Relative unknowns Isaiah Mustafa and Jay Ryan will play equally unknowable characters in the ‘IT’ sequel.
Fans of last year’s hit horror adaptation IT: Chapter One can rest assured now that every member of the Losers’ Club has their adult counterpart locked in. The casting of Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, James Ransone, and Andy Bean showcases that both fan theories and fresh ideas make for a fantastic combination. The Hollywood Reporter has further announced that Isaiah Mustafa will play the adult version of Mike Hanlon in the sequel, IT: Chapter Two.
You might know Mustafa as Luke Garroway in the Freeform series Shadowhunters. He has also appeared in supporting roles in a bunch of comedies, such as Madea’s Big Happy Family and Horrible Bosses. Or you may just know him as the Old Spice Man.
Mustafa joins Jay Ryan as the two final pieces of the Losers’ Club puzzle. According to Deadline, Ryan was tapped to co-star as Ben Hanscom in late May. Chapter Two won’t be Ryan’s big screen debut, but the character of Ben is certainly his most high-profile role to date. On the small screen, Ryan has notably featured in the Australian soap opera Neighbours and Jane Campion’s BBC drama Top of the Lake.
While these actors don’t have wide-ranging filmographies for us to peruse through, these casting announcements remain intriguing. In terms of storyline, Chapter Two is already rife with mystery and speculation over how the book’s zanier elements could be incorporated into the film. Chapter One establishes that IT antagonist Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) primarily takes the shape of a horrifying dancing clown but has the ability to shapeshift into the greatest fears of any child. It’s clear that these individual terrors are deeply rooted in the worst of humanity itself. Racism and misogyny fuel violent hatred and Pennywise will embody that. Yet, something supernatural lies at the heart of the villain as well. There are only minor hints to this in Chapter One, but these elements are strongly connected to the history of the film’s setting of Derry, Maine.
Ben and Mike are the two characters of the Losers’ Club who are most connected to that kind historicism, at least in Chapter One. The film portrays shy, library-bound Ben as a bullied kid who takes solace in books, fascinated by the archives of the seemingly sleepy town. Meanwhile, Mike’s family is directly linked to one of Derry’s darkest secrets — a horrible fire that killed his parents. The Hanlons adopted a rather isolationist perspective, home-schooling Mike and attempting to keep him away from the underbelly that the town’s veneer disguises.
Yet in Stephen King’s original novel, Ben actually has a flair for architecture, although you wouldn’t know it all from the 2017 movie; a pivotal scene in the book that foreshadows this future career path was cut entirely. It is Mike who takes up the post of librarian and historian in the book; he stays in Derry after the Losers leave and chronicles the town’s strange incidents.
These are some major character discrepancies that Chapter Two has to contend with. Nevertheless, director Andy Muschietti has hinted that these changes will only intensify. Mike will get a bigger role in the second instalment and still play a curator of knowledge, but this happens in a disagreeable way. Remarking to Entertainment Weekly last September, Muschietti said:
“My idea of Mike in the second movie is quite darker from the book. I want to make his character the one pivotal character who brings them all together, but staying in Derry took a toll with him. I want him to be a junkie actually. A librarian junkie. When the second movie starts, he’s a wreck.”
As is the case for any adaptation, one of the ways that Muschietti has incorporated King’s sprawling narrative details was to create amalgamations of them. For example, Mike’s parents aren’t dead in the novel. In fact, he develops an interest in the town’s history because of his father. However, in order to further incorporate the throughline of racism in the movie, a historical hate crime from the book is rewritten to be part of Mike’s timeline.
The apparent use of drugs as a means to give the character more agency is questionable, though, even if it hints at yet another one of the tangential plotlines in “IT”: The Losers taking part in a ritual in order to reach an epiphany about Pennywise’s supernatural origins. Part of what gives Mike any kind of empowerment in “IT” involves his measured wits. His decision to stay in Derry isn’t really one borne out of passiveness, but a determination to right the wrongs of the past. However, in transposing Mike’s original storyline to Ben in Chapter One, Mike’s adulthood motivations become unclear. Where this leaves Ben is also up in the air, as he most probably won’t be the successful architect that he becomes in the book.
Are these mysteries in character arc good or bad? Regardless of all the differences between King’s novel and Chapter One, the movie manages to end up being a thoroughly entertaining and unique horror flick. Hopefully, Chapter Two replicates that success in a satisfying way that actually honors both characters.