The Actor Who Plays Pennywise Is Gorgeous In Real Life

The creepy thriller It has already managed to scare millions of moviegoers in a very short amount of time, due in great part to its portrayal of the murderous and nightmarish clown, Pennywise. But, this being Hollywood, the actor behind all that scary clown makeup is actually really gorgeous and far more famous than you might have originally thought.

Get to know Bill Skarsgård, a name you'll likely be hearing about for years to come.

He comes from a famous family

If the name Skarsgård sounds familiar to you, that's because it's been in the Hollywood family for decades. Bill's father is the legendary Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, who's been in everything from controversial indies (1996's Breaking the Waves) to Oscar-winning dramas (1997's Good Will Hunting) and big-budget action flicks (the Thor series). 

Bill has seven siblings, three of whom are also actors. HBO audiences are likely familiar with his big brother Alexander, who had a major role on True Blood (2008-14) and was most recently nominated for an Emmy for Big Little Lies. History Channel fans may also know his brother Gustaf, who plays Floki on Vikings (2013-).

He's still relatively new to American audiences

Although he's been steadily working since he was a kid, Skarsgård is only just beginning to make a name for himself in the United States. Prior to It, arguably his most memorable role was Roman Godfrey in the short-lived Netflix series Hemlock Grove (2013-15). He also had bit parts in a diverse array of films, including Anna Karenina (2012), Allegiant (2016), and the 2017 summer blockbuster Atomic Blonde, opposite Charlize Theron and James McAvoy.

His famous family got him bullied at school

Because his father was such a famous actor in Sweden, Skarsgård said it opened doors for bullies at school to pick on him and accuse him of being privileged. 

"When I started working in Sweden, there were people that really wanted to hate me," he told Out magazine in September 2017. "Kids in the f*****' schoolyard would be like, 'You think you're so cool because your dad is Stellan Skarsgård, huh?' And I'm like, 'No? Not at all.' But I would get into fights over it. [People think] it's nice to be able to say, 'This guy didn't get any of this because he actually deserved it—he just got it for free.'"

Who's laughing now?

He thought about becoming a doctor

Speaking to Interview magazine in June 2017, Skarsgård admitted that the idea of becoming the fourth man in his family to pursue acting didn't always sit well with him, so much so that he actually majored in chemistry in high school with the thought of becoming a doctor like his mother and brother Samuel.

"I don't think I would ever be a doctor, but the reason I majored in science was because you could become a civil engineer, you could become a biologist, you could become a computer scientist—that was the point of it," he said. "I had no idea what I wanted to do."

He continued, "In my last two years of high school—because they would still reach out to me for auditions and I would read scripts—there happened to be these few scripts that I really responded to. One in particular that I read, I was like, 'Oh, this is a real character. This is amazing.' I was like, 'I really, really want to do this.' It was Hannes Holm's film [Behind Blue Skies], and I saw him at a premiere—I was, like, 19 at the time, I had probably been to three or four auditions, but I wasn't cast or anything—and I went up to him and was like, 'I don't know what I need to do, but I need to be in your film.' Eventually, I landed the job, and that was something that I felt transcended whatever other people would think of me."

Looks like he made the right call.

He made some of the kids cry on set

If you thought Skarsgård's performance looked terrifying on the big screen, try actually being in the room where it happened.

In his 2017 chat with Interview, the actor admitted the intensity of his character's look and performance proved to be so terrifying that some of the child extras actually cried on set. "On set, I wasn't very friendly or goofy," he recalled. "I tried to maintain some sort of weirdness about the character, at least when I was in all the makeup. At one point, they set up this entire scene, and these kids come in, and none of them have seen me yet. Their parents have brought them in, these little extras, right? And then I come out as Pennywise, and these kids—young, normal kids—I saw the reaction that they had."

He continued, "Some of them were really intrigued, but some couldn't look at me, and some were shaking. This one kid started crying. He started to cry and the director yelled, 'Action!' And when they say 'action,' I am completely in character. So some of these kids got terrified and started to cry in the middle of the take, and then I realized, 'Holy s***. What am I doing? What is this? This is horrible.'"

"But then we cut, and obviously I was all, 'Hey, I'm sorry. This is pretend,” he added. Uh, we're still waiting for our apology, Bill.

His brother helped him create Pennywise's smile

Sure, his famous family name might have made things difficult in the school yard, but growing up with a family of actors obviously had its many benefits. In fact, during a September 2017 interview on Conan, Skarsgård revealed that he was able to come up with Pennywise's scary as you-know-what smile with the help of his brother, Gustaf.

"Well, it's a funny story cuz my older brother Gustaf, who is an actor as well, he had this ability to point his lip in a very strange way," he said (via CinemaBlend). "And for some reason—I dunno how I understood that I could do it as well—but I was maybe 10 years old and I'm like [does the Pennywise smile]. I came up with this character. I would pull my t-shirt over my head so you would just see the opening. I would do [The It] face, and then I would chase my little brother and scare him."

Ah, siblings. Can't live with them; can't live without 'em.

He auditioned for It in full clown makeup

We've certainly heard about actors going to great lengths to land a role. So, in many ways, it makes sense that Skarsgård's audition process for It involved "a callback, a screen test and sending additional self-tape from Stockholm before it was official," per The New York Times.

It also involved auditioning in full makeup. "I had my girlfriend put on the makeup the morning of, and then I drove through Hollywood in full clownface," he told Out magazine. "I was like, This is really humiliating—the epitome of the Auditioning Actor in L.A. But I'm happy I stuck with it."

The film's director, Andrés Muschietti, approved. "Bill has this incredible balance between childlike features [and] something that can be very disturbing—a very, very intense look," he said. "I wanted him to bring that to the equation. I said, 'In post-production, I might twist one of your eyes to the side so your eyes are looking in different directions,' and he says, 'Oh, I can do that'—and he just did it, right there in front of me."

He consulted a clowning coach

Skarsgård's ability to scare the crap out of people didn't come about on his own. In fact, according to The New York Times, his performance involved "extensive preparation" that included everything from "makeup and costume tests" to, hilariously enough, "consultations with a clowning coach."

Hey, whatever he had to do, it clearly worked.