Following up a classic movie that basically got everything right is no easy task. In this case, John Carpenter’s “The Thing” was a Sci Fi/Horror frozen treat, jam packed with sweet bloody carnage, morphy alien madness and starring one of cinemas premiere bad-asses in the bearded form of Kurt Russell.
Eric Heisserer, the screenwriter for the upcoming prequel, now being filmed on location in the original Great White North, sat down with the Io9 folks to discuss how they were most definitely not going to screw this one up.
On whether flashbacks will be used to totally ruin the movie,
I’ve read two conflicting reports on the plot of the film, one might be just be from very early on in the planning stages of your rewrite, I’m a little confused and hopefully you can solve this for me. I read one plot synopsis that said the film was completely from the Norwegians’ point of view, on their base, pre-burn down. Then I read another synopsis that said the audience sees the aftermath of the film’s events, including the axe in the door, and they’re figuring it out after it happened — almost like a crime scene. If the latter synopsis is accurate, will you be utilizing flashbacks to tell The Thing‘s prequel story?
No it’s not flashbacks. You’re actually in the Norwegian camp, before all that stuff happens. You get to see how it happens — that’s the reverse engineering there. The way we approached it was by autopsy, where the director, producers and I pored over Carpenter’s film. We must have screened it two or three dozen times. And we’d freeze frames and have lengthy discussions about what evidence is there, that would lead to so much blood. It was a forensic discussion of Carpenter’s films. That’s probably where the whole “fire axe in the door” probably came from. Because we said, we have to justify that, we have to have a moment in our movie where you see that happen.
If we do this right — I just spoke on the phone today with [Producer] Eric Newman on the phone today, he’s on set up in Toronto [and] he said things are going well. But if we can pull this off, this movie will work perfectly [as] the first half of a double feature. So that the last shot of this film will be two Norwegians and a chopper chasing after a dog. And you can plug in Carpenter’s film and they will both feel and look as they have been made around the same time.
Smashing, now that that’s cleared up, do they fully understand the original movie sufficiently to make the new movie work?
What were some of the moments you noticed in John Carpenter’s version that you never noticed before, after analyzing it?
Well there are things that definitely called attention, [such as] dealing with the body in the chair. What we didn’t notice before was that it looked like both his throat and his wrists were slit. And there are a lot of papers scattered on the floor that Copper picks up. And the stuff that we looked at closely were the holes in the walls and on the ceiling, in various parts of the base. And this is how anal retentive we were, we wanted to justify what happened to cause all those holes, pieces and incidental damage. You just know some set guy that day [during the original filming] was like, “well it burned down, let’s put a hole here.” [Laughs].
But the one thing we’re not going to pull off well, because we realized it was just unrealistic and just one of those goofs, I guess, from Carpenter’s films, is when they get into that giant block of ice that’s been carved out. The way it’s been carved where it looks like they just dug into it like a chicken pot pie — it’s impossible to get something out of the ice like that. There are so many better ways to do it. So we deviated just a little bit from there, we tried to cover our tracks a little and justified it and showed that it can still work. But yes there are a couple of things where because we were logic cops all the way through this movie there are a handful of, “Wait a minute — how come… that doesn’t work at all?!”
Perfect, I like that they are paying close attention to authentic ice. As a Canadian, I feel this is vital. Catch the whole interview over at i09. The new Thing will be released sometime next year.