James McAvoy on end of It films: All good stories need a good ending
It Chapter Two star James McAvoy reveals his fears, 'torture' of filming and thoughts on how there won't be any more sequels
James McAvoy does not mind confessing his fears to the world.
"My main thing as a child was nuclear war. That played on my mind massively," said the 40-year-old Scottish actor.
"And as an adult, there is only one thing that really terrifies me - which is being trapped in a confined space so that I can't breathe properly, and I can only take in very shallow breaths. Like if I had to crawl through a pipe or I am trapped in a coffin that's really tight. Even thinking about it right now is making me breathe funny."
We were at Comic-Con in San Diego last month, at the Marriott Gaslamp hotel, to talk about the upcoming sequel It Chapter Two, in which McAvoy plays the adult Bill Denbrough, the stammering leader of the Loser's Club group of kids whose younger brother was killed by It/Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard).
Twenty-seven years after the events of It, Pennywise has woken up from the hibernation he was forced into when the Loser's Club wounded him and he slunk back into the sewers.
The grown-up friends are summoned back to their hometown of Derry, Maine, when children start disappearing again, keeping the childhood promise they made to defeat It.
Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone and Andy Bean star as the other adult Loser's Club members, while Andy Muschietti returns to direct.
Based on Stephen King's 1986 novel of the same name, It was a box office hit earning US$700 million (S$972 million) worldwide, the highest-grossing R-rated horror film.
Over here, an It Movie Marathon takes place on Sept 4, the eve of It Chapter Two's opening day, and will showcase both movies.
This is the widest marathon screening in Singapore with 15 participating cinemas.
There will be no more sequels, and It Chapter Two is also advertised as It Ends.
Said McAvoy: "I think all good stories need to have a good ending and it can't just go on, an endless saga.
"Stephen wrote a beautiful story about these people trying to overcome the trauma that they have suffered from their family, friends and lovers, as well as Pennywise.
"And I think that once they are over that, once they have moved forward, what do you want to do, do you want to give them a new scary guy? I think I am happy to leave it."
There were long, hard shooting days, but the cast found their own ways to cope.
He recalled: "One of the last scenes in the movie, we were all in water and pretty traumatised and suffering from the fallout of some pretty big events. And we were in freezing cold water, and Andy was sort of torturing us by doing crazy, weird pieces of direction.
"So we were all starting to get a little bit angry - we were getting mild hypothermia.
"And it just turned into laughter so quickly and we were pissing ourselves laughing for quite a long time. I am looking forward to watching this movie to see if I can see us nearly laughing at some points, because there are probably a few moments in the film where if you look really closely, you will be able to tell."
King wrote It in the 1980s but the issues he raises about abuse and trauma are still relevant.
McAvoy does not believe the author was trying to make any political statements about these subjects.
He said: "I think he is just trying to tell a story. You could take Pennywise out and still have a film about the coming of age of this bunch of people who have suffered trauma, either through loss or physical or psychological abuse. And overcoming that by finding kinship and friendship.
"But you put (Pennywise) in it, and it gives it this mythical, almost legendary thing that elevates it. It is not just a horror movie. That is why we believe in Pennywise and why we are scared of Pennywise.
"The abuse of power, the determination to inflict fear on an entire community - that's something that I think we see all the time, but we are seeing it a lot right now."
After work is done, McAvoy goes home to be a dad to his nine-year-old son with former wife Anne-Marie Duff and has no time to worry about shaking off his character.
"You don't have time to process or like, 'Oh, I have to get this out of me, I am going to take two weeks to just trek the Pyrenees,' which I might have tried to do before.
"It's just straight back into the school run. So that in a way just wipes it all clean within a couple of days. Then I feel like I have never acted in a movie in my life. I'm like, 'When am I going to get to work again?'" he said with a laugh.
The writer is the chair of the board of directors of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.