Pennywise is frightening audiences everywhere this week as Stephen King’s IT opens in theaters. The transformation from actor to terrifying clown is certainly difficult, and Bill Skarsgard (Pennywise) looked to a familiar performance for inspiration: Heath Ledger’s Joker.
Speaking to People, Bill Skarsgard first discussed a couple of the differences between the two cinematic clowns, mainly in how they go about being evil and causing mayhem:
“I think the biggest difference between Pennywise and the Joker character — or at least Heath Ledger’s interpretation — is that he’s far more based in reality.”
Pennywise, of course, is not a human at all, and certainly, that comes across in the performance. Ledger’s Joker, on the other hand, is completely human. In fact, it is his humanity and will to create chaos to upend humanity’s order, that is probably the biggest difference between the two. Bill Skarsgard explained:
“[The Joker] is sort of this social anarchist, crazy person, and I don’t think Pennywise is the same in that way. He’s not even human, he’s just pure evil.”
Bill Skarsgard concluded by comparing how he prepared for the role in a similar way to how Heath Ledger prepared himself to take on the Joker. Ledger famously spent much time getting himself into character in order to fully sell the performance of the deranged Clown Prince of Crime. Skarsgard said he tried to think of the worst thing he could possibly do, then commit:
“Where I went with it was like, ‘What’s the most horrible thing that could happen here?’ And then I’d do that. You need to access parts of yourself where you’re thinking about what’s the most disturbing or horrifying [thing to do], and then you have to commit to that.”
Directed by Andy Muschietti, the film stars Finn Wolfhard, Jaeden Lieberher, Wyatt Olef, Jack Grazer, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, and Bill Skarsgård.
IT is now showing in theaters.