Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.
Fans are more divisive about the It remake than any other horror film coming out this year. Most criticize the new look for Pennywise, most condemn them even remaking it at all, citing that no one could ever step into Tim Curry’s enormous clown shoes and do the role justice. Yet, interestingly enough, there is an overwhelming response from these same people that they would all have loved the remake that Cary Fukunaga was attempting to make two years ago. Even though the problem seems to be with the idea of remaking it at all.
Cary Fukunaga is, of course, the genius behind True Detective, so that gives his version of It some weight. But everything in any fandom these days is pure elitism, radicalized thinking of taking any two things and saying that one is the best and the other is the worst. With the It remake, the line of thinking is that Fukunaga’s version would have been absolutely incredible and Andres Muschietti’s version cannot possibly be good.
To attempt to put this to rest, I’ll give my thoughts on Fukunaga’s script, as well as attempt to understand why we didn’t see it on the screen. The first thing I like about this version immediately is also one of the things I’m most interested to see from the finished film coming this September, which is that it is set in the late eighties. I think this is an important thing for the story. Updating it to the ‘80s allows for the filmmakers to embrace the same nostalgia that King had when writing the book and Tommy Lee Wallace had when directing the miniseries. And even that updated the setting from the ‘50s to the early ‘60s.
There are great moments in this script. Great character beats, the core group of friends are established in organic ways, and there are moments that would have been truly scary to see on the screen.
Having said that, though, there are also a lot of things that—as a huge fan of the novel—kind of rubbed me the wrong way. First of all, some of the names of major characters are changed for no discernable reason. Bill Denbrough, our lead character, becomes Will Denbrough. Henry Bowers becomes Travis Bowers. Patrick Hocksetter becomes Patrick Hocksettler—that’s a one letter difference. Why change one letter in a character’s name?
Speaking of Patrick, one of the things I’m most looking forward to in the upcoming film and was most looking forward to in reading this script is the inclusion of moments that didn’t make it into the original miniseries. While there are some bits that are unfilmable—at this point I think you all know the sewer scene I’m referring to—there are tons of great characters and sequences that the first adaptation didn’t have room for.
Patrick Hocksetter is one of the biggest. He’s an outlier among the gang of bullies because he’s too crazy even for them. He doesn’t believe anyone but himself is really real and has believed this all his life. He killed his baby sister while she was in the crib to see if it would make him feel anything, and it didn’t. He’s a terrifying, fascinating character.
So, spoiler alert for a script that isn’t getting filmed: Patrick’s the second victim in the whole movie. After the traditional prologue with Georgie’s death, Patrick dies first. He gets maybe four minutes of screen time, if that. All of the character’s insanity and complexity is reduced to “he likes fire” and it’s a gimmick that manages to wear itself out before his four minutes are even up.
Also, in case you’re wondering what this version of Pennywise would have looked like compared to the new version that most seem to have nothing but disdain for, I’ve got some bad news. The Pennywise in the script is described as looking almost identical to the version we’re getting on the screen. Slender, tall, emaciated, acrobatic, like he stepped out of a circus from at least a hundred years ago… that all sounds like the Bill Skarsgard Pennywise. Or at least pretty close.
There are great things from the novel that are kept intact. The House on Neibolt Street is home to one of the script’s most terrifying sequences. Eddie has a run-in with the leper. Some of the characterization is great. I can’t begin to express how well Beverly is portrayed in this script.
This was a later draft. This was the script they had right before they were about to start shooting. I think by and large it would have been a pretty good adaptation, but there are absolutely things that would have rubbed me the wrong way as a fan. I don’t know if the remake coming this year will make the same mistakes. I really don’t. But I do know that this isn’t the perfect adaptation of the novel, if such a thing actually exists. There was room for improvement. In some areas, I already know that the movie is fixing some of those details because we already know from any of the official teases that the characters’ names are all intact.
Either way, I remain excited for It and I want to see where it goes. Fukunaga definitely paved the way for something interesting before stepping aside for creative differences which have never totally been cleared up. It sounds like he left when he couldn’t convince the studio to split it into two movies, but the producers recently said that the plan is still to do two movies, so it’s impossible to know what really happened. Either way, It’s coming, and I’ll remain hopeful until I’m given a clear reason not to be.