Bill Skarsgård took on the role of Pennywise, the evil clown in Stephen King’s It, after landing the gig due to his unusual audition that left the casting directors impressed.
Probably the most popular Stephen King story to date, It tells the tale of a demonic character plaguing a small town for decades and feeding on children. This monster shows itself only to the kids and appears as a terrifying clown. The book revolves around a group of friends as they fight the monster as kids and then return as adults to finish the job. Already a scary story to read, it was made into a movie in 1990 and then remade again in 2016.
Who is Bill Skarsgård?
Bill Skarsgård is a 30-year old Swedish actor who has been active in the film industry since 1999. Most of his career has been in Europe, so he is relatively new to the Hollywood scene and Americans. His first significant American role was in the Divergent Series: Allegiant film in 2016.
He later landed the job as Pennywise for It in 2017 and then reprised the role in the second part in 2019. He has many titles listed under him, but this role is perhaps his best and most famous. It will be some time before he separates himself from this character.
He comes from an entire family of well-known actors. The Skarsgård name is quite prominent in the industry: his father is Stellan Skarsgård, from Good Will Hunting, Thor, and Mamma Mia!; his brother Alexander from True Blood and Big Little Lies; and Gustaf from Vikings and Westworld.
He has been acting since nine years old, although he didn’t believe he would follow in his family’s footsteps as a teenager. He is now a well-known name with a long-time girlfriend and three-year-old baby daughter.
It, 2017 and 2019
The reboot of Stephen King’s It was split into two parts to tell the story properly. The first film featured the main characters as children, while the second portrayed them as adults. Both films were immediate box office hits, earning above 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and topping $100 million on opening weekend. Skarsgård’s acting as the evil clown was a crucial factor in the films’ success.
How He Got the Role
Skarsgård’s unusual audition is what sets him apart from the other contenders. The casting crew was surprised when he arrived at his audition in full clown makeup. He was the only actor who came in with clown makeup, so the directors were instantly intrigued.
The makeup helped him get into character and sell his performance. He didn’t show himself as an actor taking on a role but as the monster itself.
It is difficult for the cast to imagine what a normal actor would look like as a clown and if it could work or not. Skarsgård helped them out by painting his entire face white with a red smile.
His commitment to the audition impressed the crew and showcased his passion. He went after it and knew he could pull it off. His confidence and dedication were enough to convince the producers that he would be perfect for the role of Pennywise.
The directors even explained later that Skarsgård fit the character perfectly. One explained that the actor has a childish appearance and soft demeanor but occasionally gives off an unsettling feeling, which seemed to personify the clown exactly.
His Appearance As Pennywise
Bill Skarsgård received incredible praise for his acting as Pennywise the clown from both critics and fans. He was so dedicated to the job that he would even try to maintain the character while off the set as well. Skarsgård wanted to keep a bit of weirdness and uneasiness among the cast and crew to help him stay in the headspace, which ended up backfiring on him. Afterward, he said he was quite lonely on set because most people were nervous around him in costume.
He was even required to separate from the young actors between scenes to keep their fear of his character realistic. They weren’t even allowed to meet each other until actually shooting the scenes together. Skarsgård explains that he has not been the same since filming for It because he had to get into the monster’s head for months–he described it as a toxic relationship.
The role of Pennywise took an emotional toll on Skarsgård, and he was relieved when filming ended. He even suffers from dreams of the terrifying clown. However, he still looks back on the experience fondly.
He loved taking on the role because it was such a stark contrast to other roles he had played. His transformation into this character excited him and remains his most significant job to date.