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'It: Chapter 2' cast dish on Pennywise at Comic-Con: 'It was like an animal on set'

Brian Truitt

SAN DIEGO – The Stephen King horror sequel “It Chapter Two” scared Comic-Con to its core once again, and while the man who plays evil clown Pennywise didn’t make the trip, his castmates couldn’t forget his importance.

As the crazy-eyed clown that returns to Derry, Maine, every 27 years, Bill Skarsgard haunted a young version of the Losers’ Club in the first 2017 hit “It." He returns to terrify their adult selves nearly three decades later in the upcoming “Chapter Two” (in theaters Sept. 6.)

“Each of the Losers have an encounter with It, whether it's Pennywise or an incarnation,” director Andy Muschietti tells USA TODAY.

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Pennywise the clown (Bill Skarsgard) returns to haunt Derry again in

In 1989, the kids made oaths to return to Derry if the evil entity ever came back, and they’re still traumatized many years later, like Andy Bean’s character Stanley Uris. His “relationships with Pennywise and memories are very clear, very distinct and it was all very disturbing, nightmarish and horrible,” Bean says.

One of the most important scenes for Jessica Chastain’s character, Beverly Marsh, is an emotional face-off with Pennywise. “He throws back at her how men have treated her,” Chastain says, “and she has to overcome it in order to be able to move forward.”

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Isaiah Mustafa teases a moment where his Mike Hanlon encounters a constricted Pennywise, and what impressed him was how much Skarsgard put into his performance. “He gave everything. It was very eye-opening for me just to see how awesome he was at playing this character.”

Bill Hader (far left), Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, James Ransone, Isaiah Mustafa and Jay Ryan star as the grown-up Losers' Club in

In his signature costume, Skarsgard strikes a “really imposing” figure and is amazing to watch, says Jay Ryan, who plays the adult Ben Hanscom. Ryan also loves the way Skarsgard can keep one eye forward and move the other all around: “That's one of his party tricks.”

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Muschietti admits there’s a tense “atmosphere” when Pennywise is on set. Skarsgard would warm up and get into character in a secluded tent where he'd have final touches done on his makeup and insane getup. Sometimes a loud evil laugh would come out of there, “and everybody would shut up.”

There was a palpable sense of anticipation during those days, says Bill Hader, who stars as grownup Richie Tozier. “You'd be standing there and then you would see the (filmmakers) go, ‘OK, Bill's ready.’ It was like an animal on set, like you're working with a bear. ‘OK, guys, we're bringing the bear in.’ ”

But his fellow actors respected how physically arduous being Pennywise was. “When we had him, (the) clock is ticking and we have to get as much out of him as possible,” says McAvoy, who plays Bill Denbrough.

“Aside from being a really good actor, he's cool as a cucumber and no complaints in being able to ride through the discomfort of how long it takes to get into and out of (his costume),” adds James Ransome, who plays adult Eddie Kaspbrak.

Bill Skarsgard has been wearing the Pennywise getup and freaking out audiences since 2017's hit

Hader cops to grumbling sometimes. But "Aafter I worked with Bill for one day, we were all like, ‘All right, I should really check myself.' "

There were days when the other actors would be filming reaction shots, and although he didn’t have to, Skarsgard would come in just to do the creepy Pennywise line readings off screen. “And within the first sentence, we were like, 'I'm really glad he did that,’ ” McAvoy says.

And when he was done, “we would all thank him,” Hader adds. “We're like, ‘You're the (expletive) coolest guy. You just made all of us better actors by showing up.’ ”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'It: Chapter 2' cast dishes on the return of Pennywise at Comic-Con