Entertainment Movies Bill Skarsgard: the handsome Swede behind the horrifying It clown
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Bill Skarsgard: the handsome Swede behind the horrifying It clown

pennywise
The actor who plays the chilling clown in It is a member of one of Hollywood's most prolific families. Photo: Warner Bros.
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This year’s movie adaptation of Stephen King’s novel It has skyrocketed to the top of the box office and already earned itself a sequel – perhaps somewhat surprisingly given its creepy subject matter.

In large part this is thanks to 27-year-old Swedish actor Bill Skarsgard, whose chilling turn as Pennywise, the grinning clown terrorising a small town, has horrified audiences around the world.

The story of a group of bullied kids battling their worst nightmares, It has become the highest-grossing horror movie of all time (not adjusting for inflation) and Warner Brothers announced on Tuesday that a sequel would hit cinemas in September 2019.

Skarsgard, who hails from suburban Stockholm, beat out several hopefuls, including British up-and-comer Will Poulter, to nab the coveted role.

He has scored rave reviews for his portrayal of the shape-shifting demon straight out of your childhood nightmares and has a creepy smile that can strike fear into the heart of even the bravest moviegoer.

“When I was maybe 10 years old … I would do that face and chase my little brother and scare him,” Skarsgard told Conan O’Brien of his trademark evil grin.

His similarly unsettling voice also took weeks of work.

“An important thing for me in terms of preparing and creating the character was thinking, ‘What are the things that I would find really unsettling?’ and then explore that,” he told Collider.

“Essentially, what you’ll end up seeing in the film is my own deepest fears embodied in this character.”

Although he seems particularly adept at terrorising people for a newcomer, Skarsgard actually cut his teeth in US horror TV series Hemlock Grove. 

If his surname sounds familiar, it’s because his older brother Alexander, 41, and father Stellan, 66, are already Hollywood darlings.

Alexander Skarsgard recently won an Emmy for his role as an abusive husband in HBO series Big Little Lies, while Stellan Skarsgard has more than 100 movies under his belt, including Good Will Hunting, The Avengers and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The Skarsgard name is perhaps set to become even more recognisable given four out of Stellan’s eight children are actors.

“I try not to mentor,” Stellan told Sky News. “I have four sons who are actors now, I have eight kids and four of them are actors and I have not mentored them.”

But Stellan is surprised by how well his handsome, easygoing sons are able to portray such chilling on-screen characters.

“My kids are so nice, and [Bill] gets to play this horrible person, and Alexander is Emmy-nominated for playing another horrible person, I don’t know what the producers and directors see in them that I don’t see.”

skarsgard family
One half of the talented Skarsgard family (from left) Gustaf, Bill, Alexander and father Stellan. Photo: Getty

Still, some fans of the film are somehow managing to look past Skarsgard’s terrifying clown costume to the well-cheekboned heartthrob underneath, with the young actor leaving several cinemagoers confused by their amorous feelings towards a clown.

Dubbed the “hot clown” by many, Skarsgard has been reluctant to take up this mantle, telling reporters “I don’t think I’m very hot in the film, I hope not!”.

Social media says otherwise.

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