Roundtable Q&A With The Director And Cast Of IT Chapter Two

Andy Muschietti (Director), James McAvoy (“Bill Denbrough”), Jessica Chastain (“Beverly Marsh”), Isaiah Mustafa (“Mike Hanlon”), Bill Hader (“Richie Tozier”), Jay Ryan (“Ben Hanscom”), James Ransone (“Eddie Kaspbrak”) and Andy Bean (“Stanley Uris”)

How much did watching the kids in the first film inform your performances in this one?

JAY RYAN: I watched Jeremy Ray Taylor’s performance even before I auditioned and tried to capture his sweetness and his humility.

JAMES RANSONE: All I did was I thought, “That kid talked really fast. If I can keep up with him, everything’s gonna be fine.” (LAUGHS)

ANDY BEAN: Absolutely, with the mannerisms, the posture and the sensitivity.

ISAIAH MUSTAFA: In fact, my audition piece was a speech done by Chosen Jacobs in the first film, so I watched to see what he was up to with the character.

JESSICA CHASTAIN: I definitely watched the first film and specifically Sophia Lillis’ beautiful performance, and I tried to mirror the things that she was doing. When I rediscover the post card after all those years, I tried to mimic what she had done when she first received it, how she held it. I hadn’t told Andy [Muschietti] I was doing this, but I was holding my hands the way she did. When he saw me, he said, “You’re walking with her hands.”

JAMES MCAVOY: Yeah, I suppose I stole Jaeden Martell’s emotional vulnerability and his openness. As a kid, I think Bill is a strange mix of suppression and complete vulnerability, and Jaeden nailed that. So, I stole that from him, HARD. (LAUGHS)

BILL HADER: Yeah, Finn Wolfhard, it’s pretty easy. He’s not a very good actor (LAUGHS), you just have to kind of sleepwalk through the part. No, I absolutely worked within the character lines he had drawn.

Andy Muschietti—how important was it for you that they nailed the performances of the kids, or were you open to them bringing their own take on it?

ANDY MUSCHIETTI: It was both, actually. I didn’t ask them for a percentage, to capture an amount of what the younger actors had done. I just encouraged them to watch the performances in the first film—there are some important things, like the physicality. Mostly, it was just to help them get closer to these characters that audiences have seen and loved. But, I gave the actors the freedom to explore and let them decide what was good.

Did any of you have nightmares while filming?

JAMES MCAVOY: I did, in a strange way. I had read IT when I was a kid and really liked it, but it didn’t really scare me. Then, I re-read it again as an adult and I started to have nightmares about Pennywise. I can’t remember a hell of a lot of them, but I do remember one of them being him in bed beside me and stroking my back, while I pretended to be asleep. And that was pretty f***in’ terrifying.

BILL HADER: Yeah, that’s scary.

JAY RYAN: I had a weird dream about PJ [James Ransone], like just the other night. (LAUGHS)

JAMES RANSONE: That was so not the question!!!

JAY RYAN: No, actually after the ADR session, when I got to see some more of the film, I did have the weirdest dreams.

ANDY MUSCHIETTI: It’s amazing how all of the cast trusts you while you’re shooting. But, it’s not until you show them the movie edited, with the music and the visual effects, it’s like, “Oh, now I get it.”

Would any of you have been a member of something like a Loser’s Club?

GROUP: Nope!!!

(LAUGHTER)

BILL HADER: No, okay.

JESSICA CHASTAIN: A bunch of losers.

BILL HADER: A bunch of losers.

JAMES MCAVOY: Basically, during summer holidays, all the kids would sort of team up. But it would be intermittent—the next summer it would be different, and the summer after that. When I grew up, there were all these houses on a big huge row and they all shared gardens. I remember moments where we were going on adventures with our pals, and the adventure was to make it to the 20th garden along. But, there was a dog halfway there, and it felt like the whole world would collapse if we didn’t get past that dog. Nothing like this film—this stuff was truly adventurous and exciting.

ISAIAH MUSTAFA: We just didn’t row that deep. We didn’t have seven people. We had maybe three, and then somebody’s relative would show up and you’d hang.

JESSICA CHASTAIN: You could play a fourth. That’s a squad.

ISAIAH MUSTAFA: When we had seven, we were playing the game.

BILL HADER: Basketball.

ISAIAH MUSTAFA: When there were seven, there was a ball involved.

JESSICA CHASTAIN: I didn’t have friends that were boys, which would have been nice when I was growing up. For some reason growing up, it was very segregated, where the boys hung out and the girls hung out separately. So, that would have been nice, especially to my development as a human being. (LAUGHS)

Tell us more about how you imagined your character was doing between the two films, in that 27-year span, and how that influenced your performance in this movie.

ISAIAH MUSTAFA: It was pretty easy. Andy told me what my character was doing. (LAUGHS) He said, “You are the only one who stayed in Derry.” Mike was trying to figure out if this thing that happened so many years ago was going to happen again. I believe he felt a responsibility to stay in Derry, to be the custodian of this energy that they cultivated as a group. So, once that evil returned, he could call his friends and say, “Let’s do this thing again.”

The fact that your character never forgot, how did that shape your performance with everyone else? The other Losers don’t really remember until they come back to Derry.

ISAIAH MUSTAFA: I think just having listened to the audio book so many times, it was almost like I had lived in Derry for 27 years.

Andy Bean, what happened to your character during that time, in those years in between?

ANDY BEAN: I think the first seven years he joined the circus, to get over it. (LAUGHS) No, I think he developed the most normal life he could possibly create for himself, with the most routine, the most consistency. Finding his wife was his entire life. I think having a predictable life and enjoying the consistency and the contentment of his marriage—they were each other’s worlds. That became enough. It is quite a beautiful, content, comfortable life. I think Stanley was very happy with that, and he pushed down all of his memories of what happened for years and years.

And when the news comes back, with Mike’s phone call, would you say that idyllic life is thrown off-balance?

ANDY BEAN: Sure, yeah. I think he had buried his memories so deep that he didn’t really remember anything until he heard Mike’s voice—it’s his voice.

JAMES MCAVOY: In the book and in the film, the Losers that leave all become arguable winners, but they all have this tainted side to their success—none of them seem to be able to have children, for one. And there are these emotional issues that darken all of their, what seem like, perfect lives.

Jay, your character has a huge transformation.

JAY RYAN: Yeah, he has a polarizing physical change, becomes a Kiwi and moves to New Zealand. (LAUGHS) Ben, once he leaves town, he starts running, physically and emotionally, for 27 years. He learns how to say no, to stand up to bullies, and he becomes a leader in his profession. I don’t think he remembers the horrific things of Derry, but he remembers the good things and holds onto those, like Beverly, the friendship. It seems to the outside world that here’s a man who has everything, but he doesn’t really have any real human connections. I think he’s been waiting for this phone call from Mike for a while, and he’s ready to go back to Derry and really reveal his true self.

JAMES RANSONE: I think, for Eddie, there’s a lot of couple’s therapy and prescription pill management. (LAUGHS) Actually, I really think that he’s probably spent a lot of his time pretending to not think about his childhood by focusing on his wife—they don’t really love each other. I think that’s what it is. You get in those type of relationships, where it’s a constant project that needs fixing. You focus on that so that you don’t have to think about yourself.

Do you think it had a lot to do with his mother?

JAMES RANSONE: I agree with everyone in saying that the book’s about childhood trauma. And afterwards, a lot of people grow up and do really great things…but then, at a certain point, you have to deal with it. I think you get into adulthood and you aren’t focusing on those childhood events and, as some point, they come up again. I think that’s really what it’s about.

Bill, what about your character, Richie?

BILL HADER: I think he’s pretty good at repression –

(LAUGHTER)

JAMES MCAVOY: Repression?

BILL HADER: Yeah, like a lot of comedy people, you deal with stuff by joking about it. You say you’re being honest, but it’s really…

JAY RYAN: Depression.

BILL HADER: It’s depression. Yeah, exactly. I think that’s what he’s been not thinking about. He’s definitely someone who just doesn’t even want to. He’s the first guy, when they realize what’s happening, to say, “Oh, I’m outta here. F*** this.” He has deep, deep repression.

JESSICA CHASTAIN: For Beverly, she’s still living with her ideas of what love is. The first person she really loved is her father, so this idea—that love means someone you love can hurt you at the same time—has lasting impact on her. Also, choosing people who aren’t necessarily free. She falls for people who are, in some sense, tortured themselves. It’s all complicated for her. Love for her has always been something that hasn’t been easy. And when it’s not easy, she’s feels, “That’s what love is.” That’s where we meet her, 27 years later.

JAMES MCAVOY: Bill’s been off writing. He has all of this subconscious stuff—that he can’t remember—coming out in his work. He can’t finish his story because the story isn’t finished, in his head. Meanwhile, he’s trying to do a good impression of being in love. I think when he gets that call and he realizes that he’s been playing a role his entire life, he’s got to go home and get real.

ANDY MUSCHIETTI: In “IT Chapter Two” we’re telling the story of a bunch of adults who will face that one fear that is the most deeply buried. And in some cases, these are some things that we as an audience will not expect. These broken characters have been mostly successful in their professional lives, but they’ve been pushing down their original trauma. Obviously, it has to do with that summer, but it’s something that you don’t necessarily see coming, having watched the first film. It has to do with an event in that summer that they don’t remember—we didn’t see it, because they’ve repressed it.

This is a journey that the Losers need to take back to their childhood, to access the power of belief. But, they also need to look that one event from their past in the face, to be able to confront it, understand it and ultimately, overcome it. The conversations we all had were about character in general, but also about what these journeys meant for each of them. You can’t move past something you can’t recall, so this has basically cemented their paths as adults—they have just been running in circles. Beverly still has relationships with men that abuse her. She loves people that hurt her. Eddie has married his mum…basically.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDY MUSCHIETTI: These are the things you can basically surmise from watching the first film. But, there is other stuff that will be a surprise.

Are any of you actually afraid of clowns in your life, prior to joining this cast?

JAMES MCAVOY: I’m wary of them. I’d rather not be around them.

ANDY BEAN: They give me a really bad feeling.

JESSICA CHASTAIN: It depends on the clown.

ANDY BEAN: You know what scared me when I was a kid? Easter bunnies, when you go into a store. That actually scared me more. A six-foot Easter bunny.

BILL HADER: The “Magical Mystery Tour” album cover, like that animal mask. That dog mask thing bummed me out. Clowns, I was fine with.

JAMES MCAVOY: I often feel that clowns are like slightly freaky uncles, who are trying so hard. And you see a little kid react to that, like “That’s f***in’ weird.” Even to an adult, I think clowns are like that. Why are you trying so hard? There are easier ways to make me laugh. Just talk to me a minute, make me laugh. There’s something creepy about the effort that goes in it.

BILL HADER: Why did you look right at me after you said that…?

(LAUGHTER)

All right. That’s it. Thank you.

By Andrew Germishuys

Founder of SAMDB, Andrew has worked full time in the film industry since the early 2000's. He has trained as an actor, completing his LAMDA Gold Medal, and attending many courses in Cape Town acting studios, with masterclasses with some of the international industries top directors, producers and filmmakers. Working as an actor and armourer in the film and television industry have given Andrew a great balance of skills across the board when it comes to the entertainment industry. Catch him on Twitter: twitter.com/andrewgerm_za Instagram: instagram.com/andrewgerm_za IMDb: www.imdb.com/name/nm5390453/

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