IT – On Set Interviews Part 1: Logan Thompson, Chosen Jacobs, Nicholas Hamilton and Jake Sim
Last June I was invited to spend some time on the set of IT, the highly anticipated Andy Muschietti directed adaptation of the infamous Stephen King novel. With the exception of Owen Teague who was not shooting that day, the entire cast and crew were there and eager to chat about the project. This will be broken up into a few pieces because well, it was too damn cool to not share it all with you. Some of our conversations got a little hard to transpose, as the kids were having such a great time they tended to talk all at once. That’s what happens when you form bonds off-set that are as strong as the bonds of your characters in the film. Its a completely natural and compelling chemistry the cast have together. I knew right then….that this movie would become a pillar in horror and an experience I would never forget.
I sat down with Nicholas Hamilton, Jake Sim, Logan Thompson and Chosen Jacobs in between shots during the epic rock fight scene shot near the Toronto Zoo in the Rouge Valley. This location was waaay off the beaten track. I had to walk down the STEEPEST hill covered in thick brush and low hanging branches down to where they were striking the set. It was a beautiful day and while I talked with Logan, Chosen, Jake and Nic, the rest of the cast played around with the rubber prop rocks, the raw meat (more on that later) and joked about Harambe. There will be more interviews in the coming days leading up to the films world premiere on September 8th but today we have the bullies and one member of “the losers club”.
Fear Forever (FF): How has the shoot been so far?
Nicholas Hamilton (NH) : It’s been fun. It’s been awesome to work with such great little kids. It’s kinda crazy actually. I can learn a lot from these kids who are two years younger than me. It’s been one of the most fun experiences I have had on a set for sure.
FF: Have you seen the original TV miniseries of IT?
NH: Yeah, but I try to not associate this one with that one as this is its own new adaptation of the novel. I think it’s cool to see the original Henry Bowers and research him and get a feel for what he was like. I had a chance to speak to Jarred Blancard who played the original Henry Bowers and sort of got a take on what he wanted to get out of the role.
FF: Did he give you any advice?
NH: Sort of. It was him speaking through his wife actually, but he gave me some handy tips on how to handle some of the psychopathic-ness and meanness of Henry Bowers. I think it’s mostly about learning how to be so incredibly mean and terrible to people and how to be nice to them off set which is a new experience for me because I’m normally just a terrible person in general.
(Nicholas, Jake and Logan laughing)
FF: When you are shooting a scene such as this one that’s so intense (the rock fight scene) and a scene where you really have to manifest being a psychopath, what is that experience like?
JS: It makes it easy because of the other cast mates. We have a relationship behind the camera and especially when you have such talented actors, you can kind of go in and out of it with relative ease. It is difficult though because you have to be in the moment and you have to play characters who are really feeling these emotions, but it makes it easy because we are friends.
FF: With some of the scarier stuff, is it hard for you to work through it after the fact?
JS: It’s not too hard but sometimes you have to separate yourself from what you are doing outside of the camera. But when you are doing it, and focusing on that, it becomes quite easy.
LT: Yeah, we were beating up one of our friends the other day in the shot and then afterwards we hugged it out. At the end of the day we are all friends and we are just acting so you have to separate both worlds.
NH: It’s amazing how tolerant the kids have been. You see the stuff we are doing to them ( like pushing Chosen’s face in raw meat and screaming racial slurs at him for hours). It would be unbearable to have that happen in real life but because they are so nice and tolerant of us to do that to them, it makes it much easier to do it. If they say “ don’t do this” or “do this a different way” you want to do it. They have been so nice about it the rest of the times.
(Chosen Jacobs joins us)
NH: Well, I haven’t actually seen him yet.
LT: I saw him by accident with Chosen over here! (pointing at Chosen). We were playing catch outside of our trailers and I looked over and was like “Oh! There he is!” and he (Bill Skarsgard) was just smiling at us. It was pretty scary actually because he’s tall and super big. It’s creepy-
JS: He smiled at you guys?!
LT + CJ: YEAH!
JS: I had a bit of a different situation. It was before he had the full getup on so he was just wearing his street clothes, but as Pennywise. He had his makeup on and I was walking back to my trailer and he was walking out of his trailer and we kinda made eye contact and he just looked me dead in the eyes till I walked past him. So that was a bit of a frightening experience (laughing). He’s a really cool guy so when he takes it all off its okay, but in the moment when he is Pennywise, you don’t want to be near him.
CJ: I’d say the scariest thing about Pennywise is not even the makeup. I saw him doing a scene with Jack Grazer (who plays Eddie Kaspbrak) and it’s not even his makeup, because yeah the makeup is scary, but it’s the way he talks. He’s so frantic, you don’t know what he’s gonna do. He’s crazy! He’s Pennywise! And Bill plays Pennywise perfectly.
FF: Chosen, we were talking earlier about how tolerant you must be because I have watched you have your face shoved into raw meat…
(JS, LT, NH and CJ laughing)
Which was amazing and disgusting!
CJ: It’s okay, you know, its fine. It’s funny to see the contrast between how we are in the movie and how we are on set and behind the scenes. My character Mike Hanlon is bullied, abused and assaulted by these three children (pointing at NH, JS and LT) who think they are grown! It’s fun though. We get to hang around hotels, stay up all night – NOT on workdays of course…. Don’t tell Andy (director Andy Muschietti) that! It’s been a really good shoot and I couldn’t ask for a better cast.
FF: How has it been working on a horror film as opposed to other genres and what do you find is different about it?
NH: I mean on set it’s more intense and you have to put a lot more emotion into it. You also have to put a lot more physical stuff into what you do, where in a normal film you are just mostly talking. In horror you have to really think about what you are doing like, if you are kicking someone in the face you gotta do it right!
(JS, LT, CJ and NH laughing)
At times it can get freaky but when the cameras stop rolling you realize it’s not real life. We were just doing a scene with Jeremy Ray Taylor ( he plays Ben Hanscom) and we were getting right in his face and we were getting into it. Jeremy was getting insanely into it too and he was crying and I was nearly crying right in his face and then the cameras stopped rolling and we all hugged it out and you remember that it’s a film. I think in that sense it’s different from a more normal film where you just shoot the scene and it keeps the same feeling throughout.
FF: What’s the worst thing that the bullies do to the other kids and how was it shooting that scene?
JS: The worst was definitely what we did to Jeremy.
(NH, LT and CJ agree)
JS: Jeremys character is extremely sweet, which makes it even worse. He was coming from volunteering at the library, and we ended up taking him and we really, really beat him up. His nose is bleeding, he gets a couple cuts and we just chase him for… storyline-wise probably getting beaten up and pushed around in a circle for about 25 minutes. So that was really tough. That’s what Nic was talking about when Jeremy was flinging and throwing his body everywhere and it was really intense and that was a hard day.
LT: Ya we pushed him around in a circle and afterwards you don’t feel bad because its just all acting but you also need to make sure hes okay and stuff like that.
JS: Hes a trooper!
LT: Yeah and he handled it realllly well.
FF: On the flipside, what was a more light hearted or fun thing that you have shot?
JS: Do we have one of those??! ( LT, CJ, JS and NH laughing)
LT: I think it was more like in the bonding scene when you were shooting your gun and enjoying yourself drinking beers and just chilling. That was more of a bonding experience.
JS: We were not ACTUALLY drinking beers we are not 19 (LT, CJ, JS and NH laughing)
LT: It was in the film!
JS: It was our second day on set and we knew each other from the read through and the blocking from way before. It was maybe only our 4th day together?
JS: And it was completely us the entire day and it was a good opportunity to hang out. Well it wasn’t a light-hearted scene but it had a bit more action, more stuff going on so it was easier to connect. And there was a CAT on set!
NT: Ya it was scratching everyone up!
JS: Look I still have a little mark from the cat!
CJ: I would say for me the lightest scene between me and the losers, I mean the losers and I – My moms gonna listen to this and say “Use proper grammar!” The most light hearted scene between the losers and I was – well I feel like some of our darker scenes are sometimes the lightest and after whats happened we bond with each other. Even after we had this scene that you (Amy) just saw (the rock fight) afterwards we console each other. In the world of Derry (town where the story takes place) we’re all outsiders, we don’t have any friends except for each other. Even though it’s a horrible thing that is happening, we are bonded because of it and so I’d say the sweetest scenes are when bad things have happened previously and we just bond together and just try to get through it.
FF: Going back to the bullies for a moment, do you guys consider yourselves as evil? Why do you do what you do?
NH: I think there is a line – well I think every character has their thing. Owen Teague who plays Patrick Hockstetter, hes a psychopath from the start, hes just crazy. Hes one of those guys who before a scene, you are talking to him and they say “ready to shoot” and he just starts giggling. Just to sort of get into character.
LT: Hes getting ready for it and hes like “ HEE HEE HEE” like a comic book villain, hes just getting into character!
NH: Yeah and its one of the creepiest things ever!
JS: Especially when you are standing right in front of him, and you are kinda just sittin there till they yell “ROLL SOUND! ALRIGHT LETS GO!” and then you hear “hehehe” (in a short really high pitched giggle)
JS: The first time he did it I was like “ I can’t tell if hes doing this for it or if hes just doing creepy laughs right now”
NH: Yeah if you just said a joke beforehand and he starts laughing and you think hes laughing at the joke but hes just laughing…but yeah Patrick Hockstetter turns out to be a proper psychopath. Then there’s Belch Huggins (Jake Sim) who’s sort of the mean stereotypical bully who’s just full on in your face. Victor Criss (played by Logan Thompson) is….
LT: I just kinda stand there.
LT: I just kinda yell with them but you never really see me get super physical . I just sort of hold them back and stuff but I’m always just kinda standing there looking mean. But, I’m also one of the characters who has second thoughts about everything but I just hang out with them because …yeah I kinda have more…. what are the words….feelings inside?
LT: I’m too nervous to say anything to any of them.
JS: Its hard to say if any of them are downright evil but I think if you are looking at a comparison in perspective of “The Losers Club” and us…VERY EVIL. I think what we do is evil but, ya know, they are kids so I don’t think they quite think it through.
CJ: I think if you asked Mike he’d say you’re evil.
JS: Yes I would agree with that.
CJ:I think Logan (plays Victor Criss) is sort of the hype man of the crew.
CJ: Hes not ready to do anything crazy but he’ll speculate! Nic will say “Yeah beat him up!” and then Logan says “yeah beat him up!”
CJ: Hes like a personal hype man or the DJ of the crew. He’ll echo everyone.
LT: That’s a good way of putting it.
FF: Like the Ma$e to his Puffy?
CJ+ LT+ NH+ JS: Yeah exactly!
FF: Henry has the most interaction with Pennywise, right?
NH: Well I don’t have any scenes with him if that’s what you mean. I think by the end Henry Bowers is almost like a manifestation of IT. You know hes mean and evil at the beginning but things start to change and he becomes a psychopath and I think that’s all to do with IT taking over him and the whole thing with the Neibolt house.
JS: Owen might actually have the most direct contact with Pennywise.
(Boys all agreeing)
NH: Yeah he actually has a scene with Pennywise and is sort of the most connected to him mentally and emotionally. I think that everyone in the movie has a certain connection to Pennywise but in my case of like meeting him and talking to him about killing people…
(Boys all laughing)
NH: Maybe we should start a group chat!
FF: Can we go back a little to auditioning for your roles…what was that like?
JS: I had my initial audition in April, maybe March? I did it and I thought it went well, but two months went by and I was thinking “ awe whatever, it’s a cool script but I didn’t get it”. Then I got a call saying “ they want you to come back” so I went to my call back and two of the actual people who ended up being in the cast were sitting right there; it was Stuart Hughes who plays Henry Bowers father and Neil Crone who plays Chief Borton. So I was sitting with them and I went into my audition and I didn’t know that Barbara and Andy (Muschietti) were gonna be there. So that was really cool because I got a chance to audition in front of them which made the initial connection and then I got a call two weeks later for the part.
LT: I probably auditioned right before they made the final call for everything. It was I think a month before we started shooting to do the audition and I was actually reading his lines (Belch) I’m pretty sure because I wasn’t reading Victors because he doesn’t really have any lines in the movie…
LT: I’m the hype man like you said! So I read it and I think two or three weeks went by and I thought “ Oh I guess that isn’t going to be for me” and then I got a call and just like Jake said, I went again and Barbara and Andy were both there and I met them. I think I read his lines once again and then it was around a week later I got a call, it wasn’t very long.
JS: Yeah it wasn’t very long after….
NH: I was a bit unorthodox. I was on a trip visiting my brother who was living in London at the time and we arrived in London around 1:00 am and I was jet lagged, tired and cranky and so we went to the hotel and went to sleep for about two hours. I woke up to an email saying “ do this audition for IT” and like I said, I was angry and I was cranky. I was jet lagged and I didn’t want to do anything at that moment. So anyways, we set up my phone on top of the desk, a chair and 2 suitcases to make a makeshift tripod and I did the scene that we eventually shot with Jeremy and I was full on into it. I was angry , cranky and really didn’t want to do anything and I did it in one take and said “ I really don’t want to do this anymore” and my mom said “Alright, whatever. We will just send it off and don’t worry about it” and then a month later I got back from London and they said they would like to offer me the part and I was thinking “I don’t even remember doing that” But alright!!
CJ: Mine was kind of different because most of the losers had already auditioned like months previously, so they had already gotten to know each other. I got my audition – well we came here (Toronto) in June, so I actually auditioned in May. So I went in for it and I didn’t know much of it. I mean I knew “IT” because its Stephen King. I went into the audition and there was just a casting director and I’m glad that she was my casting director because she picked me.
CJ: So yeah, I auditioned and I think about a couple days or a week later they said I had the job for IT. So I guess it was the right time and they just kind of liked what I did, so now I’m here getting abused by my fellow cast-mates.
FF: How does it feel to be part of a Stephen King project? He is the most prolific horror writer that we have, how does it feel to be doing one of his films?
NH: No doubt hes the king of horror, there’s no question, hes actually the Stephen King of horror!
JS: Oh my god that should be the token phrase!!!!!
NH: No doubt and it is such an incredible honor to be able to put one of his masterpieces on the screen for the 2nd time (Nicholas Hamilton is also in The Dark Tower), and hopefully do it a bit better….nah I’m kidding, no its incredible and it humbles you and its meant a lot.
JS: Its amazing because its not just a horror , if that makes sense? There is soooo much backstory behind it and if you really pick it apart like we are doing, it’s a beautiful story and there is so much depth to it. It’s a lot of pressure but it’s really exciting and its awesome.
LT: Yeah um I didn’t read much growing up, I’m not much of a reader…
LT: But I definitely knew who Stephen King was and I know the book and then I thought “maybe I’ll read it” but it’s 2000 pages and I was like “Nevermind I’m not going to read this”. It was cool because when I told my family, like my Uncle who lives in Taiwan, he was really excited he said “I read IT like 16 times!” and I saw how much people love Stephen King. Especially when this movie comes out you are gonna have the die hard Stephen King fans at a bunch of the shows all around the world because he is just a legend with all the stories hes made.
CJ: Being in a Stephen King film is…well this is like my first major film, like being in every theater like this. Yeah its my first major film and I couldn’t choose a better first film for myself. Its like they said -this film is much more than a horror film. In my opinion, this film is more about friendship and people bonding together than horror. Pennywise is just the cause -but seeing this group of kids band together just to get through the struggles of life in Derry, I think that’s what this story is really about . Stephen King has a really good way of putting real life situations amidst fictitious creatures such as Pennywise. This is a great book, it’s a great movie, a great cast and I really feel like we have a really good shot at making a great movie.
Stay tuned for more from the set of IT!!!