When It hit theaters earlier this month, it arrived with a screenplay credited to Cary Fukunaga, Chase Palmer, and Gary Dauberman. Those first two names are a vestige of an earlier incarnation of the movie, which was primed to be Fukunaga’s follow-up to Beasts of No Nation until the director parted ways with New Line over budget cuts, which he reportedly felt would “compromise his artistic vision.” The studio eventually hired Andy Muschietti to direct the film, and given the box office, you’ve got to figure everyone’s pretty happy with how It turned out. Fukunaga’s original script has been floating around online for a while, and it makes for fascinating post-viewing reading. The movie that’s in theaters keeps most of the skeleton of Fukunaga and Palmer’s version, but there are a few key differences. Grab a flashlight and a gang of nerdy teens, and let’s explore.
Pennywise looks different.
Here’s how Fukunaga and Palmer envision the infamous clown: “Not Bozo, or Ronald McDonald, but something more old world, freakish, like that of a 19th-century acrobat — bald, lithe, almost child-like.” Fukunaga considered Ben Mendelsohn and Mark Rylance for the part, but he eventually cast the younger Will Poulter. (Poulter left the project with Fukunaga, leaving room for Bill Skarsgård to jump in.)
Everyone knows Georgie got his arm ripped off.
In the finished film, Bill holds out hope that his little brother is still alive, and his search for Georgie motivates a lot of the action. Not so in the original draft, where it’s common knowledge that the poor boy suffered a terrible death.
There are more parents around.
Bill’s mom has actual lines, and she and the dad (who’s anachronistically named Zach) have a tiny arc about getting over Georgie’s death. Beverly’s mom’s in the picture, too. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make Bev’s home life any better: Mom is heavily drugged-up, and she has a gross scene where she lectures a squeamish Beverly about periods, then holds up a bloody tampon.
The ’80s references are more toned-down.
There’s no New Kids on the Block gag, or Molly Ringwald shout-out.
Pennywise first appears to Stan as a naked woman, not a lady in a painting.
Which is maybe a little too similar to a moment in The Shining, but it does tie into Stan’s bar-mitzvah arc. He’s becoming a man!
There’s another “freaky place” in town: the Kitchener Ironworks.
In the movie, the scariest bits happen in two places: the sewer entrance by the river, and the abandoned house on Neibolt Street. Fukunaga’s script adds a third: an abandoned ironworks outside town. In the draft, this is where pyromaniac Patrick Hocksetter meets his unfortunate end, and it’s how the kids get to Pennywise’s HQ for the final showdown.
There’s no scene of Beverly flirting with the creepy pharmacist.
Instead, Bev is the one who comes up with the diversion, by having Eddie fake an allergic reaction.
Police are generally more hands-on about everything.
The movie makes a big thing about how the town brainwashes all the adults into not caring so much about the missing kids. In the original script, the cops are more involved with trying to solve the disappearances, but they’re hardly helpful. They commit police brutality against Mike’s dad, and they end up framing an one-legged WWII veteran for the murders.
Beverly’s dad is shaded a little differently.
While the movie subtly implies that he’s been abusing her for a long time, in the original script, the potential for abuse is more of an implied threat — until the very end, when he tries to assault her, a scene that goes much further than the movie’s version. Bev still knocks him out with the lid of a toilet tank, but the moment that caused the biggest jump-scare in my theater — Pennywise showing up immediately afterward — doesn’t happen.
Mike gets more fleshing out.
In the movie, he’s just kind of … there, but the script fills in more about his character, including why he’s homeschooled. (His dad doesn’t want him to be a “sheep.”) His parents are still alive in the draft, but his dad spends the second half of the movie in the hospital, dying of cancer. But before he does, he tells Mike a story.
There are flashbacks!
As he’s dying, Mike’s dad reveals his own encounter with It, which we see in flashback: He was at the Black Spot, a black nightclub outside of town, when the KKK burned it down. He jumped into the canal to escape, and while he was underwater, he saw “the truth of it all,” the malevolent force surrounding Derry, before Pennywise showed up and started killing survivors. Later, we get another flashback to the Bradley Gang massacre of 1879, where a lumberjack shows up at an old-timey saloon and kills a bunch of poker players. We get one of those classic movie moments where the piano player in the bar turns around — and it’s Pennywise!
The fight with the bullies is a lot more intense.
It takes place on the Fourth of July, and instead of throwing rocks at each other, the bullies and the Losers Club get in an explosive fireworks duel. It sounds like mini–Michael Bay: “BEVERLY jumps out firing off her 6-BARRELED MORTAR handheld, aimed horizontally, at the car. THUMP. The recoil throws her back while the rocketing projectile explodes in front of the Trans-Am. Travis and the boys shield their faces SCREAMING as the front windshield explodes.” This is also how the gang gets into the house on Neibolt Street: They use it as a hiding place after the fight.
The fight with Pennywise in the house on Neibolt Street is a little sillier.
The guys disable Pennywise by literally falling on him, and Beverly defeats him by shooting a firework at him. Just like Wile E. Coyote!
The final showdown with It is almost completely different.
First, the Losers carry some pretty hard-core weaponry into the sewers: One’s got a crossbow; another’s got a chain saw. There’s also a creepy room where a “thin membranous chamber floats over gelatinous water”; underneath there are thousands of spiders. (They end up killing one of the bullies.) There are more fantasy elements in the big final fight, too: To get to where the monster lives, the gang has to travel through an upside-down waterfall into a weird reflecting pool in the ceiling, and we get more of It’s other forms, including a tentacle monster and the “deadlights.” And, as noted elsewhere, Beverly isn’t a damsel in distress here; she never gets captured by Pennywise, so she’s along with the guys the whole way, and there’s no business about getting woken up with a kiss.
The ending comes closer to the version in the book, but there’s still no child orgy.
As any filmmaker who’s not a complete wacko would do, Fukunaga cuts the infamous gang bang that ends the novel. He does keep the moment where the kids get trapped in the sewers and can’t find their way out, but the thing that brings them back together is a lot less sexual: Beverly — “their muse, their light” — just takes the boys’ faces in her hands and has a moment with each of them. Less gross than the book version, for sure.