John Carpenter directed a slew of classic films including Escape From New York, They Live, Halloween, and Big Trouble In Little China. One of his most celebrated works is 1982's The Thing. Upon release, the bleak horror movie was panned by critics as boring and over-indulgent with its violence. The masses barely bothered heading to the cinema to see it.
In the years since, however, it has found an audience who recognize its excellence. The atmosphere, special effects and performances are all top notch. As a celebration of the horror classic, the following list will present ten secrets behind the making of The Thing.
10 Ennio Morricone
Ennio Morricone is legendary for scoring epics like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in America and The Untouchables. Little do people know, the Italian composer also wrote several short pieces for The Thing. Ultimately, Carpenter used little of the musician's work, opting instead to record his own pieces. The director, who is also notable for his musical compositions, felt that Morricone's music didn't fit the movie's mood or atmosphere. Some of the excerpts would find themselves in Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight.
9 Tobe Hooper Almost Directed
Universal was initially hesitant to have Carpenter direct. Their first choice was Tobe Hooper, who had made a name for himself with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hooper's vision for the project differed dramatically from Who Goes There?, the novella on which The Thing is based. The movie would have been more like a sci-fi horror Moby Dick, and didn't even feature a shapeshifting monster. Hooper had no interest in actually adapting Who Goes There?. Eventually, the studio warmed up to John Carpenter after his early successful directorial efforts.
8 John Carpenter Loved Howard Hawks
As well as an adaption of a science fiction novella, The Thing is also a remake of 1951's The Thing From Another World. John Carpenter was a fan of the original and its producer Howard Hawks, and didn't seek to simply replicate it with his version. While Hawks is credited as a producer, rumors speculate that he unofficially directed it. The legendary filmmaker is also notable for the original Scarface and Rio Bravo. Carpenter's deep reverence for classic cinema shines through in his work.
7 R.J. MacCready
Kurt Russell already had a working relationship with the director before this film, but he wasn't the first choice for R.J. MacCready; he only snagged the role at the last minute. Early on, Christopher Walken, Nick Nolte, and Kris Kristofferson were approached, but they passed before further talks took place.
Ed Harris, Fred Ward, and Brian Dennehy all read for the role, but Russell got it in the end. Carpenter felt comfortable with Russell, having already worked with him, and knew he would have no reservations working on the cold, uncomfortable sets.
6 The Storyboards
Storyboards are nothing out of the ordinary for action sequences and scenes with heavy special effects. They help the filmmakers plan out a segment ahead of time and give everyone involved a rough idea of how it should look.
Michael Ploog and Mentor Huebner drew incredibly detailed storyboards that are nearly identical to the film shown in theaters. Carpenter had a crystal-clear vision for how he wanted the movie to look, and these boards really express how close he got to putting what was in his head onto the screen.
5 The Cast Almost Died On Their Way To Filming
The cast was shuttled to the set in Stewart, British Columbia via a six hour bus ride. During this long distance drive on an icy road in the middle of intense snowfall, the bus slid, almost off the edge of a cliff. Fortunately, the cast avoided certain death and continued on their way to the set. Had the worst happened, the movie probably would have halted production, and a butterfly effect may have rippled through cinematic history, forever changing the current landscape of Hollywood.
4 Keith David Broke His Hand Before Filming
Keith David, who also costarred in another legendary Carpenter film, They Live, broke his hand shortly before production began. Being the dedicated thespian he is, the actor showed up to set ready to work without the proper medical treatment. The filmmakers saw his swollen hand and sent him away to get the proper care. To continue filming, he wore a glove painted to match his skin color, and the broken hand is conveniently out of frame for the first part of the movie. It's amazing the things movie magic can hide from audiences.
3 Blowing Up The Set
The climactic battle at the end of the movie burns down the research station. To get the necessary shots, the production really blew up the set. Because they couldn't arm the explosives remotely, camera assistants had to be inside the set and set and arm the bombs. Then they ran to safety before giving the okay to send the whole place sky-high. Because cameras only hold so much film, they had to do it quickly to not ruin the take. Thankfully, it all went off without a hitch and no one was hurt.
2 Rob Bottin
Rob Bottin did most of the film's impressive special effects. He was involved in every aspect of the creature's design, working on the project for more than a year without days off and basically living at the studio, using locker rooms and sets for sleep. This extreme dedication caused him to overwork himself, leading to a stint in a hospital. During this time, Stan Winston gave his services, mainly for the scene where the creature takes over the dog. While crunching this hard is never advisable, one cannot deny how impressive his work turned out.
1 The Ending
The finale is notably dour and is perhaps one of the reasons for the movie's lackluster reception. People generally want to leave the theater feeling hopeful and relieved. A second ending was shot with a more upbeat conclusion for MacCready after the editor felt audiences would react unkindly to the original. Ultimately, the filmmaker put his ending in, with the two surviving characters doomed to a freezing fate, contemplating if one of them is the titular creature. The air of ambiguity makes it stick in the viewer's mind long after the credits roll.