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Could Sophia Lillis be the ultimate IT Girl as Chapter Two of horror franchise hits cinemas?

With the 'IT' sequel in cinemas, Donal Lynch talks to Sophia Lillis about fear of failure and how she connects with troubled characters

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Sophia Lillis

Sophia Lillis

Haley Joel Osment

Haley Joel Osment

Kirsten Dunst as Claudia in Interview With the Vampire

Kirsten Dunst as Claudia in Interview With the Vampire

Sissy Spacek as teenager Carrie

Sissy Spacek as teenager Carrie

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Sophia Lillis

Sometimes the most memorable horror movie scenes are the most understated. Whether it's the sound of the pig squealing expectantly behind the door of the house in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or the image of nuns hurrying along a twilit street in The Exorcist, the imagination fills in the blanks and the horror is heightened. All of which is why the most arresting scene in the film adaptation of IT Chapter Two doesn't, as expected, show the clown, Pennywise, extracting the souls from unsuspecting teenagers. It is, instead, the sight of Beverly Marsh, played by then-15-year-old American actress Sophia Lillis, standing blank-faced in front of the mirror.

You are primed to expect blood to spurt from the plug-hole - this was one of the TV series' most famous and frightening images. Instead, Beverly takes a pair of scissors to her head, and, with total dispassion, shears her beautiful long hair close to her skull. It's a quiet jolt in a film full of them, and its effectiveness owes itself to the talent and timeless beauty of its young star - the now 17-year-old Lillis. Her open, innocent features are redolent of a young Twiggy, but with a spark of Mia Farrow.

"That was a pretty intense scene, she's an incredible character," Sophia says of Beverly, whose on-screen nemesis isn't after all a deranged clown intent on destroying her, but her neglectful father. "It was actually the director's (Andy Muschietti) idea. He thought I looked good with short hair, but the producers liked the long hair. So it was decided, after a few scenes, that I would cut it off. I had already done scenes with extensions in my hair up to the point where I had to cut it," she explains, adding that Muschietti's original plan was to plant new strands among her extensions, so that she wouldn't have to cut her actual hair in the process. "But it wasn't really working on camera," she admits. "It didn't really look real enough, so he said, 'You know what? Just cut it all off. Hopefully you don't ruin it too much.' I didn't really have a choice, but I just said, 'OK. I'll do it'. I only had one take, because those were our only hair extensions and I just had to go on a cutting frenzy and chop it all off."


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