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A Tale of Two Pennys: A Look at Pennywise the Clown From the 2017 "It" Remake

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So as the resident Curry-head I felt I should make this blog post since it deals with one of Tim Curry's biggest roles. Just over a month ago (I'm lazy, okay?), Entertainment Weekly released a first-look photo of the new iteration of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, the otherworldly, face-painted antagonist to be featured in the 2017 film adaption of Stephen King's 1,100-page behemoth It. Of course It was already made into a 1990 two-part TV miniseries, with notorious British heartthrob Tim Curry as Pennywise. I personally enjoyed the 1990 series, despite its low budget, laughable effects and sometimes-shoddy acting. But what really made the 1990 series memorable was Curry's creepy-ass performance as Pennywise. But more on that later.

The actor set to play Pennywise in the upcoming 2017 adaption (Which will just be the first half of the novel) is a young Swedish fellow by the name of Bill Skarsgård, who is known for starring in the Netflix horror series Hemlock Grove. I haven't seen the show and I know nothing of this guy's work, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the character of Pennywise. But let's just forget about performances for a moment and take a look at a visual comparison of Curry from the 1990 version of It and Skarsgård from the 2017 version.


Pennys


The first thing that strikes me about Skarsgård's Pennywise are those red lines of makeup traveling from the corners of his mouth to past his eyes. I'm not sure how I really feel about them; they are certainly an ambitious idea but seem a little visually distracting. Much of what made Curry's performance in the 1990 version so successful were his facial expressions, and I worry that these distracting red lines will detract from Skarsgård's facial acting. Moving on, I have to say I quite like the eyes on Skarsgård. They look to be exactly like the ones Curry had in the 1990 shower scene, and it's nice for the newer version to visually reference the original in a small way. Not much to say about the lips. I actually like the skin a good deal; it's almost like the being It is having trouble shapeshifting into a clown, and its skin is cracking slightly as a result. The last thing to really note here is the nose, which is just a smear of red paint as opposed to the actual clown nose on Curry. I honestly think it looks okay, I just hope they don't go overboard with the smear effects if Skarsgård's Pennywise changes makeup like Curry's subtly did over time. All in all my view of the new Pennywise's face is that it's alright. I'm still worried about those red lines, though.

But in the end makeup is just makeup without a great actor. In my opinion Tim Curry was so effective as Pennywise for a few reasons, the first of which has to be his voice. He employed this booming, gravelly Brooklyn accent which you really wouldn't expect an interdimensional shapeshifting demon to have, and Curry somehow pulled it off in an off-putting, unsettling way. Another excellent aspect of his performance was his face itself; I mean that man could make some pretty damn weird facial expressions, and that benefited him greatly for his role as Pennywise. Finally, it's Curry's charisma in general and screen presence which makes him such a big success in It. He spends half of his time bouncing and running around like a jolly madman, genuinely smiling and laughing all the way with these silly mannerisms, and the other half as a perverse sewer-dwelling abomination. You can go from smirking at how much fun Curry is obviously having with the role, to... well, not so much. Or maybe you're just scared the whole way through. It depends.

So anyways to wrap this thing up, I would say that Skarsgård's success in playing Pennywise would depend on what he can personally bring to the character. I would hate to see him try to emulate Curry's specific performance; I'd much rather see Skarsgård bring his own original vision of Pennywise to life, with the voice/personality/traits/mannerisms he sees fit to portray the character. If Bill Skarsgård can formulate his own original, interesting take on Pennywise the Clown and translate on screen as half as well as Tim Curry did, then Skarsgård's Pennywise should be a nice success. I absolutely look forward to the 2017 remake of It, and I have high hopes for it. The FOX remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, however... well I'll just save that for another time. Thanks for reading.

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