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Stephen King's It: Exclusive new details on the sequel

There will be a new, darker introduction for one of the Losers we love

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That’s not the sound of red balloons popping, it’s champagne corks.

The new adaptation of Stephen King’s It earned a staggering $123 million in its opening weekend, nearly doubling predictions of $65 million.

That should put a smile on Pennywise’s face.

It should also make King’s Constant Readers happy, especially after this summer’s deflating adaptation of The Dark Tower. It is proof that audiences will turn out if a mammoth, bizarre King novel is brought to the screen with fidelity to the source material.

The big question: So what’s next, kiddos?

Here’s everything we know about the planned sequel.

ONWARD TO CHAPTER TWO

As those who saw the movie know, it ends with the title It and the phrase “Chapter One” appearing just beneath. And after the credits, those who stick around are treated to a disembodied giggle from Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise the Dancing Clown. He’s down, but he’s not out.

The plan all along was to cleave King’s 1,000-plus page novel in half, separating the story of the kids in the Losers Club from the parallel tale of their adult selves, returning to the town of Derry to confront the shapeshifting evil presence they thought they defeated as children.

While Chapter One took place entirely in 1988 and 1989, Chapter Two will be set in the present day, featuring the Losers Club as grown-ups, reunited by their blood-oath at the end to fight Pennywise again if he resurrects in 27 years.

MORE KIDS

Director Andy Muschietti (best known for Mama, a film King himself named in EW as one of his favorites of 2013) says the second film will still feature the younger kids we’ve come to know and love. They turn up as memories of the adult versions of the Losers Club.

“On the second movie, that dialogue between timelines will be more present,” he said. “If we’re telling the story of adults, we are going to have flashbacks that take us back to the ‘80s and inform the story in the present day.”

Warner Bros. Pictures

Barbara Muschietti, the director’s sister and producing partner, tells EW that as of Monday morning, It: Chapter Two still does not have the official greenlight from New Line Cinema and Warner Bros., but the writing and development of the film has already been underway.

And there’s little to no doubt now that it will move forward. (The studio executives just need to stop celebrating long enough to push the button, finalize the deals, and get things moving — or “floating,” in this case.)

“The hope is we’ll find the best way soon, because it’s also important for Andy to get flashbacks with the kids, who are growing very fast,” she says. “They are an important component in the next film.”

Andy Muschietti stresses that the kid elements in Chapter Two won’t just be brief throwbacks, but integral to the events that unfold for the adults. “They’re a very big part of the action,” he says.

GROWN-UP ACTORS

There is no casting locked for the sequel, but Muschietti and the other producers on the film, which include Seth Grahame-Smith, David Katzenberg, Roy Lee, and Dan Lin, have been thinking about this ever since they shot the first movie last summer.

They aren’t tipping their hands just yet, but there’s a lot of debate among those who’ve worked on the film, including the young actors themselves: Is Jessica Chastain the right choice for the grown-up version of Sophia Lillis’ Beverly Marsh, the girl with the hair like “January embers”?

Brooke Palmer/Warner Bros.

Or maybe Amy Adams would be the right Bev? (Lillis is playing the young version of the actress in the HBO adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel Sharp Objects.)

Others involved in the process tell EW that maybe going for unknown actors would be better, especially if adult doppelgängers for the Losers can’t be easily found.

What about Ben Hanscom, the formerly heavy-set kid played by Jeremy Ray Taylor in It? It’s easy to see the formerly heavy-set Chris Pratt as that sweet-natured kid. We also saw a bit of the character’s future job foreshadowed in the first movie.

Remember the model of Derry’s standpipe water tower he’s carting from school? Big Ben turns out to be an architect. (And the standpipe – also featured on that “January embers” postcard he gave to Bev – is likely to play a bigger role as a backdrop in the sequel.

A DARKER OUTCOME FOR MIKE HANLON

We do know one key plot point that doesn’t spoil Chapter Two, but does reveal a little about where the sequel will start. Andy Muschietti previously told EW a little about plans for one of the main characters – the one who doesn’t escape.

Brooke Palmer/Warner Bros.

As those who’ve read King’s book know, Chosen Jacobs’ character Mike Hanlon, one of the only black kids in the town of Derry, is the member of the Losers who voluntarily stays behind. While they all go as far away as they can get, he serves as a watchman, despite suffering some of the worst torment from the town’s racist bullies.

Hanlon is physically one of the strongest of the Losers when they’re kids, and demonstrates a loyalty and fearlessness that inspires the others. But Andy Muschietti said he will pay a high price for his devotion, one that weakens him mentally and physically by the time the others return.

While King’s Hanlon was a mild-mannered librarian, collecting and recording details for their town’s bloody history, the movie’s version of Mike will turn out to have a heartbreaking history of his own – much of it fallout from immersing himself in the study of that nameless evil dwelling beneath.

“My idea of Mike in the second movie is quite darker from the book,” the filmmaker said. “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.”

Muschietti said he wanted to “infuse more agency to him in those 30 years we don’t visit.”

“He’s not just the collector of knowledge of what Pennywise has been doing in Derry. He will bear the role of trying to figure out how to defeat him. The only way he can do that is to take drugs and alter his mind.”

PENNYWISE’S ORIGIN – AND WEAKNESS

Hanlon’s mind-altering exploration mirrors a part of King’s novel that was cut from the first movie, when the Loser kids undertake a Native American ritual to get a glimpse of the supernatural plane, bringing them into contact with entities that help them stop the creature behind Pennywise.

“It resonates with what the kids do when they go to the smokehouse in the Barrens,” Andy Muschietti says. “By inhaling these fumes from the fire they have visions of It, and the origin of It, and the falling fire in the sky that crashed into Derry millions of years ago. We’ve brought that to Mike, by the end of those 30 years Mike has figured out the Ritual of Chüd.”

Warner Bros.

No, that’s not a reference to the 1984 schlock classic C.H.U.D., which stood for “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers.” King’s Ritual of Chüd is more of a Lovecraftian spell, an old-world mysticism that involves a duel of imagination between the shapeshifting trickster and the children (now adults) who want to end It once and for all.

But even as Hanlon sounds the alarm to his old friends that they must return, his addiction becomes just another demon he has to battle.

When the Losers return, he won’t be facing it alone.

<<<SPOILER WARNING>>>

THE LOSER WHO DOESN’T RETURN

Readers of King’s novel know that in the opening chapters, we learn that one of the Losers can’t bring himself to fulfill his promise to return. Instead, when Hanlon contacts him to say Pennywise has come back, he dies by suicide.

In the book, this sets the stakes. Whatever the adults are returning to face, it must be so horrific – and their then-unknown past so scarring – that one of them would rather die that go through it again.

Brooke Palmer/Warner Bros.

That character is Stan Uris, played by Wyatt Oleff, who was celebrating his Bar Mitzvah in the first film, while also enduring cruelty from local bullies for being Jewish. So it’s not that Stan is weak, he is just wounded after the climactic clash with Pennywise in ways the others aren’t.

“There is something in the future for him, taking his own life, that finds its seed in this film,” Andy Muschietti said. “He is the one who doesn’t want to accept what’s going on. And being the one who didn’t want to participate he gets the worst part.”

Those who’ve seen the movie know the part: deep in Derry’s sewer system, Stan separates from the group and comes face-to-uh-something with It in the form of the creepy woman from the painting in his father’s study.

When his friends finally find him, It has its comb-toothed jaws around his head and is sucking Stan’s face into its mouth. Although he survives, the memory and the traumatic stress he lives with makes him decide it’s a horror he can’t confront again.

“The thing about Stan is he doesn’t bend,” says Barbara Muschietti. “He breaks.”

PENNYWISE WILL RESSURRECT (OBVIOUSLY)

Brooke Palmer/Warner Bros.

One actor has definitely been locked for the sequel.

“We got Pennywise!” Barbara Muschietti says.

“We’ve got Pennywise and it’s Bill Skarsgard,” her brother echoes.

Um. Surprise!