Cary Fukunaga Explains Quitting It: Studio Wanted “Inoffensive, Conventional” Horror Movie


Director Cary Fukunaga has spoken at length on why he walked away from the long in-development big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s novel ‘It’ - and his remarks paint a fairly scathing portrait of his producers at Warner Bros and New Line Cinema.

Speaking to Variety, the ‘Beasts of No Nation’ and ‘True Detective’ director denies he left the project over budgetary disputes as had been initially reported, and says he was constantly at loggerheads with the studio over the creative direction of the planned two-part movie.

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Fukunaga had been attached to ‘It’ since 2012, and says he “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.”

If Fukunaga’s remarks are to be believed, it would seem to be a pretty sad reflection on the attitudes currently at play at New Line Cinema - a studio which is deeply rooted in horror, notably the ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ franchise (New Line is often affectionately known as The House That Freddy Built).

Interestingly, Fukunaga would seem to allude to Freddy Krueger when hinting at his efforts to make iconic villain Pennywise “more than just the clown, after 30 years of villains that could read the emotional minds of characters and scare them.”

Memorably portrayed by Tim Curry in the 1990 TV mini-series adaptation of King’s novel, Pennywise was set to be played by Will Poulter in Fukunaga’s film, although it is unclear whether or not the actor is still on board now that the project is up in the air.

It doesn’t inspire much confidence to think that the studio would hire a highly respected and intelligent director to adapt an acclaimed, very lengthy and quite challenging novel by Stephen King - but then want nothing more than a generic, safe horror film.

But Fukunaga insists this was the case, and that his efforts to make a bold, character-driven film were not met with favour.

“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.”

Still, on a consolatory closing note, Fukunaga says one key figure approved of his direction: “[Stephen] King saw an earlier draft and liked it.”

‘Mama’ director Andy Muschietti has been reported to be in talks to take over on ‘It,’ working from an entirely new screenplay.

Picture Credit: Warner Bros, WENN