10 Monstrous Facts About John Carpenter’s The Thing
The impact of a horror film often lessens the older it gets, but there are a handful of scary cinematic masterpieces that are as powerful now as they were upon their initial release. One such timeless, terrifying classic is John Carpenter’s The Thing, which believe it or not will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2022. Below are 10 fascinating facts about a film that you simply have to watch if you’ve never done so before.
10. It’s a remake of a 1951 black and white film
The Thing is a remake of Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World, a black and white horror film from 1951 that, like John Carpenter’s 1982 version, was based on a story by John W Campbell.
Campbell’s 1938 novella Who Goes There? was first published in the August 1938 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, and a recently discovered, extended novel version was also published over eight decades later in 2019.
9. Jeff Bridges and Nick Nolte both turned down the chance to play MacReady
Hollywood stars Jeff Bridges and Nick Nolte both turned down the opportunity to play MacReady, whilst the likes of Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood were also considered for the part.
The role of course eventually went to Kurt Russell, the last actor in The Thing to be cast, despite him having already spent weeks helping his friend John Carpenter develop the film.
8. Special effects legend Stan Winston refused credit for his work
The majority of the ahead-of-their-time special effects in The Thing were created by a 22-year-old Rob Bottin, whose heavy workload on the project ultimately led to him suffering from severe exhaustion.
Stan Winston stepped in to help out, creating the film’s terrifying ‘Dog-Thing,’ but the late special effects maestro was keen for Bottin to take all the plaudits, so refused to receive any credit whatsoever for his work.
7. Kurt Russell was very nearly injured by an on set explosion
The scene in which MacReady destroys the alien version of Palmer with a stick of dynamite required that Kurt Russell stand dangerously close to a controlled special effects explosion.
Unfortunately, the star had not been informed how big the explosion would be, meaning that he was standing far too close to it and gave an entirely genuine reaction to flames that very nearly touched his face.
6. A big chunk of the film’s budget went towards keeping the cast and crew warm
The Thing had a then-sizeable budget of $15 million, with $75,000 of that being spent on winter gear to keep the film’s cast and crew warm.
This was due to the arctic conditions in the British Columbia town of Stewart where the film was being shot, which ranged from zero degrees to minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. John Carpenter says MacReady and Childs are both human at the end of the film
Fuelled by the fact that neither character has any visible breath emanating from their mouths as they sit in freezing conditions at the end of the film, rumours have persisted for years that MacReady and Childs have by this point been assimilated by The Thing’s titular alien parasite.
This theory was later debunked by John Carpenter, who confirmed that the storyline of the 2002 The Thing video game – which revealed that both characters are indeed human – should be considered canon.
4. It got scathing reviews on release
Like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, which opened on exactly the same day, The Thing was met with almost entirely unfavourable reviews upon its release but is now seen as a classic.
The Los Angeles Times described the film as “bereft, despairing and nihilistic,” whilst Cinefantastique magazine had the film on their cover with the headline “Is this the most hated movie of all time?”
3. It’s John Carpenter’s favourite out of all the films he has directed
Today John Carpenter is a very well-regarded filmmaker, writer, producer and musician, having called the shots on such cinematic classics as Halloween, Escape from New York and Big Trouble in Little China.
Carpenter has revealed that, out of all the films he has directed in his nearly five-decade-long career, The Thing is his absolute favourite.
2. A 2011 prequel was hampered by studio interference
An identically titled prequel to The Thing was released in 2011, but it under-performed at the box office in addition to being derided by critics.
Reports later revealed that the film’s failure was partly down to interference by studio executives, who insisted that the film’s alien should be computer-generated, even after filmmakers had already shot a number of the sequences using practical effects.
1. A brand new remake is currently in development
Universal Studios and Blumhouse Productions announced only last year that they are currently developing a remake of The Thing.
The remake will incorporate elements of the original film as well as the original and expanded versions of John W Campbell Jr’s source novella.