While promoting Beasts of No Nation, Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) opened up to Variety about what really caused him to exit the feature film remake of Stephen King's classic horror tale, IT.
Cary spent several years working on IT, the studio (started at Warner Bros., moved to New Line) spending millions on pre-production, but in the end the two sides didn't want to make the same film. Cary says he clashed with the studio on everything. They just couldn't get on the same page as they wanted a conventional, "inoffensive" horror film, while Cary was in favor of a more character-driven approach that he hoped would make the payoffs down the road more powerful.
"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 disclosed to Variety. "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. 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."
Before Fukunaga left, he surprised everyone by casting the innocent-looking Will Poulter (The Maze Runner, We're The Millers) as the child-murdering clown known as Pennywise. Cary says there was a major conflict between him and the studio over how to approach Pennywise.
"The main difference was making Pennywise more than just the clown," he said. "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."
Cary and his writing partner Chase Palmer personalized the script by putting elements from their childhoods into, so he was relieved to learn that New Line has chosen to start from scratch.
"So our biggest fear was they were going to take our script and bastardize it," he explained. "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."
New Line is still moving forward with IT, as they tapped Mama director Andy Muschietti in July to take the reins.