It was a shocking scene when Stephen King‘s It came out in 1986, and now the character of Adrian Mellon will be adapted for the screen for the first time in It Chapter Two. Director Andy Muschietti recognizes the brutality that comes from this moment, but says “it was always an essential part of the story” in his film.
Actor-filmmaker Xavier Dolan (The Death and Life of John F. Donovan) plays Adrian Mellon, a gay man who, in King’s novel, is attacked by a group of bigots while out with his boyfriend after an earlier incident at a carnival. During the attack, Adrian is thrown off the bridge and into the water below, where he’s then attacked and killed by Pennywise.
The scene wasn’t featured in the original TV miniseries adaptation of It, and Muschietti can understand why. “It was TV and they didn’t have the possibility of making a Rated R [movie] or anything,” he theorizes to EW. “But, in my vision of the movie, Adrian Mellon was always there. The impact of that event in my mind was always very deep. For me, there wasn’t a choice for that.”
Muschietti references the true story of Charlie Howard, who was killed in Bangor, Maine in 1984 by a group of teens for being gay. “It’s one of the things that really caused a deep impact on Stephen King when he was writing It. So, he decided to include it,” the filmmaker says. “Of course, the names are changed, but the beating happened almost exactly like it’s described in the book, and Charlie died in three feet of water in the canal.”
The director does make one change to the Adrian story so that it’s more referential of Howard: “He was asthmatic, so that made things really worse. The thing I’m adding in the scene is that Adrian is asthmatic, as well. For me, it was always an essential part of the story.”
Dolan and Muschietti are longtime friends who had hopes of featuring each other in their movies. Per Muschietti, “When the idea happened, the first one I called was Xavier and he said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.'”
Gary Dauberman, a writer on It Chapter Two, told The Hollywood Reporter previously that Adrian marks “the first attack in present-day Derry and sets the stage for what Derry has become.”
Chapter Two picks up 27 years after the Losers’ Club fought Pennywise as kids. As adults — played now by James McAvoy (Bill), Jessica Chastain (Beverly), Bill Hader (Richie), Isaiah Mustafa (Mike), James Ransome (Eddie), Jay Ryan (Ben), and Andy Bean (Stanley) — they must return to their hometown when the monster resurfaces.
“It is the influence of Pennywise even while he is hibernating, and it’s pure evil what happens to Adrian,” Dauberman said. “These bullies working through Pennywise was important for us to show.”
It Chapter Two opens in theaters on Sept. 6.