There’s a lot of familiar faces in It: Chapter Two, including one horror fans will instantly recognize. One of American literature’s most prolific authors appears at a significant moment in the movie, his first onscreen role in years, but that wasn’t always the plan. In an interview, It: Chapter Two screenwriter Gary Dauberman tells Inverse just when and how they wrote King into the script.
Minor spoilers for It: Chapter Two ahead.
In It: Chapter Two, the Losers’ Club reunite as adults when their old nemesis, the demon clown Pennywise, reemerges in their hometown of Derry, Maine. As the adults rediscover forgotten artifacts from their youth, one of the Losers, Bill (James McAvoy) finds his old, beaten-up Schwinn bicycle, affectionately named “Silver” in a neighborhood pawn shop.
Sitting behind the register is none other than Stephen King, writer of the original It and countless other stories, who plays the shopkeeper. And he’s not very friendly towards Bill.
Screenwriter Gary Dauberman tells Inverse that he wrote the character to “look like” Stephen King, in the hopes that the author would agree to appear in the movie. But it wasn’t a surefire thing.
“I wrote him into the script just along the lines of, Looks like Stephen King, early on in the drafts. You know, just kind of planting the seed,” he says. “He’s done cameos before, but it had been a very long time since he’s done one.”
Some of King’s most recent appearances on film and TV include cameos for adaptations of his works, including the 2017 series Mr. Mercedes (based on King’s Bill Hodges trilogy) and the 2014 series Under the Dome (based on his 2009 novel). King also played as himself in the 2012 romcom Stuck in Love, which wasn’t based on anything King wrote but does follow a successful writer with a comical sex life. (Unknown if it’s based on King.)
“You just kind of hope, fingers crossed. If it works, great. If not, that’s fine too, but man, wouldn’t be so much better if it did work? So you plant that seed.”
Obviously, King agreed to the cameo. In an interview with GamesRadar, director Andy Muschietti said the scene was arranged with King once the author “had an increasingly good relationship” with the filmmakers after the success of 2017’s It.
“He became like a friend, and I wanted him to participate a little more in this one as he did not participate with the first movie at all,” Muschietti said. “I didn’t want him to intervene in the creation, and he’s very clear he doesn’t want to mess with the people adapting his work, but I still wanted to keep him in the loop and get his thoughts.”
When Muschietti agreed to some of King’s suggestions (including one scene with a giant Paul Bunyan attacking Richie), Muschietti said King paid them back by appearing in the movie.
“The only way of returning the favour was having him in the movie. I asked him to do a cameo and he said, ‘Well you have to know I’m a jinx. Every movie I was in bombed.’ He said it with humour, and I said, ‘I think we’re going to break the spell, let’s do it’.”
King’s cameo, in which he rolls his eyes at Bill, emphasizes one of the movie’s most self-referential jokes. Like King, Bill is a successful novelist (and in It: Chapter Two, also a Hollywood horror screenwriter) whom his fans regularly criticize for writing terrible endings.
But is that what the creators of It and It: Chapter Two really think about King’s writing?
“I think he has stuck the landing over and over again on many of his stories. The proof is in the pudding on that,” Dauberman says. “That running joke is just that, a running joke. It speaks more to the back and forth of the arguments on the internet.”
It: Chapter Two is in theaters now.