With over $688 million taken in box office receipts worldwide, It has become one of the highest-grossing horror flicks ever. And while the movie is as undeniably scary as it is successful, it could yet have been even more terrifying. Indeed, actor Bill Skarsgård has revealed that one deleted scene from It was so traumatizing that it had to be left on the cutting room floor.
Back when horror fans first heard that a movie of It was in the works, however, their reaction may have been one of excited anticipation mixed with dread and anxiety. After all, the Stephen King novel on which the film would be based is a classic of the genre, and so it would take a skilled cast and crew to pull a satisfactory adaptation off.
It’s story, meanwhile, follows a group of teenagers coming face to face with their worst fears in Maine. As the terrors mount up, though, the gang realize that something horrifying is menacing them. And that thing – watching from the sewers – goes by the name Pennywise.
In fact, Pennywise, a grotesque clown who feeds on children’s fear, is so key to the tale that the casting for the new movie needed to be just right. What’s more, the chosen actor would also have to measure up to Tim Curry’s iconic, fear-inducing portrayal of the horrible clown in the original 1990 miniseries version of It.
So, after originally casting Will Poulter in the role of Pennywise, producers eventually settled on Bill Skarsgård to portray the nightmarish figure. This may have come as a surprise to fans, though; after all, although Skarsgård had had some small on-screen credits to his name by this point, the Swedish-born actor was nevertheless relatively new to Hollywood. And, as it turned out, the soon-to-be-star also had some doubts about his suitability for the role.
“Leading up to production, I was like, ‘How am I going to pull this off?’” Skarsgård told Hollywood Life in September 2017. And Curry’s legacy also left Skarsgård with many preconceptions to meet. “People were having opinions and hesitations and expectations that I am not going to live up to,” the actor added.
But any worries about Skarsgård’s performance were soon swept aside when the film hit theaters in September 2017. Indeed, although It’s child protagonists would gain their fair share of praise, Pennywise was undoubtedly the star of the show. And Skarsgård’s twisted, intimidating characterization left many suitably spooked.
The critics were impressed with Skarsgård’s performance, too. Writing for Rolling Stone, Pete Travers would call Pennywise “spectacularly scary” and “the stuff of nightmares.” USA Today’s Brian Truitt was also thoroughly freaked out by the villain. “Bucktoothed and cartoon voiced, the clown burrows under the skin and just stays there,” he wrote.
But while It may have bowled over cineastes in the media, it made an even bigger splash with audiences. In fact, upon release, It gained the biggest-ever opening of an R-rated movie in the U.S., with $51 million grossed on its first day alone. Moreover, the chiller quickly became the highest-grossing R-rated horror ever released in America.
And throughout the movie, Skarsgård’s eerie performance dominated the screen. In particular, his intense introduction from inside a storm drain is perhaps more disturbing than Curry’s famed 1990 portrayal of the same. That horrifying moment was even parodied by Kate McKinnon in a 2017 episode of Saturday Night Live.
However, not all of Skarsgård’s scares made it into the final cut. Indeed, as with many motion pictures, It had a number of deleted scenes. But one significant bit was dropped not because it wasn’t good enough for the final cut, but rather because it would have been too intense for audiences to stomach.
And during an appearance on the Variety podcast Playback, Skarsgård revealed details of the scene to host Kristopher Tapley. According to the actor, the moment took place almost 500 years before the events of the movie. And it would have established something of an origin story for the enigmatic Pennywise.
“There’s a scene that we shot that was a flashback scene from the 1600s,” the star admitted on the podcast. “Where Pennywise was before ‘Pennywise.’” But the killer clown that appears in this snippet is vastly different from the one audiences saw on screen.
For one, and in contrast to his modern incarnation, the 17th-century Pennywise has more human features. But while this may sound relatively benign, don’t be fooled: the character’s appearance in this scene is actually beyond unsettling. In fact, Skarsgård has gone on record as admitting that this specific moment cut from the movie is “really, really disturbing.”
Resembling a “half-formed” human, Pennywise is portrayed as something more monster than man. And in the scene, the creature approaches a mother and her child. Shockingly, the thing then convinces the parent to give up her baby before devouring her before the mother’s disbelieving eyes.
“It’s a very disturbing scene,” Skarsgård continued to Playback. “Sort of a backstory for what It is or where Pennywise came from… The idea is that It, the entity, was dormant or resting for thousands and thousands of years, and [this scene] hints on [humans waking the creature up].”
Meanwhile, while speaking to podcast Throwing Shade, fellow actor Timothy Simons would confirm just how terrifying the missing scene really is. “The thing that was scariest about it was that it was very direct,” Simons explained. “It was, ‘If you don’t do this, these are the things that I’m going to do.’ And they were all terrible.”
Furthermore, had it not been for It’s enormous success, fans would’ve likely encountered the deleted scene upon the movie’s release on DVD. Alas, eager viewers may have to wait a little longer, however, as there’s a chance that it could be used in the film’s planned 2019 sequel.
That’s right: as King’s original text spans a whopping 1,000-plus pages, It’s running time has been divided into two movies. And bookworms will likely be pleased to hear that moments from the novel missing in part one of the film – such as the infamous Black Spot massacre – will likely make it into this upcoming release.
As for Pennywise’s sickening origin story, Skarsgård has hinted that its inclusion in the sequel could happen. “I’m not going to spoil what the scene is, because we might use it [in the next installment],” he revealed to Playback. And hopefully moviegoers will have enough nerve by then to face it head on.