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How The Makers Of The '90s 'It' Miniseries Managed To Scare An Entire Generation

Updated March 22, 2019 10.5k views14 items

Years before the TV mini-series event became the de facto means of adapting Stephen King’s stories, director Tommy Lee Wallace and a massive cast and crew embarked on the imposing task of filming one of the horror giant’s most ambitious novels, ultimately creating what is considered by many to be one of the very best Stephen King movies.

The making of the 1990 mini-series version of King’s It required a huge cast, not to mention numerous technicians and crew members, so it inevitably spawned plenty of stories from behind the scenes. Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise the Clown managed to instill coulrophobia in a whole generation of TV viewers, and it remains a key iteration of the evil clown archetype. Needless to say, it left Bill Skarsgård some big clown shoes to fill in the 2017 remake of It and its 2019 sequel, It: Chapter Two.

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  • ‘It’ May Be A Metaphor For Real-World Darkness

    Director Tommy Lee Wallace has argued It - both the original Stephen King novel and his mini-series adaptation - may be a metaphor for childhood trauma. “I think Stephen King built this story around this very real, very human event of horror,” he said in an interview with ComingSoon, “and like good storytellers everywhere, he employed metaphor to get his point across.”

    Wallace continued:

    It is the Great Unspoken Thing that adults refuse to discuss. It knows your deepest secret fears, and preys on them. It knows how to weaken you, and ultimately take you for It’s own; and It makes you keep it all a secret. Aren’t the memories of this what any victim of abuse grapples with their whole life long?

  • The Actors Didn’t Know What They Would See In The Fortune Cookie Scene

    When the members of the Losers Club - or the Lucky Seven, as they are known in the mini-series - reassemble as adults, they share a meal at a Chinese restaurant. As they crack open their fortune cookies, they are viscerally reminded It still haunts them, as each one finds something disturbing in their fortune cookie.

    The reactions of the adult actors in this scene are real. As Tim Reid - who plays the adult Mike Hanlon - told Yahoo! Entertainment, “none of us were allowed to know what was going to happen in the fortune cookie scene.”

    Like the audience, the actors are taken by surprise by the strange things inside the fortune cookies, including a moving eye and the embryo of a baby bird.

  • Annette O’Toole Felt Genuinely Terrified During The Tea Scene

    When Annette O’Toole, who plays the adult Beverly Marsh, returns to the childhood home where she lived with her horrible father, she discovers he has met his end. She drinks tea with the kindly old lady who lives there now - a disarmingly domestic scene that quickly turns terrifying as things begin to slide into surreality and horror.

    In an interview for Women In Horror Month, O’Toole recalls filming the scene:

    I mostly remember the cup of tea that had this weird sludgy chocolate syrupy stuff... It was probably the only scene in the whole film that FELT scary to shoot, because none of my buddies were there. It was just me. Just me and the really scary lady and the cup of chocolate blood stuff.

  • The Werewolf Is Incredibly Detailed, Given Its Limited Screen Time

    In one memorable sequence, young Richie Tozier (played by Seth Green) goes to the school’s boiler room and is confronted by Pennywise in the guise of a werewolf. Though it’s only shown in low light, the werewolf makeup is remarkably detailed. It also looks nearly identical to the eponymous beast from the 1957 film I Was a Teenage Werewolf, which the kids watch in an earlier scene - it’s even wearing the same jacket.

    While the werewolf’s appearance may be brief, it’s a reminder of the power the kids are up against, as It can take the form of whatever makes them afraid.

    In an odd bit of synchronicity, Green went on to play a werewolf in one of his best-known roles, Oz on TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer.