It’s OK that most of you aren’t familiar with the name Gary Dauberman ... yet. He’s one of the lower folks on the movie business totem pole: The scriptwriter. Or as those in the know are well aware, he’s actually one of the most important people in the moviemaking chain: The one responsible for sitting down and creating the blueprint that will eventually become the movie. Dauberman need not worry much, as he’s definitely on the way to recognition, at least in the field of horror films. On his resume so far are the screenplays for “Annabelle” (the follow-up to “The Conjuring”), its sequel “Annabelle: Creation,” and the upcoming spinoff to “The Conjuring 2,” “The Nun.”
The script for a movie adaptation of Stephen King’s classic and lengthy horror novel “It” (formerly a TV mini-series in 1990) has been around for a few years, with the green light for the film blinking on and off for various reasons. When it finally stayed lit, the script, then by Cary Fukunaga and Chase Palmer, was given to Dauberman who took a stab at rewriting and freshening it up. Dauberman, 40, spoke about the task of helping to turn the 1,100-plus-page book about a group of 13-year-old kids caught up in unimaginable horror in a small Maine town last week in Los Angeles.
Q: You obviously like scaring people. What’s your earliest memory of reading a frightening book or seeing a horror movie?
A: I think the first movie was (Stephen King’s) “Cujo.” My mom brought home the video. I was really young, and it was scary. It was taking a dog and making it a monster. And it felt like it was my first adult movie when I was a kid. As far as books, I grew up reading (YA writers) Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine. The first Stephen King thing I read was the novella “The Body” (the basis for the film “Stand by Me”).
Q: How did you get the gig to do the screenplay for “It?”
A: I had worked with New Line Cinema before, and they knew my enthusiasm for “It” and for all things Stephen King. When they were working on developing it years ago, I kept asking about it — just as a fan. “Where is it at? Can I read the script?” Finally, when it was going to happen, they asked if I wanted to get together with (director) Andy Muschietti. Before they finished the question, I said yeah.
Q: Were there any second thoughts about tackling such an enormous and iconic book?
A: No. Well, yes, it was overwhelming and the anxiety was terrible, all those bad things, for sure. But I could not turn down one of my favorite books of all time.
Q: You must have known right away that a lot was going to have to be cut out of the book. The TV mini-series was more than three hours, and this was only going to be a little over two hours. How did you deal with that?
A: I loved the miniseries as a kid, and it was a big influence on me, but not on this script. I didn’t go back and revisit it. Because this wasn’t network TV, we could push it further with the scares and with the language of the kids, but I think the fact that I had read “The Body” first really made me want to make sure the dynamic of the kids and their Losers Club came through. That was one thing I really wanted to protect. But there wasn’t any one scene that I said we’ve gotta have. It just became a question of what are we uncomfortable losing.
Q: Was there anything specific that you added to the existing script when you were hired?
A: There was no sense of tearing it down and starting from scratch, because they used the same source material. So it was kind of picking up the ball and running with it. But I think there’s humor in there now that wasn’t there before. I like those moments of levity.
Q: Who was your favorite character to write for?
A: I love them all, but my favorite one ... Oh, I don’t know, I came away really falling in love with Beverly all over again. But what the movie does really well is each one gets a moment to shine in different scenes; they all have their great moments. I liked making sure they each got to do that. But yeah, Beverly.
“It” opens on Sept. 8.
— Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.