The Hard Sell: We’d Love To See Lakeith Stanfield As Mike Hanlon In IT: CHAPTER 2

The ATLANTA and SORRY TO BOTHER YOU star needs a blockbuster role. Derry's "historian" could be it.

Earlier this week, the adult iteration of the Losers Club was rounded out with the casting of James Ransone and Andy Bean, bringing the gang's roster to:

  • Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh

  • Bill Hader as Richie Tozier 

  • James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough 

  • James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak

  • Andy Bean as Stan Uris 

That means there are two prominent positions left to fill: Derry, Maine "historian"  Mike Hanlon and portly poetry artist Ben Hanscom (who actually assumed a good chunk of Mike's role in the first Chapter of Andy Muschietti's IT). In the original report on Bean's glorified cameo casting, this writer posited the idea of Lakeith Stanfield playing the role of Hanlon. Now, allow me a moment to hard sell you on that idea like a fanboy huckster trying to hock a used car. 

First and foremost, Stanfield has proven himself to be one of the finest thesps of his generation in only a handful of roles. Starting with Short Term Twelve ('13) - the actor's feature debut - he owned an electrifying screen presence, captivating us as rapping troubled youth, Marcus. Stanfield then followed that memorable role with a slew of supporting men, striving to create well-rounded individuals with Jimmie Lee Jackson in Selma ('14), Bug in Dope ('15), and Snoop Dogg in Straight Outta Compton ('15). Even if they were "blink and you'll miss it" appearances (such as Dr. Dre's Compton homie), he has such a distinct face and voice that it's impossible to miss even the tiniest turns.

Donald Glover obviously recognized this, casting Stanfield as Darius - the right hand man of Alfred 'Paper Boi' Miles (Brian Tyree Henry) - in his acclaimed FX series Atlanta. Jordan Peele's instaclassic Get Out ('17) made Stanfield a scream queen, hollering at Daniel Kaluuya's increasingly suspicious boyfriend to escape the brainwashing WASP stronghold he's visiting. Stanfield even steals subpar efforts such as Adam Wingard's Death Note ('17) adaptation, stalking crime scenes as mysterious international investigator L. This year's Sorry to Bother You places Stanfield front and center in Boots Riley's insane surrealist satire, giving the actor a subversive starring role in a movie folks are going to be talking about for years. 

In Stephen King's original text, Mike is the lone member of the Losers Club to stay behind in Derry, and thus the only one whose memory isn't wiped of the kids' childhood battle with Pennywise. In turn, Hanlon becomes the town librarian. Following the murder of Adrian Mellon in 1985 - an event which will no doubt need to be updated in Gary Dauberman's 2018-set script - Mike calls the rest of the Losers back to Derry, as the killer clown has risen from his slumber to feed again. Starting with the album Mike's father kept - filled with photos that were important to Derry's history - Hanlon acquires a vast knowledge of the municipality and Bob Gray, and becomes an amateur archivist of sorts. In Muschietti's first movie, much of this arc is actually transplanted onto young Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), leaving Chosen Jacobs' take on juvenile Mike with little to do in the narrative. 

According to early reports on Muschietti's continuation, IT: Chapter 2 is looking to make up for underwriting Mike in the first film via some rather peculiar alterations to the character. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Muschietti said:

“My idea of Mike in the second movie is quite darker from the book. I want to make his character the one pivotal character who brings them all together, but staying in Derry took a toll with him. I want him to be a junkie actually. A librarian junkie. When the second movie starts, he’s a wreck.”

Questionable representation issues aside - as it could be slightly problematic for the one black member of the Losers to become a junkie (just sayin') - Stanfield has proven he can bring the necessary darkness to make Muschietti's new take actually sing. His sinewy build and dark, haunted eyes would transform adult Hanlon into a real human being, instead of a potentially wrong-headed "edgy" re-invention. Obviously, the biggest hurdle that stands in the way of Stanfield's casting is his substantial age difference from the rest of the group - who are all either in or pushing their forties while Lakeith is only twenty-six. But the wonder of being one of the finest performers currently gracing the screen is that he'll undoubtedly rise to this challenge. Plus, there's a reason they call it "movie magic" - an actor can be in his mid-twenties in real life, and with a bit of solid make-up (or even a quick throw away line about how the dark forces of Derry have affected his appearance), Stanfield will fit right in with Chastain, Hader, McAvoy, Ransone, and Bean. 

However, even if you're still not buying Stanfield as Mike, let me offer an alternative: Sterling K. Brown. The This Is Us star has Drew Pearce's sci-fi actioner Hotel Artemis coming in a few weeks, and then Shane Black's The Predator later this year. He's in the right age range - rocking forty-two years - and would completely knock it out of the park as Hanlon, as well. Brown's another great actor on the verge of absolute superstardom, so either he or Stanfield could use IT: Chapter 2 to help catapult their careers to the next level (and deliver a great character for genre heads to relish). Ball's in your court, WB. I await my royalty check once you make the right choice.