Interviews With ‘The Thing’ Prequel Director and Producers

Published 5 years ago by , Updated July 14th, 2011 at 12:06 pm,

the thing prequel banner Interviews With The Thing Prequel Director and Producers

I had a chance to attended Universal’s panel and press line for The Thing prequel during the New York Comic-Con, and I have to say that the crowd was pretty satisfied with the teaser footage that was screened at the convention.

During the press line I had a chance to speak with producers of The Thing prequel, Marc Abraham and Eric Newman, as well as Matthijs van Heijningen, a former commercial director who is making the jump to feature films with this prequel.

For those who don’t know, Carpenter’s Thing was a remake of a 1950s movie that was itself an adaptation of a 1938 novella. The premise is that an alien life-form is discovered buried in the Antarctic ice by a group of scientists, who discover that the alien is a shape-shifter able can copy any life-forms it comes into contact with. The alien wreaks havoc at the scientists’ camp before invading another camp of American researchers. Carpenter’s film was about the downfall of the American camp; this prequel details what happened to the scientists who originally discover the alien.

The Thing prequel stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim), Eric Christina Olsen (Community), Joel Edgerton, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost), Ulrich Thomsen (Hitman), Jonathan Walker (Traitor) and a host of Norwegian actors (who will be speaking their native language, to boot). Carpenter’s film is famous for the crazy animatronic effects used to bring the alien creature to life, as well as it’s intense psychodrama. This prequel film will combine practical effects and CGI to create The Thing, and the “Who do you trust” psychodrama will again be a prominent focus of the story.

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Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Joel Edgerton in The Thing

Topics of discussion with the director and producers ranged from how you go about making a prequel to a horror classic and what it’s like living in the shadow of John Carpenter, to which elements of Carpenter’s film – the music, the original cast – we might see turn up in this prequel:

Screen Rant: How do you go about making a prequel to The Thing, a horror movie classic?

Marc Abraham: We’ve been in business with Universal for a long time, And when you have a company you’ve been doing movies with, you’re always looking at their catalog to see if there’s anything you could possibly do a different version of, or remake, and this was a film that we loved, so we didn’t want to remake it, but we thought ‘Wow is there anything we could do with it? Is there any way to enjoy this experience without having to actually remake it?’ And that’s when we came up with the idea that we would do a prequel to the movie – take the Carpenter movie kind of take it apart and make a movie about one of the aspects of it, which is actually what happened before the Carpenter movie started.

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Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Screen Rant: What is it about the Carpenter film that made you think this material was ripe for a prequel?

Matthijs van Heijningen: After reading the short story and seeing Carpenter’s movie, it’s a monster movie but it’s actually about people, when you confront them with certain knowledge, how they react, the basic survival mode and that’s what I really liked about the story. At the core that’s what I really like about the Carpenter [movie] – how they react to each other, how do they cooperate with each other, can they cooperate with each other. If they do, then they maybe get killed; if they don’t work together they also get killed, so there’s a whole psychological paranoia, that’s what I love about that movie. I love the monster – but that’s what I really love.

SR: Matthijs you’re not necessarily a known director – which is a double-edged sword. Fans may be skeptical, but you also have a sort of creative freedom to establish yourself as a director. So how did you approach that situation when handling such revered material like Carpenter Thing?

MVH: The thing is you shouldn’t think about that too much. If you’re inspired by somebody you should just be inspired and then do your own thing…I care about little stories and making people like them. If I think about how [people] should perceive my story I get distracted; I try to make what I like. As a fan of John Carpenter what I like is how can I take my take on the story, my little story, and transcend it.

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Kurt Russell vising the Scientist camp in Carpenter's film.

SR: Knowing how the Carpenter movie starts off, which would be the overlap to where this prequel ends, do you have any plans for the original cast to cameo?

MA: We talked about that…the problem is our film takes place in the same time-frame, so it’s not like you can [use] them 25 years later, so it doesn’t really fit in that way. We could sort of do what I think they’ve done with [Tron: Legacy] with Jeff Bridges, but it seems kind of gimmicky and we’ve stayed with a film which is not gimmicky. So we’re respectful and we think we can lead into that [Carpenter] film with the right attitude, but we’re not planning on doing that.

SR: The theme music to Carpenter’s film is so iconic. Will you be using that music in the prequel?

Eric Newman: It will have a presence in the movie. As you can see in the trailer it ends with that sort of heartbeat…Marco Beltrami is scoring the movie, but that will be integrated into the score somewhere, because it’s brilliant.

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Winstead and Edgerton

Just some early info to better prepare you for when The Thing will once again be invading theaters. From talking to them, I can say that my early opinion is that Heijningen, Abraham and Newman are all at least on the right track about how to go about making this film. The teaser footage looked appropriately intense and menacing, and despite the fact that we already know how the story turns out, there is still room for a few surprises (and a lot of explanation) with this film.

The Thing prequel hits theaters on April 29, 2011.

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  1. Great ill look forward to this :D

    • please tell me you’ve seen both previous versions of The Thing???

      • all three (if you count reading the novella.. which is brilliant, by the way).

        • was just talking about the films..havent read the Story since i was in HS.

  2. Sounds like they’re taking the right approach. We’ll see.


  3. i sure hope so Vic

  4. I watched the original as well as the Carpebter film over the weekend, and I’m super intrigued to see what they do with this. Both films were exraordinary, and Rob Botin’s spots in the extra features are worth the price of the DVD alone! The man is still just an amazing guy with such a demented imagination. Can’t wait for this movie! :)

    • Oops! The THING must have made me misspell CARPENTER…lol!

    • Rob is a genius, he’s right up there with the late great Stan Winston

  5. @nowhereman, that 80 minute Documentary was just great, but i wanted it to be longer lol.

    • Here,here, ants! :)

  6. i don`t see the need for the was covered just fine in the carpenter film.there is no need for a prequal, sequal or remake. carpenters film stands alone and is all that is needed.

    not every film needs to be a franchise.the thing is a perfict example of a movie that is best a stand alone movie.

    and if it is going to be remade they should get the special effects guy from carpenters film and use him and only do pratical effects.most cgi lacks heart.

  7. Sounds to me like I’ll skip the film. No really, I’ll skip it.
    You can throw all sorts of creepy crawlies left and right if you want to, but this entire concept prequel just makes me cringe. To add insult to injury, they have the gall to criticize the upcoming TRON Legacy, which is a sequel, not a prequel, andthus the casting of some of the original cast members is not a ‘gimmick’ By the way, I was shocked the question was even asked. In Carpenter’s film, the American base did not visit the Norwegian camp prior to the events of the film.

    I’m also still not sold on the casting of the film. If the Norwegian base is multi-national, is it really “The Norwegian Camp”?
    No. I didn’t think so.

    Lookit, you and I know we will get our Thing kills.
    We will get our FX.

    We also know that everyone will die.
    We also know nobody will warn the American base.
    We also know the prequel continues the obsessive trend of ripping out mystery to past events in movies.

    Raise your Dixie Cups, sip the Kool Aid!

    • Seely,

      I was asking in regard to the end of the prequel / start of Carpenter’s film. McReedy and his team see the helicopter chasing the dog. That means there could be a moment of overlap, with this prequel ending with the helicopter chase and the last two members of this “Norwegian” team running into McReedy’s team. So I felt the question was valid, no?

    • After having seen Tron: Legacy, yeah, the whole preise was pretty much a gimmick imo, which I wouldn’t have minded, but the movie just wasn’t that good. Too dark, slow-moving for the most part.
      About your other points, ughh, okay, here I go:

      If you take a Norwegian camp and add some americans as temporary inhabitants, do we change the name of the camp? No. Norwegian camp. There ya go. As I understand it, it isn’t at all a rare thing in the world scientific community to cooperate with each other. And we weren’t in any way at war with Norway. :P

      Aye, we get our thing kills and FX. Do you honestly not watch a movie because you’re able to predict the general categories of stuff that it will contain? In that case, why not go a step higher and say “Look, we know it’s going to be a horror. I’ve already seen horrors” and shrug it off as not worth seeing?

      We DON’T know everyone will die. The Norwegians may have had usable vehicles and some people may end up escaping.

      We do know no one warned the American base in time. So some plot elements will be known before we see it. So????

      And yes, some mysteries will certainly be explained. As long as they’re explained brilliantly, who cares?

      And please don’t be offering me Kool-Aid. Does anyone really understand what’s in that stuff? ;P

      Look, I saw this movie when I was 9 or 10 years old, and ever since that day, I’ve wanted more. Not because it’s gory, certainly not because I like watching people die, because I don’t, not because I’m a huge fan of the character Kurt Russell’s McReady. The monster concept is the scariest thing imaginable imo. Other movies have had similar concept monsters, no doubt heavily inspired by The Thing, but they were in some important ways different, and in so being, not as frightening, and certainly not as well-done. The Thing and Jaws are about the only movies that ever scared me on first viewing, but The Thing has followed me my whole life.

      Now in my late thirties, I still leave a light on occasionally to be able to see what may be wandering toward me at night. In the vastness of space, I’d almost be surprised if something very much like The Thing doesn’t actually exist on some planet, just waiting. Or maybe it’s already assimilated a species capable of interstellar travel. Unlikely perhaps, but possible.

      So why do I want to see more movies with this monster? Because I want to be scared by a movie again. And, I want others to be scared in the same way. But I can understand if not everyone has the same reasons for wanting this movie to happen.

      I’m certainly skeptical about a few things I’ve seen and heard about the movie, but I’m there at that theater when it hits, because I’m a hopeless fan I suppose. It’s a must-see for me, no matter how bad it ends up being. I don’t imagine it will be bad, but there’s almost no way it can be as good as I hope it will be.

  8. Thanks for this one, Vic. The Thing was my favorite film of all time. I’ve seen it so many times I can recite it. Can’t wait for this one.

  9. Just saw The Thing!! It was definitely a great Prequel. Must see movie. Pls stay til the credits end.