Jaeden Lieberher Has That "It" Factor
Jaeden Lieberher, the 14 year old star of Andy Muschietti’s remake of Stephen King’s delightfully disturbing 1986 novel “It,” has more than a few things in common with his character, Bill Denbrough (or “Stuttering Bill,” as he affectionately calls him.) Both are soft-spoken and thoughtful. Both have a good head on their shoulders. And both come across as pretty damn fearless, whether they’re confronting a skin-crawlingly creepy killer clown or navigating the social media frenzy surrounding their star-making turn in the film.
Lieberher was bit by the acting bug early in life, and has been acting professionally since he was eight years old, without any sort of formal training. He fondly remembers heading to auditions for commercials every day after school: “My mom was really surprised, but I loved acting. I like getting to be a different person and explore different realities. You get to do things you would never do in real life.” His dedication paid off in 2011 when he was cast alongside Bill Murray (who he credits with teaching him to “stay energized”) in “St. Vincent,” followed by a luminous starring role in the critically acclaimed sci-fi film “Midnight Special.” Lieberher continues to pad his impressive resume with his portrayal of Bill, the de facto leader of the band of bullied misfits who take on the demonic clown that is terrorizing them by morphing into their deepest fears incarnate. Bill is the earnest emotional center of the movie, stricken with guilt and grief over the disappearance of his little brother, and Lieberher plays him with a tender depth and quivering determination that evolves into a powerful emotional strength in the final scenes. “He’s very strong and never backs down. He does what he thinks is right and would do anything for the people that he loves,” explains Lieberher.
Although there were a few moments in which I found myself biting my own fist out of fear, at its core “It” is more than just a horror movie. “It” is a coming of age story with more than its share of relatable moments that ultimately seizes on the innate power of love and friendship in the face of fear and hardship, either real or imagined. As Lieberher puts it, “Face your fears. You can only destroy fear with the help of others.” The fear-inducing moments of “It” are mercifully diluted with healthy doses of 80’s nostalgia (fanny packs, bikes thrown onto front lawns, a Molly Ringwald reference) and comedic relief in the form of a bunch of high school kids just being high school kids. There is an effortless and energetic natural chemistry between the young ensemble cast, which Lieberher says exists off screen as well: “We all became best friends immediately, surprisingly. I felt like I knew them forever. All of our moms got along and we had sleepovers every weekend.”
“It” continues to destroy records at the box office, and as of now, there are over thirty Instagram pages dedicated solely to Lieberher. But even amidst inklings of impending fame, he is refreshingly normal, spending his free time skateboarding, playing basketball, and “hanging out with the Losers.” For Lieberher, no matter how many movies he makes, the magic of acting remains intact: “It was so cool to get to live in the 80’s for a few months. There were no cell phones. We just had fun and rode our bikes around town.”
Written by Alison Green
Photographed by Bil Brown
Styled by Shania Feldman
Groomer: Andrea Pezzillo using R+Co at Exclusive Artists Management.