Tim Curry Had A Very Specific Vision In Mind For IT's Pennywise The Clown

Tim Curry's portrayal of Pennywise, the dancing clown, the omnipresent, shapeshifting ancient creature and the central antagonist of Stephen King's "It," is one of the most revered performances of the horror genre. Curry's interpretation of Pennywise set a precedent; the actor employed an unnerving combination of humor and horror to add to the fearing image of the child-eating clown.

As a transdimensional entity that solely preys upon children, Pennywise exists to wreak havoc; he shapeshifts and warps the minds and perceptions of his victims, and uses his intelligence and abilities to induce fear that disorients his victims. Playing a character that had already been made so famous by the bestselling novel was no easy feat — and the actor had a specific vision in mind for his performance in the 1990 miniseries.

'He's just pure evil, really'

During its four-hour runtime, Pennywise commits evil acts and frightens the children of Derry out of their wits. He causes grief and suffering, and he does so with a smile. The creature uses people's deepest fears to drag them to his underground lair. Tim Curry shared his vision for the character in an interview published in Fangoria Magazine's issue No. 99, stating that the clown was "irredeemable" and "entirely without charm." Curry believes Pennywise is a character with no personality. He's just a bad, bad guy.

"Basically he's just pure evil, really, and he can also metamorphose into various other forms — mostly into the image feared most by whoever he's appearing to. Or he can also seductively become other people. At one point he turns into somebody's dead father, at another point he turns into the girl that the hero's in love with."

"I won't tell you what he turns into at the end ... but basically he's completely irredeemable; he's the kind of chap that's entirely without charm," the actor added.

Pennywise is the epitome of cruelty

The most alarming thing about Pennywise is the mental cruelty he inflicts on his victims. It is attacking the mind he is drawn to, which Tim Curry found interesting because, usually, clowns represent the opposite sort of idea. This clown, however, is nothing like that.

"I off quite a few people here and there, one way or another," said Curry. "But Pennywise turns out not to be that physical, actually — it's mostly mental cruelty. What's fun about him is that a clown is traditionally a very cozy, comforting kind of cheery image, and Pennywise is none of these things. I think of him all the time as a smile gone bad — that's my image for him."

Since Andrés Muschietti's film adaptation of the novel was released in 2017, Curry's interpretation has often been compared to that of Bill Skarsgård's, whose performance is the stuff of nightmares. The actor nailed the cosmic entity's mannerisms, employing a cross-eye tactic and a drooped, almost-whimsical (but totally sinister-looking) smile to make him scarier. Unlike Curry, who used his wit and a little humor to depict Pennywise, Skarsgård leaned on more horror than humor. And now we have two very distinct portrayals of what may easily be the most terrifying horror antagonist of all time.