The Oscar nominee is currently in talks for next year’s blockbuster sequel.
2017 was a peculiar year for Warner Bros. The massive superhero team-up that they presumed would be a massive success was instead an embarrassing bomb. When everything was added up, Justice League was outgrossed both domestically and internationally by a different Warners release, a Stephen King adaptation starring a cast of unknowns and directed by a filmmaker best known for taking over the production from a different, buzzier filmmaker. There was nothing about IT that screamed blockbuster, but it wound up as 2017’s most surprising smash hit, with over $300 million domestic and $700 million worldwide. The sequel was fast-tracked, and now we’re getting the first casting news: Variety is reporting that Jessica Chastain is in talks to portray the grown-up version of Beverly Marsh, Sophia Lillis’ character from the first film. Other parties, including Jeff Sneider at The Tracking Board, are confirming the reports.
There’s nothing particularly surprising about this news. The structure of the IT duology has the second film adapting the adult half of the novel, leaping forward 27 years to catch up with the children when they have their second encounter with Pennywise the Dancing Clown. In the wake of IT‘s success, Chastain was a consistently popular selection when it came to fan casting the aged-up versions of the characters. She resembles the character, she’s worked with IT director Andy Muschietti before on his 2013 debut Mama, and she’s shown a propensity for both high-caliber Oscar bait and lower-grade populist fare (Don’t forget, this is the same actress supposedly starring in this November’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix). Muschietti mentioned her as a prospective Beverly in an interview with Variety, and there was even speculation that a post-credits scene starring Chastain had been scuppered by ongoing negotiations.
None of this is to say that Chastain is a poor choice, simply a predictable one. Despite Lillis’ vibrant performance, Beverly was one of two characters who got the short end of the stick in the first IT, reduced to a helpless damsel in distress in the last act of the film. It would be easy for that trend to continue in the sequel, especially considering where Beverly’s character ends up in the source material. There’s not much appealing about seeing Beverly tossed around by yet another abusive male authority figure, but the A-list casting and Chastain’s pre-existing relationship with Muschietti implies that she may have a larger role than anticipated. That would go a slight distance towards making up for the way these IT films seem intent on butchering Mike Hanlon, the novel’s most compelling protagonist. Muschietti has noted that he plans on giving Mike a drug addiction in the sequel, after ripping away every one of the character’s distinguishing characteristics in the original. At the very least, it’s bad optics that the two minority Losers Club members seem to be getting the shortest shrift in the 21st-century adaptation. At worst, it’s a sign of a disturbing set of priorities.
We should be in for some more casting news soon if production on IT: Chapter Two is indeed beginning to ramp up. Bill Skarsgård‘s Pennywise is the only confirmed returning cast member, although there has been some talk of flashbacks in which the younger versions of the characters would return. Maybe the creative team on the sequel will continue to be predictable and oblige fans who have their hearts set on Bill Hader as Richie Tozier. What can we say? Sometimes fans want the right things.
IT: Chapter Two is dated September 6th, 2019.