In a grizzly end to Part I of Stephen King’s IT, Stan Uris’ wife, Patti Uris, unknowingly stumbles upon the body of her husband (played by Richard Masur) deceased in their bathtub—evidently slain by his own hand after receiving the news from childhood friend, Mike Hanlon, that the monstrous entity known as IT had returned to their hometown of Derry and had begun killing yet again. Stricken with shock and grief, Patti drops the beer can and glass she had planned to surprise Stan with and unleashes a bloodcurdling scream as the camera pans to the tiled bathroom wall with the word “IT” smeared across it.
Pennywise can be heard laughing demonically in the background. Fade to black. Roll credits. And on to Part II.
It’s a scene from the film that haunted me as a kid—as did much of the film, frankly. So, I knew from the beginning of this oral history project that I wanted to find and talk with the Canadian actress who played Patti Uris, Caitlin Hicks, to learn a little about what shooting that scene was actually like. Less of a horror fan and more so a lover and writer of novels, Caitlin agreed to chat with me about both working on IT and some the differences she sees between film and stage acting.
John Campopiano: The final scene of Part I—albeit brief—has always haunted me. What do you remember about shooting your two scenes with Richard Masur?
Caitlin Hicks: For me the scene was not grizzly at all—the bathtub scene that ends with “IT” written in blood on the white bathroom tiles. It’s just before intermission. I had to be knitting (the filmmakers finally decided on that, instead of typing into a computer screen as I had done in the audition) in the living room downstairs. My ‘husband’ [Stanley Uris played by Richard Masur] went upstairs to the bath. Prior to that moment I had been knitting and hoping for little ‘afternoon delight.’
By the time it was time to shoot my scene the story was still being set up—the blood was confined to the bathtub. It wasn’t so gory just unexpected and, thus, scary. I was to step inside, seem my husband dead in the tub, see the writing on the wall, and SCREAM. Richard Masur wasn’t in the tub at the time, it was just a piece of tape that I was looking at. The small bathroom was filled with dry ice and the space was very crowded with the cameramen, boom mic operator, the director [Tommy Lee Wallace] etc.
I believe my scene was on the first day of shooting—so no one really knew what to expect.
JC: How was it working with Richard Masur?
CH: We had to kiss for the scene—a harmless kiss between husband and wife. He seemed nice enough, but he wasn’t really my type at the time, and a kiss is pretty intimate. My scene was about two days of shooting, so I didn’t really have a chance to get to know him much. I did see him in a film with Meryl Streep afterwards and then began noticing him in other films.
JC: Aside from IT you really haven’t added any other horror titles to your resume. Would it be safe to say that the horror genre doesn’t interest you much?
CH: Horror is not a genre I am interested in, but I knew a lot of people would see the film, and a result, me as well. So, I was happy to get the part. AndI believe I was at my sister’s house in San Diego when IT aired on ABC in 1990. I couldn’t watch it all—I got so scared!
Ultimately, I didn’t do enough work in film to really master it. It’s completely different from the stage. At some point I moved to the sunshine coast of British Columbia and thereafter I did only theatre work. In theatre you literally feed off the energy of the audience. With film, unless the crew is engaged in the story, the energy is really diffuse. They’re worried about things like: the lighting; if the light stand is too close to the camera; if a piece of the set is missing; if the continuity or framing of the shot right, etc.
As an actor, you have to be super prepared and you have to do it all yourself. Film is totally different. It’s more inward, smaller gestures, the emotion has to come from within with absolutely no build. In theatre you have the benefit of the build of the story. So for film, you’ve got to have your craft really developed. After so much work in theatre, I’d probably audition much much better now and enjoy the film work more as a result.