One is marked, “Not scary at all.” The second is marked, “Scary.” And the third is christened, “Very scary.”
When a group of my fellow journalists and I sat down at a recent press junket for the film (my review is already completed – but we can’t post it just yet!), we co-conducted three separate interviews.
And the first which I’m posting is with one of the co-writers of IT (as well as the writer of both Annabelle films and the upcoming The Nun) Gary Dauberman.
A bit of housekeeping – as this was a round-table scenario, questions for the interviewee came from several different sources, including yours truly. So all questions will be marked simply, “QUESTION”.
As we open the door marked, “Not scary at all” – we’ll have the chance to check in with the co-writer of IT.
(Note: His interview under the heading of “Not scary at all” in no way diminishes Dauberman’s horror-writing talent).
QUESTION: How much time did you spend with Mr. King?
GARY DAUBERMAN: None… well, my whole life. I’ve been reading him my whole life. For the fifteenth time I’ve read “On Writing” again. To sit down and talk with him on this stuff – I would have welcomed the opportunity. But I don’t know how involved he wants to be, and who the fuck am I?
QUESTION: Maybe an email or something like that?
GD: Yeah, but I feel weird. I don’t know. I would have loved to have done that. The opportunity didn’t present itself. And I’m not someone who’s gonna… I don’t want to be a bother.
QUESTION: Were you involved with the original script, in the attempt to do both time periods? Or you came in only after the decision was made…?
GD: After the decision was made to do the kids, which I think was the right one.
QUESTION: Did the stuff from the Fukunaga version get into yours?
GD: Yeah, yeah. With that – it wasn’t a case of “Oh my God, what are they gonna do?” It was just picking up the ball and running with it – trying to get to the end of it. Wasn’t the case of a tear-down. We’re using the same source material, obviously.
QUESTION: Other than the book, obviously, where else did you pull your inspiration from?
GD: It’s hard not to say the book. But I think Andy [Muschietti – director of IT] brought a lot of inspiration to me. He had a lot of great ideas. He had a lot of great visuals. We would sit there and talk, and he would draw things out, slide ‘em over: “I’m thinking of this for this scene.” So working with him was very inspiring. Um – and then, you know. I’ve been sort of entrenched in The Conjuring world for a while too, so it’s hard not to pull inspiration from James [Wan], no matter what I’m doing. And then, you know – a lot of 80s horror movies – trying to bring that sort of aesthetic and sensibility.
QUESTION: How was it moving the film from the ‘50s to the ‘80s?
GD: That was another thing that was made before me. But I do – again – think it was the right decision. I used it to my advantage, ‘cause I grew up in the ‘80s – I’m a child of the ‘80s. So I got to pull from all sorts of… I got to add to the story, and put the stuff I liked as a kid from the ‘80s – song choices and stuff. I think people will respond to that – in terms of the nostalgia factor and all that.
QUESTION: So you like the New Kids on the Block?
[laughter all around]
QUESTION: Was that yours?
GD: Yeah, yeah yeah.
(Note: When you see the film, you’ll understand the relevance of this question.)
QUESTION: With three writers on it – and with King’s book in general – is there something, without offering spoilers… is there one thing in there that you will proudly claim as your own?
GD: Oh, man. No.
QUESTION: What about “gazebos”, is that yours?
GD: That is, I believe. Placebos is me. But I think “gazebos” is actually, what’s his face? [Jack Dylan Grazer]. I think that’s Eddie. They came up with that on the set – which just pisses me off. [laughs]
QUESTION: So it there one you’d pick out? “I’m really proud of this one – this is my moment”?
GD: I don’t know, man. I don’t really think of that stuff. I’m happy with how the losers are portrayed, I’m happy with those moments of levity. I think I got some stuff in there. I don’t champion anything as my own. Working with Andy, working with the producers, New Line – it was just a true collaboration. It was just hard to say – like – oh that was mine.
QUESTION: Is there one of the kids you most identify with? And did you give them any extra special treatment while you were working on it?
GD: No. No. I mean, it’s nice to actually write jokes and stuff. Usually, I bury that stuff in my description or whatever. But it’s nice to actually put them front and center in a couple of the scenes. I came away with falling in love with Bev [character Beverly Marsh] all over again… like I did when I read the book. So that was sort of something I really enjoyed when writing it – not to sound creepy.
QUESTION: What is it about the horror genre that you like so much? You’ve done – obviously a lot of horror genre movies – and you’ve got some more coming. So what is it about that? Do you scare yourself when you’re writing?
GD: No… that could be a problem with my writing. [laughs] I generally write late at night. I’ll get freaked out ‘cause I hear something outside. I’m not gonna be able to do much if there’s something out there… things like that. I always gravitated towards stuff as a kid. I loved the horror genre, I loved the supernatural, I loved going to haunted hayrides. It’s interesting – I have a son now. I try to – not push him toward this stuff, but he just seems to like it.
I also think there’s a very communal aspect to horror. I think you get that in comedy as well, when you’re sitting in the theatre – you can hear people laugh. I think with horror you can hear people gasp – nervously, sort of elbow each other or whatever. That I really respond to it – I really like.
Also, growing up and going to Blockbuster and Suncoast Video. Every Friday night, there were always people milling about the horror. It was it’s own thing.
QUESTION: What were some horror movies which influenced you growing up as a kid?
GD: I’m such a very commercial person. Halloween‘s my favorite horror movie. I just recently… sometimes you watch a movie and you realize the influence it had on you as you watch it. I just re-watched The Lost Boys for the first time in many, many years. And I’m going, “This movie’s so ahead of it’s time.” I remember just seeing that – going to Suncoast and seeing the poster. It was a horror movie my sister wanted to see, ‘cause Keifer Sutherland is in it, Jason Patric. It was one of those things which transcended genre that I really responded to. Nightmare on Elm Street; that whole series. Halloween, Friday the 13th – all of those franchises. Of course, Texas Chainsaw when I saw it a little later. The usual suspects.
QUESTION: Something that you capture – and everyone involved in this captured… A lot of King movies kind of miss the point a little bit – is how these kids can’t really turn to their parents. And how dark their parents are. Talk a little bit about crafting that relationship with these kids and their parents – and how you went there with this one.
GD: Yeah, That’s something Andy and I talked a lot about, the producers talked a lot about. I think it’s something we all feel – starting to figure out stuff on our own and sort of who we look to. We look to the people closest to us in terms of our friends, look to them as family. And that was something… you’re right, it’s in a lot of his books. I’m a fan of his books. I didn’t go, “Oh, they missed this in these movies” and it’s something we wanted to do here. We all kind of brought this naturally, ‘cause we’re such fans of his work. Something that seems to be ingrained, that I don’t think… It felt organic to the story. I didn’t feel like that was something… we didn’t sit down and look at other King movies and say, “What did they get wrong and what can we get right here?”
QUESTION: The film had this brilliant balance with horror, comedy and some really heartfelt moments. What are the similarities in building a scare and building a laugh?
GD: It’s timing. It’s rhythm. It’s the set ups and the payoffs. Telling a joke is like a scare – you set something up and you pay it off later. That was something I learned early on with James [Wan]. He’s so great with that – sort of taking ordinary objects and suddenly they become fucking demonic in the third act. So it’s that set up and punch you see in comedy – works for horror as well. Trying to get that rhythm. I think the he rhythm on the page is different from when you’re laying out/shooting the scene. You gotta have the comedic timing of an actor. It’s funny, I notice actors who have a great sense of humor, generally are better with the horror, because they get the timing.
QUESTION: When you’re writing – was there a scene where you were like, “I just cannot wait to see how this is translated onto the big screen”?
GD: For me, the most iconic scene in the movie is probably Georgie’s. I think his scene… that was something I really… I cannot wait to see it. It was something you carry with you your whole life – that you wanna see on the big screen. That was one. I was really interested in the dynamic with the kids. When the cast gets here, who are they gonna get for this, who are they gonna get for that? I can’t cast the movie in my head. So that was a big question mark for me. Such a relief to see these kids at the table read, when they start to bounce stuff off of each other. Like with the “gazebos” line, something I couldn’t write, but they just came up with it. So brilliant.
QUESTION: Did you hear a voice for Pennywise in your head when you were writing it? And how different/close was that to what Bill [Skarsgard] ended up doing?
GD: No. Again, I used the source material. I tried to get as many Pennywise lines out of the book into the movie, because it worked in the book. Why not? So I tried to replicate that as best as I could.
QUESTION: Now that you’ve worked on this – and you’re clearly a Stephen King fan… If there was any other movie that you could do or redo, what would it be?
GD: That’s tough.
QUESTION: Dark Tower.
GD: Salem’s Lot – it’s another mini-series, another book that I always loved. There’s a couple of short stories I sort of have my eye on, but I don’t know what’s out there in development. There’s so many. I don’t know how I would do it, but I really dug “Joyland”, if you guys have read that – a coming of age story. It’s not very big or commercial, but there’s something about it.
I know they’re trying to get “The Long Walk” done. I think someone should make that movie.
QUESTION: What about Thinner?
GD: Thinner‘s great – so much good stuff.
QUESTION: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask… The Nun is in post, how are you feeling about it?
GD: I feel great about it. You’re sitting there in Romania from April to the end of June going, “I hope this works! I miss my kids, I miss my life.”
But – Corin [Hardy – director of The Nun] is doing a hell of a job. He fit into the universe really well, worked with James [Wan] really well, took what I wrote and just fucking ran with it. We’re seeing stuff now and it just looks great. It feels like its own movie, its own thing, but it’s still part of the universe. It’s a nice distinct movie that sets itself apart from the others.
QUESTION: Having worked in the universe so much, how do you feel different? What’s different, what’s changed? What feels better about it?
GD: It’s such a basic thing to say, but the fact that it’s set in Romania – there’s a castle and a graveyard with fog… very Gothic, Hammer horror style sensibilities. It feels kind of different and cool and atmospheric and moody.
Thanks to Gary Dauberman for taking the time to chat with all of us horror freaks!
Stay tuned to this space for our SECOND and THIRD interviews with the cast and crew of IT – as we open the “Scary” and “Very scary” doors!
Up next is HFN’s round-table discussion with IT producers David Katzenberg and Seth Grahame-Smith — behind that “Scary” door.
The film opens in less than a week – in theatres nationwide! And again, the release of HFN’s review of the film is just on the horizon!