Barbara Muschietti told IGN that there was one key Richie and Eddie moment from the book that stuck with her over the years: “The scene of Eddie’s death, when Richie is saying goodbye, and caresses his cheek stuck with me for a good, what, 30 years. The way I interpreted it was that there was love there. I don’t know if romantic, I don’t know. But it feels totally natural that it would be unrequited love. To me, when Andy presented it as a possibility, it felt very natural.”
Richie’s sexual orientation is a key part of his character arc in IT Chapter Two. The film’s opening sequence depicts a brutal hate crime against a gay couple, which sets the stage for how unwelcoming this Maine town is to the LGBTQ+ community and the chilling effect such open homophobia and bigotry would have had on Richie, who decided to stay in the closet even after moving away and finding fame and fortune in stand-up comedy.
Bill Hader wanted the film to commit fully to making Richie gay or to not even bring it up. “Andy and I talked about how overt we should make it, and I said if it’s not overt, then why is he in the movie?,” Hader told the New York Times. “You can’t do a half measure on it. You’ve got to go the full way or don’t even allude to it. Let’s not be coy. Let’s just say what it is.”
Hader also pointed out that the periods that the book was set in were very different times for gay characters than what modern audiences would expect this film to portray. “You’ve got to think, too, the book [is set] in the ’50s and the ’80s, and that’s already different [from the movies, set in the ’80s and today]. To deal with this in the 21st century, it’s got to be a different thing,” Hader said.
Watch this breakdown below of other differences between It Chapter Two and King’s book:
In IT Chapter Two, the first hint that Richie may be hiding something from his friends is during the sequence where the adult Richie (Bill Hader), in his search for a token to use in the climactic Ritual of Chud, recalls a moment from his adolescence in the summer of 1989. In this scene, set in Derry’s arcade, young Richie (Finn Wolfhard) has homophobic slurs hurled at him by the bully Henry Bowers after a game of Street Fighter between Richie and Henry’s cousin. Following the arcade, young Richie is attacked by a Paul Bunyan statue come to life. The scene plays out in the past alongside a scene in the present where the adult Richie is also terrorized by Pennywise, who taunts him for having a secret.
Then, during the film’s climactic showdown with Pennywise, Richie’s childhood friend Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone) dies in his arms, which leaves Richie inconsolable. This scene has a similar tender moment in the book — the one Barbara Muschietti mentioned above — where Richie caresses Eddie’s face. It’s this scene that fans have cited as proof of Richie’s sexual orientation since its release, even though the book otherwise leaves it ambiguous.
IT Chapter Two doesn’t follow the same ambiguous path: in adult Richie’s final scene, we see him re-carving “R + E” into a fence on the bridge out of Derry, something he had done as a kid after the arcade incident. This is the closest the film comes to overtly addressing whether Richie’s love for Eddie was more than just platonic.
Check out IGN’s review of IT Chapter Two below:
In an interview with THR, It Chapter Two screenwriter Gary Dauber said the filmmakers’ decision to more overtly explore what had only been hinted at in the book was because it “felt like it was part of his character…. It is a part of the many things that define him. The carving of the initials, I give credit to Andy on that. It was a great way to button that up.”
Of that final scene, director Andy Muschietti told IGN it was left intentionally vague whether Richie and Eddie were ever in a romantic relationship. “In this moment, there is no confirmation that there was ever a relationship. What you see in the movie is something about Richie that we didn’t know before. Exploring all of the fears that we could have as adults, I found that Richie could have a fear of being exposed, fear of having his real identity exposed,” he said, adding that while it’s “vaguely related to the suggestions that there are in the book,” he wanted to “find the depth of what Richie is afraid of, and every fear is very substantial in all the Losers.”
Muschietti ramped up this storyline to embrace the idea of trying to dig deeper into what makes Richie tick as a character. “We know that he is a guy that basically uses humor as a defense mechanism. That started, probably, in his young life, within a family that neglected him,” the director explained. “Humor was a way of being noticed. But that didn’t really pay off too much for a scenario in their adult life where fears are really layered, and they are based on childhood trauma. I wanted something that was more profound, and dark.”
For more on It Chapter Two, check out our review, our breakdown of the movie’s ending and all the differences between the book and the movie, why the film doesn’t have an after credits scene, watch James McAvoy take our phobias quiz, and find out who Bill Hader credits with his casting.