Special Feature: By Makeup Artist Marlena Von Kazmier
On Saturday, October 14th, Creature Features in Burbank California was the “IT” place to be if you were looking for science fiction, fantasy and horror movie memorabilia. The team who designed and fabricated the new Pennywise Clown for Andy Muschiett’s adaptation of Stephen Kings book ‘IT,’ Tom Woodruff Jr and Alec Gillis were joined by Bart Mixon, creator of the first Pennywise Clown for the original miniseries.
Woodruff, Gillis and Mixon answered questions about the process of bringing Pennywise the Clown to life, and had some great insider stories about creating two of the most infamous scary clowns in horror history.
Woodruff and Gillis met while working as a part Stan Winston’s team in the 80’s. They shared major success with films such as Predator and Aliens, but the two eventually left Stan Winston to form Amalgamated Dynamic Inc. StudioADI is an Academy Award-winning character effects studio based in Chatsworth, CA which offer design, production, and perform special characters for film, television, and commercials. Some of their more notable work in a very long, long list of blockbuster movies can be seen in films such as Godzilla, The Predator, Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom, The Maze Runner, and Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice to name a few.
Reinventing the most iconic killer clown was not an easy task. Woodruff and Gillis explained that director Andy Muschiett had come to them with some very good sketches of what he thought Pennywise would look like. Muschiett proposed that Pennywise be more child-like rather than a decrepit old man, the better to to seduce the children in the film. This lead Woodruff and Gillis to design a character with more rounded features and included buck teeth.
They then explained that when developing a character it is important to know who will be wearing the makeup, so most of the character design is done after casting the actor. Bill Skarsgård was chosen to play the part of Pennywise, and Woodruff explained he was not familiar with him as an actor.
Skarsgård is youthful, tall and lean and has a very warm presence. Woodruff was excited by this because when an actor has a natural tendency to be kind, then they have to work that much harder to overcome it to become a monster.
The design used minimal prosthetic pieces and overall was not a very complicated makeup process. The biggest concern was the spiky teeth – they were so large that they were concerned they would fish-hook into Skarsgård mouth and become an issue to remove. However Skarsgård mouth was elastic enough to accommodate the teeth and only made him drool more, which was very effective to the character. Skarsgård was able to get past the discomfort of the teeth without compromising the performance, which for most actors in heavy makeup is a huge challenge as it tends to be very unfcomfortable. In fact, they said the first time Skarsgård saw himself in full makeup he couldn’t stop laughing – definitely not the reaction of most moviegoers.
When the StudioADI duo were asked to give their thoughts on the marriage of digital and practical effects, they replied they sometimes forget where a practical effect started and a visual effect ended.
During the interview Alec Gillis pulled out a list and read the names of the creative team who did the day to day makeup application on set as the studio excluded them in the credits. As a makeup artist myself this hit close to home. I must admit I was dismayed when I didn’t see some of my Canadian artist friends’ names on the big screen – I couldn’t help but feel a little angry for them. I’d like to give them credit in this article, because without this team’s tireless efforts and talents the Pennywise we saw would not have been possible. So I’m naming names. The IT Canadian crew includes:
Sean Sansom: Designer
Shane Zander: Makeup Fx Supervisor
Neil Morrill: Key Makeup Fx Artist
Ryan Reed: Pennywise hair
Jasmine Ruiz: Contact Lenses.
The event ended with a slide show put together by Bart Mixon of some never before seen on set photos of Tim Curry as Pennywise and different variations of the Pennywise design. The attendees were then invited to see some of the prosthetic appliances as well as dentures that turned Bill Skarsgård into Pennywise and get a photo with America’s sweetheart; Pennywise The Clown.