Behind The Scenes Saturday: The Thing (1982)

Welcome to Day 9!! We’re back with another Behind The Scenes post! Although it was poorly received when it was first released, The Thing has become a timeless classic filled with paranoia, epic special effects, and a tense atmosphere that leaves you on the edge of your seat. I hope you enjoy these fun facts!

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  • According to the film’s director, John Carpenter, out of all of the films he’s done, this one is his favorite.
  • One of the most memorable things about this film is the amazing special effects. The man who created and designed these creatures is Rob Bottin, who was only 22 at the time. 
  • Filming took place in Los Angeles. To aid the illusion of the Arctic setting, the temperatures in the film’s interior sets were cut down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Although it’s a classic now, the film was initially not well received. John Carpenter takes his failed movies pretty hard, but he stated that the initial failure of The Thing hit him the hardest.
  • Near the beginning of the film, when the alien dog wanders into one of the men’s rooms, we see a shadow of one of the men. John Carpenter wanted to keep the identity of the shadow a mystery. To accomplish this, Carpenter didn’t use any of the cast members.
  • During the autopsy scene, real animal organs were used. According to John Carpenter, the only cast member who wasn’t squeamish while filming the scene was Wilford Brimley (Blair).
  • After shooting a scene with the flamethrower one day, Kurt Russell (MacReady) decided to prank John Carpenter. He covered his face and head with bandages and told Carpenter that he got badly burned. 
  • The dog we see at the beginning of the film was named Jed. Jed was apparently a very good animal actor. He never glanced at the camera, the dolly, or the crew. He was a very professional good boy! Jed actually wasn’t the dog being chased by the helicopter. The dog running was painted to look more similar to Jed.
  • Through a majority of the film, we see Childs (Keith David) wearing gloves. This is because David was in a car accident and he broke one of his hands. They needed him to wear gloves to cover up his cast. 
  • While MacReady is playing chess on the computer, the woman’s voice on the computer was horror legend Adrienne Barbeau. 
  • One of the film’s sound editors was Colin C. Mouat. He was the one who recorded the sound of the dogs’ cries. He did this by rounding up all the dogs in his neighborhood and putting them all in his house. He then wore a dark trench coat, walked around the outside of his house, and tapped on the glass to rile up and frighten the dogs. 
  • We almost got some stop-motion animation in the film, but John Carpenter thought they looked too fake, so they were scrapped.
  • Without seeing any publicity photos, Drew Struzan created the iconic poster for the film basically overnight. 
  • The film’s editor, Todd C. Ramsay was mocked for putting in fade-to-blacks. John Carpenter, however, backed him on his decision. 
  • To make his breath appear better in the “cold” weather, Kurt Russell took a drag from a cigarette before certain takes. 
  • 50 technicians were needed for the final confrontation scene.
  • Richard Masur (Clark), David Clennon (Palmer), and Thomas G. Waites (Windows) wanted to do a scene where Windows and Palmer conspired against the rest of the group. John Carpenter rejected this idea, and the trio was so frustrated, they started ranting about him, cursing him and his poor decision. Little did they know, their microphones were still on, and Carpenter heard it all. After about 10 minutes, Carpenter confronted them and told them he heard everything they said. 
  • When the film was in post-production, Rob Bottin almost worked himself to death. He was forced to take a break after a mix of exhaustion and an ulcer sent him to the hospital.
  • Franklin Ajaye read for the role of Nauls. However, he ended up spending a good 15 minutes criticizing John Carpenter for the stereotypical nature of Nauls’ character. The meeting ended in a “frosty silence” and the role ended up going to T.K. Carter.
  • Peter Maloney (Bennings) was actually scared of dogs, and he didn’t like the idea of Jed jumping on him in the beginning of the film. Maloney found it very difficult to do the scene.
  • Bernie Casey, Isaac Hayes, Geoffrey Holder, Ernie Hudson, and Carl Weathers were all considered to play Childs. Hudson was pretty close to getting it, but Keith David ended up landing it.
  • Although he wasn’t squeamish, Wilford Brimley didn’t like the level of gore in the film. He believed it would have a negative affect on the audience.
  • Donald Pleasence was almost cast as Blair, but he had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.
  • On the set, there were discussions about whether a character would know if they were The Thing or not. Everyone agreed that because The Thing perfectly imitates the person, it would make sense that whoever it took over believed they were still human, not an alien.
  • In the beginning of the film, we’re actually told by the Norwegian that the dog wasn’t a real dog. His words were translated and he said, “Get the hell away! It’s not a dog, it’s some sort of thing! It’s imitating a dog, it isn’t real! GET AWAY, YOU IDIOTS!
  • Kurt Russell almost injured himself while filming. When he tossed dynamite at Alien-Palmer, he didn’t anticipate how big the explosion was going to be. 
  • Another hint towards the reveal in the blood test scene was in the eyes. An eye-light was used to create gleams in the eyes of all the characters except for Palmer, indicating that he was the odd one out. 
  • The film’s studio executive, Ned Tanen said they could keep the ambiguous ending on one condition. There had to be an extra sign that The Thing was destroyed, so another monster scream was added to the explosion.
  • When Dr. Copper’s (Richard Dysart) arms are bitten off, a real-life double amputee stood in for Dysart. He wore a mask that looked like Dysart to add to the effect.
  • When Rob Bottin had to be hospitalized, Stan Winston had to step in help create the alien-dog. He declined credit, though, because he didn’t want to take away from Bottin’s work. Winston did get a special thank you in the end credits. Bottin was actually relieved he didn’t have to work on the alien-dog because after doing so many dog animatronics, he was so tired of doing them.
  • It’s been speculated many times on who was human and who was an alien at the end of the film. Keith David once stated, “I don’t know about Kurt Russell, but it sure as hell wasn’t me.” However, John Carpenter pointed out that at the end of the film, we see MacReady’s breath but not Childs. In the 2011 prequel, the alien can’t imitate artificial things, like fillings or earrings. Childs is still wearing his earring at the end of the film. I guess what I’m saying is it’s up to the viewer to decide.
  • Somewhere there is a photo that depicts a different death scene for Fuchs (Joel Polis). In the photo, Fuchs is impaled with a shovel.

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