Fan Fest EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Nicholas Hamilton talks the challenges of playing Henry Bowers, and IT’s Expectations!
Stephen King’s readaptation of IT has been the hype of the week, and it finally hit theaters yesterday. Let me tell you something, I have never seen a more fun fandom! People are making paper boats and placing them in the streets, tying red balloons to sewer drains, and dressing up as clowns and dancing outside of movie theaters.
Essentially, the IT hype is very real.
While fans are extremely ecstatic to finally get a seat in a showing, the cast of the film is equally as excited to hear what the fans have to say. One of those cast members is Nicholas Hamilton, who plays Henry Bowers in the Horror Blockbuster.
The character of Henry Bowers is one of the most iconic Stephen King characters, and in the film, he makes it his mission to terrorize the lives of the kids in ‘The Losers Club’. However, Henry is more than just a bully… he is an extremely complex character with multiple layers; and I have to say that Nicholas Hamilton did an absolutely fantastic job at portraying the character.
Born in Lismore, New South Wales, Australia – Nicholas first came to industry attention with the lead role in the short film titled Time. He then received a Best Male Actor Award at the 2013 Tropfest Short Film Festival. He has also had a guest lead role in shows such as Mako Mermaids, Wanted and short films such as Letters to Annabelle and The Boy who Stole the Belltower.
For those King fans, you may also recognize Nicholas from another film… The Dark Tower!
My fellow Fan Fest writer Denise and I had the amazing opportunity to speak with Nicholas right before the film premiered, and he talked about the challenges he faced portraying the role of Henry, in addition to what fans can expect from the film:
Jules: Before taking on the role did you read the novel or watch the 1990’s mini-series?
Nicholas: I’ve seen bits of the mini series, it’s a bit hard to dodge. When I got the role I read the book, just to make sure I was fully immersed in the character. It’s pretty hard to dodge his work nowadays.
Jules: Have you gotten the chance to meet Stephen King yet?
Nicholas: No, he’s quite the elusive character! I think he’s known for being quiet. He just sort of gives over the rights and then he sort of disappears. He never came to set, he wasn’t really involved in the making of the film that much. Maybe at the premiere though!
Jules: Can you walk us through how you obtained the role of Henry Bowers? What was your audition like? He’s a pretty intense character!
Nicholas: It was a really weird sort of a situation, really! I had just landed in London to visit my brother who was living over there at the time. So it was like 3AM we were taken into this little crummy motel in London next to the airport. We were all crying jet lagged and cranky so we just went to sleep so I sat on the bed and passed out. An hour later I woke up to an email for my manager saying ‘this is urgent we need you to put down a tag for this’ – and it was ‘IT’. I was, as you can imagine, very tired from a 12-hour flight. Very jet-lagged and tired.
So we had this set-up where there was a desk in the room and we put two suitcases on top of that desk and then put my phone on-top of those suitcases to film me while my mom was reading against me. It was on scene – the scene with Ben on the bridge. It’s a really intense scene, Henry has to be really mad and I definitely was in that state! So I think being tired and jet-lagged and cranky and tired really actually helped me get the part, which is weird. So I sent that away and fell back to sleep for the night and pretty much forgot about it. About a month later we got back and the day we got back we were unpacking and I got a call saying I got the part.
Jules: In Stephen King’s The Dark Tower your character, Lucas, is also a bully figure. Is it difficult for you to step into the role of being a bully, and what kind of challenges do you face channeling that role?
Nicholas: Me personally, I find it easier. There is something inside of me that finds it easier to play the menacing almost bordering on psychotic characters rather than the ‘charming tomorrow’ good guy characters. It was a bit of a challenge especially with Henry because he is so much cooler than a bully. He was all these layers. He’s vulnerable at times and then he has to switch it to being a bully to preserve his image. Then he has that story with his dad at home when he’s treated like dirt so there are a lot of different layers to Henry Bowers. A lot more layers than you would normally get in a movie about these kids sort of just facing this bully. You know, the kind of movie where this kid is mean because he’s just mean. There’s not a real back story.
Whereas with Henry Bowers and his gang you get all of these layers of different emotions. It was a lot more challenging for me to play someone with that much of a story. I really enjoyed it!
Jules: During filming did you separate yourself from the ‘Losers Club’ kids to try and stay in character, or did you still all hang out and get that bonding experience?
Nicholas: You’d think that Andy kept the kids away and us from Pennywise for as long possible. Pretty much from Day One we were all in rehearsing and we were just together and just became mates almost instantaneously, very good friends right from the get-go. I think that actually helped. You’d think you would have to be separated from them to treat them like I do in the movie. But I think being as close as we were, it was easier for me to treat them like dirt because I knew that they would be more tolerant because they knew who I was.
I think especially with Jeremy and Chosen the two main kids who I bullied the most – we wound up becoming really great mates. Especially Jeremy. When the day came for us to terrorize them, they were so tolerant. They’re professionals, but having that relationship with them before the movie even started filming definitely helps them and me get through that scene together. Which helps them and me.
Jules: That actually leads me into my next question, you mentioned Pennywise. What was your reaction to first seeing Bill donned up in the infamous Pennywise the Clown getup?
Nicholas: Well the first time I saw him in his full get-up was actually really gradual, which I think was better for me (laughs). In the movie Henry doesn’t have much to do with Pennywise so I wasn’t far away from him like the Losers were. I was chilling on set one day, I didn’t have much to do so I was sitting in the prosthetics chair and Bill walked in. I had met Bill at the table reading about a month before that. We started chatting and then they started painting him up and I realized that he was being made into Pennywise. So I got to sit in on that experience. I was in there for about two to two and a half hours while they put his whole face on. That was cool, it was sort of like a gradual thing.
It was definitely weird, you see this charming and handsome six-foot-three man have this awesome conversation with you and then two and a half hours later he stands up from his chair and you see this menacing six-foot-seven terrifying clown. It’s weird. It’s really weird. I definitely got the long straw considering I got to see Pennywise come together very gradually instead of him standing in my face all of a sudden.
Jules: Without giving away any spoilers, what can you say we the fans can expect out of this film?
Nicholas: I think you can expect more than a horror movie. I think that is what we are trying to get across. The novel especially is more than a book that is meant to scare you. It’s meant to tell a story. We’re trying to put that across in the movie too. Andy did a fantastic job directing these kids and directing Pennywise. How the movie has come together is just beautiful. He’s got an amazing eye for visuals. It’s just a beautiful film.
For 10 minutes in the movie you can literally watch these kids having fun in their summer, having a bit of romances and stuff and then all of a sudden the clown pops out and you’re like ‘oh shit, I’m sitting in a horror movie now’. I think that’s really special and it’s hard to achieve for a movie with circumstances like this. I think they did pretty well.
I am really excited for it to come out and for people to see it.
Denise: Being as we are a site for fans by fans, tell us about some of your fandoms and what you’re passionate about! What do you fanboy over?!
Nicholas: (laughs) I definitely fanboy over people that I wouldn’t be able to play. It’s a project! People like improv comedians and like Steve Carrell and the Big Bang Theory cast the Friends cast. The people who could be funny I like to think of myself as sort of funny in real life but if you put a camera in front of my face I find it very difficult to be the charming funny guy. I admire people who can do that in front of the live audience shows!
I’m in the middle of watching The Office while I’m here, and that I love!
Jules: Can you share with us your favorite on set moment – one that you can tell us about, of course!
Nicholas: The hardest day that we had on set, being the bullies, was the rock fight. The rock fight was definitely gritty! We were falling on real rocks and getting real rocks thrown at us. It was terrifying and sort of real fun, to be able to play around improvise whatever we did there. I also did enjoy the kissing bridge scene. Just sort of play around with Jeremy and figure out what we wanted to do together. There was stuff that’s not in the script that ended up in the movie in that scene that I am really excited to see. That whole day of terrorizing Jeremy was fun!
Jules: Alright….since we are all nerds… are you Team Batman or Team Superman?
Nicholas: Oh!!! I should have thought about this!! I think if I had to chose, probably Team Superman! If it was Captain America vs. Iron Man I would definitely say Iron Man!!
IT is now playing in theaters.