John Campopiano is the Co-Writer and Producer of the upcoming retrospective ‘IT’ documentary; Pennywise: The Story of IT, which chronicles tales from the cast of the 1990 TV movie classic.
Another project John has been working on is a short film ‘Georgie’ set in the ‘IT’ universe and starring original Georgie actor Tony Dakota. We caught up with him to talk about the project and documentary as well as IT Chapter 2.
Tell us where the idea came from for Georgie?
The idea for GEORGIE came about after my colleague, Ryan Grulich, and I interviewed actor Tony Dakota for a separate project I’m co-writing and producing, Pennywise: The Story of IT. Tony hadn’t acted in films since the early 1990s but expressed an interest in getting back into the game. Personal issues had kept him from pursuing much more acting work after his role as Georgie Denbrough in Stephen King’s IT. With a desire to both help Tony and create something exciting and interesting for fellow King fans, Ryan and I sought out to write, produce, and make GEORGIE. We launched a moderately successful Indiegogo campaign which helped cover most production costs. The rest is history!
Does it surprise you that the IT (1990) movie still resonates with audiences today?
No, I’m not surprised at all. I think the continued interest in the original IT comes from several different places: first and foremost it’s a wonderful story by Stephen King. His work has and will continue to resonate. Secondly, it was beautifully cast -particularly the kids. Larry D. Cohen wrote a wonderful teleplay in night 1 of the miniseries and I think those performances made a strong impression on people (particularly kids who were seeing it, like me). Third, and perhaps most obvious, is Tim Curry’s performance. Even people who don’t like the mini-series agree that Tim’s performance was iconic. His rendition of Pennywise is in the pantheon of other horror film monster legends like Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and Halloween’s Michael Myers. When you have those (and other) variables working together the chances are pretty good that you’ll have a film that people will continue to watch as the years move along.
Was it always your plan to get Tony Dakota involved?
Yes, the short film was built around Tony’s involvement. As fans we felt it could be compelling to see Tony Dakota (as Georgie Denbrough) back on the screen. As filmmakers and storytellers, Ryan and I thought we could add another thread to the IT universe. We feel confident that we’ve done just that and we’re still elated that Tony was up for taking the ride with us!
Tell us more about the story?
It’s hard to tell you more without giving a lot away. It was interesting because when we first announced the project there were some pretty passionate responses. Some people were quick to remind us that Georgie Denbrough had died (in the book, miniseries, and 2017 reinterpretation) and it took some restraint to not try and make them feel better by telling them what our angle was. But we resisted. Anyway, what I can comfortably tell you is that the story takes place back in Derry and focuses on Sharon Denbrough, mother of Georgie and Bill Denbrough, in the midst of her grief and reflection. It’s no secret not that Tony returns as Georgie, but not everything is as it seems…
What has the experience been like for you working on the IT retrospective documentary?
Working on Pennywise: The Story of IT has been a great experience. It’s also been an enormous challenge due to the amount of material we’re dealing with. The UK colleagues with Dead Mouse Productions (Co-producer Gary Smart, director Chris Griffiths, and Adam Evans) have been great to work with. Of course, on a personal level, meeting and interviewing cast and crew from the miniseries is a dream come true for me. Some have become good friends and that’s something you can’t plan on happening. All of us as fans of films seek different ways to get closer to the films we love (we attend conventions and meet talent, we get tattoos of our favorite film characters, we collect memorabilia, and so on) and this documentary has been a way for me to get closer to the universe of IT. As a filmmaker, it’s also be a great learning experience and opportunity for me to hone my craft.
What did you make of IT Chapter 1?
I loved Chapter 1. Actually, I find that it grows on me even more as the months and years go by. I was lucky enough to see it at the cast and crew premiere in Los Angeles. That was a wild time! I’ve probably seen it a dozen times since then and on each viewing I enjoy it more and more. There were things I wouldn’t have done and some things I prefer in the miniseries, but to be expected. Andy’s vision is all over the screen, clearly, and the kids are great. Bill also really brings it as Pennywise and I thought the cinematography was gorgeous. Of course, the 2017 version was able to accomplish things that the miniseries never dreamed of, which is part of the fun for me. As I wrote in an op-ed piece for Bloody Disgusting back in 2017 before the film came out, I think there’s enough room in the Stephen King universe for both interpretations (I don’t refer to it as remake) to co-exist. And they do, in my house anyway.
What are you most looking forward to seeing in Chapter 2?
That’s a tough one! For the sake of not rambling on, here’s a quick laundry list: Mrs. Kersh, a spider! A turtle! The Adrian Mellon scene. Should I keep going…?
How does Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise compare to Tim Curry?
I liked Bill’s interpretation of Pennywise. Personally, I prefer Tim’s for a couple of reasons. First, I thought Tim did a better job executing the moments when Pennywise needs to be friendly and inviting for children. In my opinion, Bill had the scary dialed up so high almost all the time that I thought to myself, “What kid would approach this clown, let alone engage in a conversation?” From a physical standpoint, I like the bright colors of Tim’s actual look, versus the more Victorian style of Bill’s. But these complaints are minor. I think both of them brought the goods and left their own, individual stamps on the character.
What was your first recollection of watching IT (1990)?
Not making it past the Georgie scene during the very first time I was shown the film by an older brother of my neighborhood best friend. I ran home terrified. I believe I was 6 years old. That’s a tough memory to beat 🙂
Which do you prefer the TV movie or the book?
Apples and oranges. They’re two different mediums and I guess my brain doesn’t really work that way. Couldn’t say.
The digital premiere of Georgie will be on 10th June on Fangoria.com