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The Truth Behind That Surprise Cameo In It: Chapter Two

Pennywise may not be the scariest thing in Derry, Maine, after all.

Audiences who have taken in It: Chapter Two were a little surprised to see a familiar face pop up in the film: none other than Stephen King himself, who appeared as the proprietor of the ramshackle store Secondhand Rose. In a pair of recent interviews, screenwriter Gary Dauberman and director Andy Muschietti explained how the cameo came to happen. Please be advised that minor spoilers for It: Chapter Two follow.

In the film, King makes his appearance when the adult Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy) spots his childhood bike, which he had named Silver, in the window of the old secondhand shop. Excited, Denbrough (whose childhood stammer has made a reappearance during his return to Derry) stumbles over his words in offering to purchase the bike, eventually blurting out an obscenity.

The shop's old proprietor takes Denbrough to task for his language (which any faithful reader of King found absolutely hilarious) before driving a brutal bargain: recognizing Denbrough as the famous author whose latest novel is currently sitting on his desk, he refuses to sell the poor guy his old bike for any less than $300 dollars. ("You can afford it," he says repeatedly, and somehow, we get the feeling that King has been on the opposite end of just such a transaction before.)

Dauberman revealed that he wrote the part of Secondhand Rose's owner with King in mind, but stopped just short of actually spelling out his preference in the screenplay. "I wrote him into the script just along the lines of 'looks like Stephen King' early on in the drafts. You know, just kind of planting the seed," Dauberman said. "He's done cameos before, but it had been a very long time since he's done one."

Dauberman is only partially correct. King's more high-profile cameo appearances may have come in the '80s and '90s, but he's always been pretty game to pop up in adaptations of his material — it's just that in recent years, he's mostly stuck to the small screen.

Our friends over at Den of Geek have put together a helpful compendium of all of King's onscreen appearances, and a few of them might surprise you. His very first was in a movie that wasn't even adapted from one of his novels: it was in the bizarre 1981 fantasy flick Knightriders, which was directed by his friend George A. Romero. King and Romero would go on to collaborate on the excellent horror anthology film Creepshow the following year, and in that film, King didn't just cameo; he actually starred in one of its segments, "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill."

(Here, we'd like to point out that King has taken a lot of crap for his hokey, overacting turn in Creepshow ever since, and to humbly opine that he played the role exactly as it was meant to be played. The segment was truly creepy, it's one of our favorites in the movie, and King killed it; we will die on this hill.)

Since then, the Master has turned in cameos, usually humorously self-deprecating ones, in no fewer than fifteen films and television series. They are, in order: 1986's Maximum Overdrive (which is based on his short story "Trucks," and which is also the only film King ever directed), 1987's Creepshow 2, 1989's Pet Sematary (in which he appears as a priest at a funeral), the 1991 CBS miniseries Golden Years, 1992's Sleepwalkers (an original story that King wrote for the screen, and which features some of the worst CGI its year had to offer), 1994's The Stand miniseries, 1995's The Langoliers miniseries, the 1996 feature Thinner (based on the novel which King wrote under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman), the 1997 miniseries version of The Shining, 1999's Storm of the Century miniseries, 2002's Rose Red miniseries, the 2004 series Kingdom Hospital (which King adapted for television from a Danish series created by cinematic provocateur Lars Von Trier), the season 2 premiere of the series Under the Dome in 2014, a season 1 episode of the series Mr. Mercedes in 2017, and It: Chapter Two. 

Dauberman related that he was content to just keep his fingers crossed and hope that King would agree to the cameo, but in an interview with GamesRadar, Muschietti revealed that he was down to do a little more bargaining in the interest of making it happen. 

"We had an increasingly good relationship with King after he saw the first movie," Muschietti explained. "He became like a friend, and I wanted him to participate a little more in this one as he did not participate [in] the first movie at all. I didn't want him to intervene in the creation, and he's very clear [that] he doesn't want to mess with the people adapting his work, but I still wanted to keep him in the loop and get his thoughts."

The director continued, "So, I sent him the first draft. He gave a list of things he would like to see. It felt more like a fan, because after reading it, he was like 'I would like to see Paul Bunyan'. So, I was like, 'I'll give you Paul Bunyan.'"

Muschietti is referring, of course, to a jaw-dropping scene that was ported over quite faithfully from the novel: a flashback in which the adult Richie Tozier (Bill Hader) remembers being bullied over his sexuality by Henry Bowers and forced to flee an arcade in his younger years. Young Richie (Finn Wolfhard) takes refuge in Derry's park — where a giant, 20-foot tall statue of Paul Bunyan comes terrifyingly to life, chasing him with its gigantic axe.

With that bargaining chip in place, Muschietti says he then sprang his request on King. "I asked him to do a cameo and he said, 'Well, you have to know, I'm a jinx. Every movie I was in bombed.' He said it with humor, and I said, 'I think we're going to break the spell, let's do it.'"

Obviously, King was just being cheeky (of all the flicks listed above, only Sleepwalkers could be called a true bomb, and rightfully so). His appearance in It: Chapter Two was an unexpected delight, and if you ask us, he should definitely get back into the habit of making such cameos. Heck, the Stephen King renaissance is in full swing, it's not like he won't have a ton of chances: not only are TV adaptations of The Stand and The Dark Tower on the way, but in various stages of development are flicks based on (pardon us while we take a deep breath) the short stories "The Doctor's Case," "The Gingerbread Girl," "One for the Road," "I Am the Doorway," "Prey For Us,"  and "In the Death Room," as well as the novels Mile 81, The Tommyknockers, The Talisman, Sleeping Beauties, and Lisey's Story.

We know full well that the Master is constantly busy conjuring up his latest nightmare, but we'd sure love it if he kept those appearances coming, for one simple reason: Stan Lee is no longer with us, and we can think of nobody better to claim Stan the Man's title of King of Cameos. 

It: Chapter Two is in theaters now.