Bill Skarsgard on Playing Pennywise in ‘It’: “It was by far the most exhausting character I’ve ever done, physically and mentally”
“I was equally as excited as I was terrified when I booked the job, because now these people expected me to pull it off.” – Bill Skarsgard
It has quickly become one of the highest-grossing horror movies of all time — and one of the reasons why audiences went so crazy for the film is the chilling performance by Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise the murderous clown. Speaking with The New York Times, Skarsgard spoke about why it was such a difficult role to play, why the role terrified him, and what he has learned from his acting family.
Despite the fact that Pennywise has limited screentime in It, Skarsgard says that the role was incredibly draining. He explains, “Normally when you do a movie, you have those mundane days when it’s like, ‘Today is the scene where I get coffee.’ With this character, there were none of those. Everything I did took 100 percent of my energy. It was by far the most exhausting character I’ve ever done, physically and mentally.”
Skarsgard reveals that going out for the role required “a callback, a screen test and sending additional self-tape from Stockholm before it was official.” However, once he was hired fear began to creep into his joy. He says, “I was equally as excited as I was terrified when I booked the job, because now these people expected me to pull it off. It was a nervous time.”
Though It has grossed nearly $500 million worldwide, Skarsgard is happy that playing Pennywise required covering up his face so fans don’t connect him too closely with the character. He explains, “I wouldn’t want to be associated with one character, because I want to be able to do different roles. Pennywise looks and sounds so different from me that I could do a rom-com next, and people probably wouldn’t even know I was the same guy.”
In addition, Skarsgard has two wonderful resources to help him in his career — his father, Stellan, and brother, Alexander, who are both actors. He reveals, “They were always encouraging, but I’ve tried not to seek advice from them, because I wanted to feel independent. As I grow older and more comfortable with who I am, I realize asking for help is important.”