A couple of months ago Cary Fukunaga spoke for the first time about why he departed a planned two-movie adaptation of Stephen King‘s horror novel It after dedicating three years of his life to developing it. An adaptation that fans of the book were very excited about—rare for something with a popular existing adaptation—after seeing Fukunaga’s work directing the first season of HBO’s True Detective.
At the time Fukunaga didn’t reveal much, only that he and New Line Cinema did not see eye to eye on what kind of movie they wanted it to be. But now the director has spoken on the subject once again, offering a much more detailed account of what went down, and those who were devastated to see him depart the project (movie fans, to be more specific) will not be happy to read what they’re about to read.
It was initially thought to be a budget issue that drove Fukunaga away from It, but while speaking to Variety for a cover story about his new Netflix movie Beasts of No Nation, he clarifies that budget was not the issue and that the issue was in fact creative.
Here’s the full explanation from Fukunaga:
“I was trying to make an unconventional horror film. It didn’t fit into the algorithm of what they knew they could spend and make money back on based on not offending their standard genre audience. Our budget was perfectly fine. We were always hovering at the $32 million mark, which was their budget. It was the creative that we were really battling. It was two movies. They didn’t care about that. In the first movie, what I was trying to do was an elevated horror film with actual characters. They didn’t want any characters. They wanted archetypes and scares. I wrote the script. They wanted me to make a much more inoffensive, conventional script. But I don’t think you can do proper Stephen King and make it inoffensive.
The main difference was making Pennywise more than just the clown. After 30 years of villains that could read the emotional minds of characters and scare them, trying to find really sadistic and intelligent ways he scares children, and also the children had real lives prior to being scared. And all that character work takes time. It’s a slow build, but it’s worth it, especially by the second film. But definitely even in the first film, it pays off.
It was being rejected. Every little thing was being rejected and asked for changes. Our conversations weren’t dramatic. It was just quietly acrimonious. We didn’t want to make the same movie. We’d already spent millions on pre-production. I certainly did not want to make a movie where I was being micro-managed all the way through production, so I couldn’t be free to actually make something good for them. I never desire to screw something up. I desire to make something as good as possible.
We invested years and so much anecdotal storytelling in it. Chase and I both put our childhood in that story. So our biggest fear was they were going to take our script and bastardize it. So I’m actually thankful that they are going to rewrite the script. I wouldn’t want them stealing our childhood memories and using that. I mean, I’m not sure if the fans would have liked what I would have done. I was honoring King’s spirit of it, but I needed to update it. King saw an earlier draft and liked it.”
New Line has since hired Mama director Andy Muschietti to deliver their desired archetypal, inoffensive take on the book.