Stephen King's It

At 1150 pages, Stephen King’s It is a daunting prospect for adaptation. That’s why the first attempt was a TV miniseries. For the feature film, It is split into at least two films, with the one opening this week focusing on “The Losers’ Club” as children in 1989. The bullied outcasts of Derry, Maine face Pennywise the clown (Bill Skarsgard) and other nightmares manifested by a horrific force the kids only refer to as “It.”

Screenwriter Gary Dauberman took on the adaptation, which King himself has approved. Dauberman had a hit this summer with Annabelle: Creation and wrote another entry in the ever-expanding The Conjuring universe, The Nun. But even with that much horror movie experience, adapting Stephen King’s massive novel was still a massive undertaking. We kicked off our interview by talking about how you even get started with an undertaking like that.

I keep thinking I’m going to have some sort of Who’s On First type argument telling people about this movie. “You need to go see It.” “What should I go see.” “It, you have to see It.” “I know you’re telling me to see it but what should I see?”

[Laughs] That’s good.

Stephen King may have had that with the book too. So when you have 1150 pages of Stephen King, where do you start?

Page one. The decision to just focus on the kids was made before me. I think that was the right decision, so that helped narrow the field down a little bit, or the scope. Then it becomes, you just look at the through lines, you look at the themes you want to drill down on. Of course you need Georgie in the sewer, but it just became let’s tell the story from the point of view of the Losers and see where that gets us. We couldn’t deviate too much from that, so that also helped narrow the field down a little bit, that scope. Then it just became about I know the book pretty well. I read the book several times growing up, several times before I started. Then it became let me close the book, put it aside and just write and see what I’m missing and what I’m not, what people are missing when they read the script. Then Andy had tons of great ideas so it was incorporating those. It was just a constant dialogue with Andy, the producers but also with the book.

Were you going for a Stand By Me vibe but with the monsters of the other Stephen King stories?

That was important to me. The Body was the first Stephen King work I read. Stand By Me is still one of my favorite movies and that’s one of my favorite stories so that’s an element I wanted to preserve because it’s there in the source material. Andy wanted to preserve it and really make that a part of it because I think those moments of levity provide a great contrast to those darker moments, or makes the darker moments feel all that much darker. That was something I cared deeply about.

Were you able to read the previous draft by Cary Fukunaga and Chase Palmer?

Yeah, and this wasn’t a case of coming in and starting from scratch or whatever. They used the same source material as I did, so it was picking up kind of where they left off and making sure that Andy’s vision was where it needed to be. Andy and I would sit in a room and just talk about what we want to happen and where we wanted to get this too. Then it was just about making that happen.

Is it hard to distinguish which draft comes from who when it’s three writers adapting the same sourced material?

No, it’s all kind of a collaborative effort. You’re not really picking, going, “That’s mine, that’s there’s” or “That’s Andy’s.” It becomes its own thing, which is how it should be or else it’d feel very uneven.

There was talk early on about including the very controversial sex scene from the book. How far did that get?

For us, it got as far as a conversation going, “Okay, what’s the intent of that scene? Is there some way we can accomplish that another way?” That was the conversation we had, but it wasn’t something we zeroed in on or anything like that.

Was the kiss the substitute for it?

I think the journey is more of the substitute. The kiss is a nice moment of that journey but I think the whole journey exemplifies what was going on there. It’s a coming of age story. I think that kiss certainly is part of that journey and part of that transition from going from kids to an adult.

Did adapting It make it less scary for you?

No, I just was more scared of what Stephen King would think. That was the new fear that presented itself adapting it.

But it didn’t dispel any of the magic?

No. I read the book when I was 12. He’s been such a constant in my life. That magic is still there.

Stephen King's It Trailer

What was different about 1989 in the movie from the ‘50s setting in the book?

There’s different touchstones, different influences. If you just look at the pop culture, kids are scared of things in the ‘50s that they weren’t necessarily scared of in the’ 80s. But in the ‘50s they’re scared of bullies, in the ‘80s they’re scared of bullies, in present day they’re scared of bullies. There are certain universal things that transcend whatever the decade is and just happen to be universal. I’m a kid of the ‘80s, Andy seemed to be. That choice was made before me but that was the right move, I think.

The bullies in the ‘80s say the F-word a lot, which maybe bullies still do today. Was that specific to the ‘80s or was it in the ‘50s too?

I don’t remember distinctly in the book. I remember it was in the book because the present day was set in the ‘80s so you had all that with Adrian Mellon and that attack. I know it was prevalent just because I grew up in the ‘80s. I know it was all over the place unfortunately. It almost seemed inauthentic if you didn’t include that, unfortunately.

I loved seeing the summer movies change on the marquee from Batman and Lethal Weapon 2 to Nightmare on Elm Street 5. What movie do you think was playing at the Derry theater in September?

[Laughs] Do you know?

Oh, I should’ve looked up what Warner Bros. or New Line movie came out September of 1989.

That’s a good question. That is a really good question. I thought you were going to tell me. Now it’s one more thing I’ll have to Google today.

I should’ve come prepared.

Man, that was a great summer. I spent my summer at the movies for sure.

Was Eddie’s gazebo line from the book?

The gazebos joke I think was made on the day. I wish I had written that line, but it is hilarious. I think that was on the day. I’m not sure if it was Andy. I’m not sure where it comes from but it’s brilliant.

Did Finn Wolfhard improvise any of Richie’s one liners?

Yeah. There’s a lot of improvisation. The outtakes are a whole other movie, but he also stays true to the jokes I wrote. I think most of those are in there but he improv’d some brilliant lines, really funny stuff. All those kids are just exceptionally talented.

I suppose people who read the book know what Pennywise does to Georgie in the sewer. With that scene did you want to show the movie was going to go there with all the nightmares?

I think was the intent of the scene, one of the intents of the scene. Yeah, you want to know that this movie has teeth, pun intended I guess. Just like in the book, it sets the table for everything that follows. You want to get a sense of real danger and real fear.

Were you able to come up with any original nightmares that weren’t from Stephen King?

Yeah, the painting, the lady in the painting was something Andy had a real fear of as a child. I think that’s where that stems from. Mike’s fear I think sort of borrowed a little bit from The Black Spot, that fear. We played around with them quite a bit I think.

Continue Reading It Screenwriter Interview >>

Pages: 1 2Next page

Cool Posts From Around the Web: