With the new version of IT making big money at the Box Office, Pennywise and co are big news again. But what was it like for the first people who brought ‘IT’ to the small screen in 1990?
We got the chance to ask Brandon Crane, who played the young version of Ben Hanscom about his memories of the mini series, working with Tim Curry and being part of the original Loser’s Club.
IT was released 27 years ago, do you think it has aged well?
Overall, I would say “yes”. The way it was shot didn’t require too many special processes that filmmakers rely on these days. Much respect to Tommy Lee Wallace. The stop-motion drain sequence is the only thing that truly shows its age in my opinion.
Tell us about auditioning for the role of Ben?
This was a pretty interesting experience for me. It started out like a pretty normal audition process and I thought I had done pretty well. There were a lot of other Bens at the callbacks – enough time went by I assumed it didn’t work out. Then I got a call to report to a casting office on La Brea on a Saturday (which was odd) and be ready to read in groups. Turns out this was a match-up callback where they’ll test things like chemistry between the actors they’re considering.
There weren’t any other actors there for Ben. I took one of the associates aside and asked where the other Bens were. He said, “There’s one in Vancouver, one in Texas and you. It’s probably going to be you”. I went home pretty happy but again, enough time passed afterwards that I didn’t think I got it after all.
Then we got the call. Awesome!
Did you know anything about the book and your character prior to auditioning?
My next door neighbor and I swapped books and video games all the time – I read the book the winter before so I was as prepared as I could be.
What was the first day on set like?
My first day on set was interesting. We were on location south of Vancouver at Bev’s house where the adults were filming her return to the house. That’s when I met John Ritter and we sat together for a few hours getting to know one another.
At his suggestion, we looked for mannerisms that would eventually tie us together. Who says nail biting is bad? After I worked with John, I met Tommy Lee Wallace in the make-up trailer so he could supervise my haircut, which was just like the one he had as a child.
Afterwards, I’d go to the costume trailer for fittings and then hop on a plane back to California for a week or so. Pretty expensive haircut!
My first day shooting with the other “Losers” was descending the ladder in the sewers and discovering the pom-pom. We didn’t bother putting our toes in the water – we just dove right in.
Favourite scene to film?
I had a few. The knife encounter with Henry, dam-building, the sewer finale and the balcony of the theater.
Did the ‘Loser’s Club’ bond as much off screen as on it?
I like to think we did. We had our disagreements, too. Adam and I would swim at the hotel and talk Muppet show, Jon and I clashed once or twice at the hotel but we always got over it, and Seth Green was very much the glue that held us all together.
The production company helped us with that, too. We all had midnight screening tickets for Dick Tracy – and when we missed it working late, they hooked us up with a private screening.
How did you find Tommy Lee Wallace to work with?
Tommy Lee Wallace was awesome. He was great to work with, he was very much a performance director which was awesome and lucky for me. I had done a lot of work, but nothing outside of comedy and certainly nothing with any real depth.
He helped me focus (I had the tendency to veer off course which I’m sure made me a handful), told me not to eat turkey at lunch because it made me lazy as shit – all trademarks of a great leader.
By comparison, and when I got back to The Wonder Years that fall, one director wasn’t as equipped to deal with kids and went on a tirade complaining about having recently worked with Albert Finney and how unprofessional we were by comparison. We all signed our names “Albert Finney” on the sign out sheet. Tommy was class.
Have you kept in touch with any of the cast from the series?
I kept in touch with Emily and Seth for a time afterwards and re-connected with Ben Heller about 12 years ago, Adam and Marlon a few years ago.
Tim Curry’s Pennywise has become iconic in the horror genre, how was Tim to work with?
Working with Tim Curry was a master class. He was so terrifying and showed us all what real commitment looked like. He was truly a master of his craft and we were all better actors just being there.
Did he interact with the young cast or did he go method and stay out of your way between takes?
Tim stayed focused while he was on the set, but off-set he was very warm and welcoming. There’s a picture of him holding a copy of Mad Magazine with all of us kids floating around there to prove it.
Will it be strange seeing someone else as a character you first brought to life on screen?
Not at all – that’s just my take on Ben. I only own the Ben in the mini-series, Jeremy Ray Taylor will have his own and I will help him celebrate it.
Brandon Crane is now a web developer, you can check out his website HERE