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[This story contains spoilers for It: Chapter Two]
It: Chapter Two has arrived in theaters and screenwriter Gary Dauberman is ready to discuss the highly anticipated sequel to the 2017 blockbuster based off the classic Stephen King novel. Starring James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone and Andy Bean as the adult Losers Club, the Warner Bros. film is as much about friends, love and strength as it is about horror, blood and gore. Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise sees to the latter.
Set 27 years after the events depicted in the first film, It: Chapter Two follows along with the second half of King’s opus — but not entirely. Dauberman explains some characters had to be whittled down (“Although it pained me to do it”) and the ending also needed to be changed (“It’s probably the biggest departure we take from the novel”). In addition, he felt it was time to make one character’s perceived sexuality and love for another more prominent (“I love that love story”).
In the film, it is more than hinted that Richie, played as an adult by Bill Hader and as a youth by Finn Wolfhard, has a “secret” (something Pennywise threatens him with): that he has an attraction to Eddie Kaspbrak, played as an adult by James Ransone and as a youth by Jack Dylan Grazer. For instance, at one point, Richie carves their initials into wood, much the same way a young couple dating might. In another scene, Richie is bullied and threatened after he appears to share a moment with a boy while passing him a coin in an arcade. And Richie is inconsolable and in complete denial when Eddie is killed. In the novel, the duo’s relationship is that of two close pals, but ambiguous in terms of any romantic attraction. It was not addressed at all in the 2017 film.
Meanwhile, the characters Tom Rogan (Will Beinbrink), married to Bev, and Audra Denbrough (Jess Weixler), married to Bill, are more prominent in the book and go to Derry looking for their spouses, but for different reasons.
Why was Richie Tozier’s perceived sexuality and love of Eddie Kaspbrak more in the forefront than the ambiguity in the novel?
There is a subtext in the novel and Andy [Muschietti, director] and Barbara [Muschietti, producer] and I talked about it, but it didn’t feel like a choice, it just felt like a natural part of his character. But I love that love story. I think that is a special part of the movie and a special part of the character. Because it felt like it was part of his character. I think we pulled it out more, and it is more prominent in the movie. It is a part of the many things that define him. The carving of the initials, I give credit to Andy on that. It was a great way to button that up.
The characters Audra and Tom are more integral in the novel, so why limit them in the film?
I try to be as faithful as I can be to the source material. I try to throw it all in there as much as I can, but you have to lose things. And, unfortunately for Tom and Audra, I felt those were two characters we could lose and people would not necessarily miss them. Although it pained me to do it, you just don’t have as much time to spend with the characters as you can in the book to really want to spend time shifting from our core characters.
Can you explain the decision to make the ending different from the novel ?
It’s probably the biggest departure we take from the novel. I knew we had to include the Ritual of Chüd, I knew there had to be steps to this process. But I didn’t know how what was in the book would have played onscreen — going into another realm, things like that. It was certainly discussed, but it became about what is going to be the most cinematic way to tell this without the audience kind of scratching their heads. Stephen King’s ending is wonderful, but he also takes his time explaining the metaphysics behind all of it. We didn’t have that time. So, we had to distill it down to the key ingredients. I wanted to be faithful to the spirit of what King was going for, and I think we managed that. That is how I found my peace with taking a departure from it.
Speaking of King, how did that cameo come to be?
I had in the script “the shopkeeper, who looks a little like Stephen King.” You plant a seed and you hope it blooms. He has done cameos before, and I was thinking how great it would be if he could do it in this one.
What were your thoughts about the nearly three-hour run time?
I knew it was going to be a long movie. The studio knew it was going to be a long movie. I don’t think there was a concern there. There was a thought that we don’t want it to be four hours, but we know it is going to be longer than the first. The story warrants the runtime. It didn’t feel long to us. Plus, there were a number of films with long runtimes this year that did pretty OK. (Laughs.). So, we’re in good company.
How much improv did Bill Hader do, if any?
I can tell you there is no joke I wrote where I went, “I hope Bill sticks to the script.” Andy does a lot of takes. Bill likes to improv, so there are a lot of jokes in the movie that are his improv. But, there are also jokes that were in the script.
What was King’s reaction to the final product?
We have been in touch. He has said very nice things. And when you take a project like this, you just want the author, especially Stephen King, to like it. Everything else is gravy. I just want to make him proud because he has been such a strong influence on my life. That is the reward for me, just knowing that he is as proud as he is of these movies.
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