is in the works. The plan is still to break the new adaptation up into two separate films – the first set in the past, and focusing on the main characters as children, and the second film set in the present day.