It Prequel Series Could Be Heading To HBO Max

You never really make it out of Derry for good, do you? Andy Muschietti certainly doesn't; the director who helmed two successful "It" movie adaptations may be returning to the world of one of Stephen King's most famous novels with a prequel series at HBO Max, Variety reports.

Muschietti is reportedly set to executive produce the series alongside Barbara Muschietti and Jason Fuchs. The project is apparently based on a story developed by all three collaborators, with Fuchs and a writers' room currently working on the script. The show is currently titled "Welcome To Derry," and will be set in the 1960s. The box office smash hit "It: Chapter One" transplanted King's '60s-set story to the '80s, so its leads could end up fighting clown monster Pennywise in the modern-day during its sequel. The creature re-appears in 27-year cycles, which means a '60s-set prequel will likely follow the generation of kids who were plagued by Pennywise before The Losers Club we know and love. The Variety report adds that the show "is also said to include the origin story of Pennywise the Clown."

What a '60s-set It series could look like

If we're backtracking through the history of the evil clown-creature and his terror-based relationship with Derry, his previous appearance would have been around 1961. The teenaged Losers Club actually makes reference to this cycle when Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) does research on the timeline of the supernatural force that's hunting his friends. He mentions a club called The Black Spot that "was burned down years ago by that racist cult."

In King's book, The Black Spot was a nightclub for Black soldiers that was torched in a hate crime. Does this mean "Welcome To Derry" will include The Black Spot? If so, hopefully it will also give us a Black lead character and a writer's room that's ready to tackle this loaded storyline with the nuance it deserves. 

It's also worth pointing out that King's novel is filled with interludes to the past, with Pennywise plaguing Derry in one form or another for centuries. These portions of the book are relegated to fast references and bits of exposition in the final film, but they're among the most chilling and unsettling moments in the novel, truly painting a picture of a community that has been haunted and diseased for longer than anyone can possibly imagine. Even with two movies, the "It" adaptation couldn't capture the complexity and depth of Stephen King's world-building, so a TV series feels like the right next step for anyone who really wants to dive deep into what makes Derry tick.

A prequel for Pennywise

If "Welcome To Derry" is taking this route, it's a clever way to capitalize on an iconic performance — Bill Skarsgard as the eye-rolling sinister clown — while paying even more direct homage to King's original novel. The new series would take place just a few years after King's novel is set. As the project is still in its early stages, there's no official word on Skarsgard's involvement in the prequel, but the actor has made it clear during press for the films that he had fun scaring the pants off his co-stars (and the world) in the role, even if it was also exhausting.

Of course, a prequel like this has to walk a tightrope. Horror fans would surely be happy to see Skarsgard back in the role that launched him to stardom, but part of Pennywise's appeal is that he remains so ... unknown. The more we learn about It, the more questions bubble to the surface. This is an entity so inhuman, so alien, that it shrugs off all easy classifications. A project about this creature's origins threatens to remove that mystique, and tell us too much about a villain who thrives on lurking in the dark spaces of our nightmares. Hopefully, the series can find a way to explore the past without over-explaining. After all, horror icons like Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees were so much more interesting before we knew their whole life story. Let Pennywise remain an enigma!

In any case, it's no surprise Muschietti finds himself drawn back into the world of "It," as the filmmaker loved the story so much that he reportedly shot tons of footage that never made it into either of the films. In 2019, the director announced plans for a supercut of the movie including additional, unseen footage that would run at least six hours. That cut doesn't appear to have materialized yet, but perhaps some of the unused footage will be repurposed for the new series.