'It' Movies Lose Director Cary Fukunaga

The filmmaker, who became a hot director after helming the first season of HBO's 'True Detective,' has left New Line’s adaptation of Stephen King’s landmark novel.
Cary Fukunaga  AP Images

It will be a Memorial Day weekend to remember for Cary Fukunaga but not for the best reasons.

The filmmaker, who became a hot director after helming the first season of HBO’s True Detective, has left New Line’s adaptation of Stephen King’s landmark novel It.

Sources say that New Line and Fukunaga are parting ways over budgetary reasons that stem from a difference in creative visions.

The movie was due to begin shooting in three weeks.

The story follows a group of teens called the Losers Club who defeat a creature called It. Years later, the creature returns, and the members of the club — now adults — have to band together again even though they have no memory of the first battle.

The plan was for the first movie to tell the kids’ story and the second movie to focus on the adults.

Insiders say that New Line had greenlit the movie at $30 million (the second part would have had a larger budget) and that Fukunaga’s drafts were coming in at a higher number. Even with the start of principal photography approaching, the script was still being reworked.

Execs, producers and the director realized they were at an impasse and would not make their start date. Fukunaga decided to leave the project, which has now been pushed indefinitely.

Will Poulter (We're the Millers) was in negotiations to play the creature, who took the form of a clown, but it is unclear if he will remain connected to the project.

The parting does illustrate the pitfalls of a director who made a strong mark in the indie (and TV) world to work inside a system that can seem more constrained. New Line tends to have a lower budget threshold than its corporate parent, Warner Bros., but it's also had great success with horror. The Conjuring, directed by James Wan, was made for $20 million, for example.

It had been a passion project for Fukunaga, who had been developing the films for years as his star slowly rose. His process, which included strong ideas on casting, butted heads with New Line. "It was not a fit," said one source.

At a Tribeca Film Festival panel with former Focus CEO James Schamus last month, Fukunaga seemed excited to begin filming the project, which he said he was then eight weeks away from starting to shoot in New York. The project would have marked the first movie he filmed in New York City since film school.

While he couldn't give too much away, Fukunaga did say that the movie would end his series of movies in which child characters die onscreen.

"Hopefully after that, I’ll move into much more pleasant fare," he said, adding that he remains fixed on the "white face in the sewer" image from when he saw the miniseries.

Hilary Lewis contributed to this report.

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