SPOILER ALERT: This post contains plot about It. Read at your own risk!
In the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s It, Sophia Lillis plays Beverly Marsh, the pretty girl with a bad reputation, a worse home life, and a heart of gold. Over the course of the film, Beverly struggles to find where she fits in, ultimately landing a spot as the only female in the Losers’ Club. Together with her friends, she fights everything from bullies to the murderous alien most commonly known as Pennywise the Clown. But it’s not an easy journey. And neither was Lillis’ journey to land the role.
EW spoke with Lillis, a breakout of the film, about her filming experience, that very bloody bathroom sequence, and working with Pennywise. See what she had to say below — along with some behind-the-scenes photos she provided.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was the casting process like for you?
SOPHIA LILLIS: I actually auditioned for It a while ago before it was directed by Andy [Muschietti]. I got a callback but it didn’t really work out so I totally forgot about it until like a year later, and then I heard It was casting again. So I auditioned again, I got a callback, but after that, there was some controversy on my look. I guess I look tomboyish [with] my short hair. And I’m just really short in general so I kind of look like a boy, but they wanted me to look girly with long hair and a dress, but Andy didn’t really want that. Andy wanted the look that I was showing, so he said, “Fine, I’m going to pay for her ticket back to Toronto and have her audition again but with extensions and a dress.” So that’s what happened. After that, they said, “Fine but just keep her in long hair” and he said, “Sure.” And then on the second scene he cut it all off.
Is it true you were all kept separate from Bill Skarsgård, who played Pennywise.
Yeah, we never really met him until the actual scene we had with him.
So when was the first time you saw Pennywise?
It was a scene where we all tried to rescue Jack [Dylan Grazer] (Eddie). That was all of our first time seeing him. It was insane with Jack because he had to be strangled and spit on by the clown. I only had to stab him. He’s really tall and the clown makeup and prosthetics made him even taller, [so] I had to strain my neck just to talk to him. Everyone had their different reactions when they first saw him. I laughed. I guess it’s a defense mechanism, but I always laugh in horror movies and I always laugh when scary things happen.
It seems like you and the other members of the Losers’ Club really got along. Did you all do anything to bond during filming?
Two weeks before shooting, we had an acting coach [who] brought us together and we had to sit in a room for a few hours just doing acting exercises and warm-ups, so we did trust exercises like trust falls and staring in each other’s eyes for two minutes. I know that sounds really weird but that’s what happened. And I guess it worked because, by the time we started shooting, I knew so much about them. And after shooting we always went to each other’s houses, especially Wyatt’s [Oleff] house and slept over there. We always hung out with each other. I don’t remember a time when we didn’t hang out, to be honest.
Was it at all strange being the only girl in the group?
Not really. There was never really anything weird with me being a girl and them being guys. They totally forgot. They called me the androgynous kid because I had short hair. It was fun.
We have to talk about the scene with all the blood in the bathroom. What was it like filming that?
They poured this weird substance all over my body and it tasted really sweet. It was gross. It got into my eyes and mouth. It was a really strange experience. I had to scream that entire time while trying to back over to the wall but sometimes that didn’t even work out because it was so slippery. I fell while sitting down, which I don’t know how that’s even physically possible. [Laughs] It took me two tries just to get to the wall because it was so slippery.
Did you have to get that stuff blasted into your face for the sink shot?
That actually wasn’t me. They were going to use me for that but they decided they had to use a stunt double because the impact was like a whack with a baseball bat. So they decided that was a little dangerous. Just after that, when I fly back, it changed to me drenched in blood.
That must’ve been an experience. It’s definitely not something you get to do every day.
That’s one of the reasons why that’s my favorite scene because it’s just something that I don’t think anyone has ever experienced before. I’m never going to forget that.
Considering It is a beloved Stephen King novel that’s been adapted before, did you feel much pressure taking on this role?
A lot of people definitely had a lot of pressure. I didn’t really have that much. I didn’t know much about the horror genre in general and I never really knew how big the fan base was until while we finished making it. Personally, I was never really pressured. I tried to put that out of my mind because that would be hard to think about while shooting.
Coming up, you’re also in Sharp Objects with Amy Adams. Do you find yourself drawn to darker roles?
Yeah, every single role that I’ve had I have like horrible parents. [Laughs] Sharp Objects definitely has a darker theme to it and I have an abusive mother, so that’s great. [Laughs] I am drawn to those things. I don’t mind.
One day you’ll do a happy-go-lucky film.
Maybe! Sure. [Laughs]
It is now playing.