Q&A with Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
The Thing (2011) is Matthijs's first major international feature film. His career to date closely mirrors that of Sir Ridley Scott, having similarly established himself as a highly-respected director of intelligent, witty commercials (for, among others, Toyota, Peugeot, Renault, Stella Artois, Pepsi and Bud Light) before moving into motion picture direction. Like Sir Ridley, his first foray into movie direction was experimental ('The Duellists' - Scott, 'Red Rain' - van Heijnignen) likewise earning him the recognition that led to him being commissioned to direct a major, Hollywood, alien action-horror film.
As with Sir Ridley's 'Alien', we are delighted by Matthijs's
'The Thing'. The sheer attention to detail alone is breathtaking. Add to this his
studied implementation of Eric Heisserer's
highly-informed script, the stunning cinematography, the tremendous talents of
the aptly chosen cast and Marco Beltrami's magnificently brooding soundtrack and
the result is a highly worthy contribution to The Thing franchise/mythos. We
are very grateful to Matthijs van Heijningen
for making this film and wish him every success in his future endeavours.
Is there a sequel being planned? I really hope so.
I’m sorry but I don’t think so.
Mr. Carmichael asks:
There have been vids placed online of ADI's puppet work which looked great, why was this material filmed but ultimately replaced by CGI?
Because it just didn’t look real enough. My intention was to do everything practical but it just didn’t look convincing enough. It is debatable though if the CGI looks more realistic.
The 2nd leaked screenplay online had some great scenes in it which were dropped, sequences like:
McMurdo before the first flight.
It just took too long before The Thing was found. And it was all exposition which wasn’t written quite as exciting as I hoped.
The first exploration of the spaceship.
This was interesting. Up to production it was scheduled to shoot inside the ship but I realised that the exploration of the ship became far more of “a find” than the creature in the ice. It would have taken the momentum away from The Thing. It was like “WOW a spaceship” and by the way we found a specimen. In that time we had our old story intact were there would be more dead Aliens lying around in the ship. So The Thing in the ice was not unique.
Extended character scenes.
The ones that were dropped were dropped because they just didn’t work.
That was never planned because
that happens in the JC movie .
Jameson's original death.
At one point I wanted Jameson to flee the Edvard attack to get Kerosene for the flamethrower. He never returns and Carter and Kate find Jameson’s head behind a doorway begging for help (they could only see his face) and then it turns out he was like Norris head, just a head with spider legs, trying to lure Kate and Carter in (he was attacked by splitface). Was too expensive. Real shame. Would have been a proper tribute to Norris.
Could you explain why these scenes were dropped?
Money or not well written.
With this being your first film and studios being known for taking a heavy hand in regards to new film makers did they at any time take a decision out of your hands? Also what were your thoughts on the writer’s comments regarding studio interference that made it into an article?
The studio was most involved concerning the ending in the spaceship. They made me simplify it and made it is as it is now.
Why was the decision made to use so little of the original Morricone themes in the movie save for the end?
I didn’t want to just copy and paste his music. This would have been too easy and not very challenging. I wanted the movie to have its own identity and paying tribute at the same time.
Were there any other titles considered besides just 'The Thing'?
No not really. Every addition to The Thing just sounded very corny. I sort of liked The Thing, the Norwegian story, but then in very small letters.
Have you encountered anyone from the original film and what were their thoughts on the new movie?
I only met David Foster, he was a producer on this film. He told us great stories about how everything was done in the Eighties.
Why do you think there were so many difficulties regarding people's understanding of the film being a prequel and not a remake?
Partly because of the name. And as a trailer it maybe looked too much the same.
Mr. Noc asks:
What is your opinion on a discrepancy between the end of your film and the beginning of Carpenter's- that Lars (or Jans) appears to have been flying the helicopter and exits from the pilot's side in the 1982 film- do you think it impacts your movie in anyway? Was this just a misstep cause by the admittedly "tricky" editing of the scene in question from Carpenter's?
I’m certain that Jans (Lars) discontinuity was just a mistake. The scene is about Lars shooting the dog. The other guy is just flying. They mixed it up by accident.
P.S. Loved the scene at the end and movie regardless.
Was there ever any behind-the-scenes justification for how Carter and Jameson could survive the chopper crash that killed (or incapacitated) the Griggs-Thing and left them behind an impassable mountain ridge?
No but in an earlier draft we had the whole fight inside the helicopter and learn how they manage to blow up Griggs/Olav Thing during and after the crash. It became too much of an action movie and it was really expensive.
Why leave Kate's fate uncertain?
That was my little tribute to the JC movie. I love open endings. Not so much for sequel purposes more that she is the only one to survive but has nowhere to go.
Not a question but I wanted to say you did an excellent job and I really enjoyed your take on The Thing.
If The Thing had successfully reactivated the ship would it have gone to more populated areas or headed straight into outer space?
Just before the autopsy we see Edvard smoking, if I remember correctly, is that why he doesn't show his teeth during the examination. Because as an imitation his teeth would be new and clean, lacking not only fillings but the staining brought on by smoking?
Great observation, never thought about that.
How long would it have taken the hand-thing to imitate Jonas if Kate hadn't burnt them both?
Half an hour. I don’t know but longer than normal if it was bigger.
In the beginning we see that a strike by The Thing is bloody, but later on there is no sign of this in further attacks. Was this result of blind luck or The Thing thinking about the consequences of such blatant attacks in an isolated community?
Well Karl is pretty bloody with these tentacles in his back.
Was the blood test sabotaged because the UFO's crew had successfully tried such a test and The Thing desired no repeat of that or had it gained sufficient understanding of its biology to understand that the blood test would unmask any imitation?
I think the latter. It knows that on a biological level its secrets can be revealed.
How much of Adam/Edvard was dead by the time Matias landed at Thule, in terms of percentage i.e. 50, 60 etc.?
Maybe even more. The question is if an entity is dead, are his cells dead as well? The blood test in JC’s The Thing revealed that every cell has its own entity, trying to survive. But do they die when the bigger vehicle, like a human is dead? Basically split face proves the point that when the host is dead there is still activity in the dead host.
If the helicopter pilots hadn't broken free, how long would it have taken Kate to devise a test to unmask the imitation? Would it be akin to MacReady's test or would it be more scientific i.e. attempting to instigate rapid cell growth and division beyond human capabilities?
Although most of them are scientists, they never came to the conclusion that Blair made that every cell is a creature on its own. So the blood test as seen in JC’s movie probably didn’t happen. All the The Thing material was burned (creature in the ice burned to the ground in the lab, Juliette and Karl) and useless to experiment on. They were basically empty handed.
Both Griggs and Carter seemed to have minor memory loss i.e. forgetting if the helicopter door was left open or which ear had a ring in it. Was this a sign that the assimilation process was not quite over?
Griggs is just lying, he just realizes that he was sloppy and that admitting the sloppiness might reveal that he wasn’t Griggs (Griggs was the technical guy and it is a bit strange to leave a door open in that cold weather). Maybe he left it open because the assimilation process wasn’t finished at time.
The ring is more interesting because it touches on cloned memory. The Thing/Carter doesn’t actually remember having an earring, it uses a cloned memory. It is plausible that it isn’t completely up to speed yet with his new host.
Who did Edvard consider to be the greatest threat and why?
Kate, Carter. Kate for her brains and Carter for his muscle.
Did The Thing which threatened Colin recombine with the Dog thing and presumably pass on any knowledge of what had gone wrong, thus accounting for its more stealthy behaviour at Outpost 31?
I like that idea but the dog was finished before that.
Was Edvard deliberately assimilated because he was station manager?
Yes because he could justify leaving the camp.
After Kate showed the fillings and failing to convince the camp we next see Lars running with his flamethrower to deal with Juliette. Did he believe Kate's warning or was he responding to the screaming and shouting?
Lars senses, as a very intuitive, down to earth guy, that she is onto something. He has lost his dog and although he cannot understand her, he knows that she is to be trusted. But he was also reacting to the screaming and shouting.
Was the Dog thing hiding all along or actually did part of the ice block thing detach itself, which were then torched and destroyed in the lab fire , so preventing anyone realizing that they had a new thing on the loose?
Dog thing was hiding all along.
Which scene do you most regret deleting or not filming?
The pod room and the Alien Pilot.
What prompted the decision to re-write/re-shoot this scene and others?
It was just a talking scene. I made the mistake to allow too much make up on Mary, she looked very pretty but unbelievable as a scientist.
Were there alternate endings planned or shot?
Was Rob Bottin ever approached to contribute to the visual effects?
I'm hoping you will share your thoughts on the use of humor in The Thing 2011. I found Peder's intro joke to be funny, and it provided a nice contrast to the tone when they crash through the ice. Beyond that though, I found relatively little humor in the film (though I could enumerate a few instances). Why did you decide to start the movie with the joke told by Peder? What approach did you use in deciding how much and what kind of humor should be in the movie?
I regret not having more humor in the movie. But it became quickly very serious and the characters weren’t fleshed out enough to play with their humor.
What were the main reasons to keep away Carpenter from the film?
We didn’t keep him away. He gave his blessings but wanted to stay away.
Is any novelisation of your movie planned?
In the documentary produced by Amalgamated Dynamics showing the effects work they did on The Thing, we see a three-eyed alien, which was cut from the film, sadly, as this would have been a nice reference to the monster discovered in Campbell's original novella. What was this supposed to be and why was it cut?
That was the Pilot Alien, now mimicked by Sander.
What was the intended role of the pixelated core which Kate discovers?
It was like the brain and motor of the ship. It was a futuristic take on a control centre. I wanted it
to be vague and hard to understand otherwise it would resemble too much our own logic.
When was Edvard assimilated?
Just after the autopsy, the night Juliette gets assimilated. It knows Griggs is The Thing and uses Olav to secure that they actually leave. When Griggs dies, Edvard wants to leave with Colin and Lars, knowing that Juliette will take care of the camp.
Is a Thing-imitation so perfect that it does not know what it is, even as a consciousness, but is perhaps ultimately, unwittingly, controlled by this 'other'?
I think that is a right description. I don’t think Edvard, Juliette, Norris, Palmer and so on realized that they were The Thing. The Thing is so good in fooling everybody that it even fools its host. But when it wants, when it needs to act, it takes over control and manipulates its next victims. Norris is the best example, he has pains in his chest but he doesn’t know why. Blair at the end is The Thing and is controlled by The Thing. Same for Juliette, when she talks to Kate about Colin it is The Thing who makes her say these things but Juliette actually believes it.
If a Thing does not know that it is imitation, for the sake of its psychological integrity, does it genuinely forget the assimilation episode?
Why did the ship arrive at Earth and what happened onboard during its journey?
See my answer in one the later questions.
Your microscope scene closely mirrors Carpenter's simulation scene where two cells, one real and one imitation, become a single imitation cell rather than two imitation cells. What is your view of what’s happening here at a cellular level?
A hostile Thing cell attacks a human cell. The Thing cell takes over, then suddenly changes back into an imitation of the human cell.
I thought long about this and in both films this is not accurate. The problem is that the loss of mass should not happen. The Thing and its victim keep roughly the same mass and weight before and after the assimilation (John W. Campbell talks about this in “Who goes there?”). The Thing cannot invent mass or weight. (Maybe it loses just a bit of weight because it burns energy/mass through assimilation.)
To explain it without loss of mass, Kate’s microscope scene and Blair’s computer animation would be very hard to understand visually.
I will give it a try:
A Thing cell attacks a human cell. They merge into a blob (keep the same mass in assimilation process) and out of that blob two new cells emerge. A copied human cell (The Thing in disguise) and the same attacking Thing cell. If you visualize this, it looks like nothing changed. The beginning and the end of the sequence are the same; you start with two cells and you end with two cells but it’s not clear what is happening. So we copied Blair’s animation to simplify it.
It’s curious that the ship seems to have its main engines pointing upwards. Did it, as some of us have speculated, land/crash upside-down?
Or it has engines on both sides.
Firstly thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, very much appreciated. From the UK so we had to wait for the cinema release here and try and avoid spoilers. Myself and friends enjoyed the film. Very well directed and you nailed the look and feel. Looking forward to buying it on Blu-ray and watching it again. Nice companion to JC's film. My questions:
What was your reasoning in placing The Thing-Dog shooting segment to bridge JC's film AFTER the end credits? Was it to make your movie stand and end on its own? Many people already left the theatre before they saw Lars and the dog and were not aware of the segment.
This film was Kate’s story. We had to finish with her properly and give her the proper ending. I felt that the Lars part was more of an epilogue then an ending. That was why I chose to mix it in with the titles.
Did you have any control over the trailers? I felt they gave too much away and we already knew some of the characters that were The Thing early on in the film.
No that was mostly out of my reach. The first one I had some say in it, the later ones where they showed more details not so much.
I just felt that many people did not realise it was a prequel and subsequently missed it in the cinema. But I think it will find a fan-base in the home on DVD/Blu-ray over time (like JC's). Hope you can make a sequel following on from the events after Outpost 31. Thanks for clearing up that Childs was human too (earring.)
At the (almost) end, why did Carter-Thing just sit there and let Kate burn him? Why didn't he/it do more to defend himself, and why didn't he "Thing-out" when Kate started burning him/it?
He knows that if he attacks she pulls the trigger. It gambles that she won’t do it. I mean the only proof she has is that he points at the wrong ear. He could have lost the earring and in the confusion mistakes the ear. He gambles wrong.
Mr Carmichael asks:
Why where the transformations or thing-outs relatively bloodless next to the JC ones?
What was the movies official budget and did it change at any point as I have read 35 and 70 mill tossed around?
Think it was around 45 mill.
What was shot on the reshoots?
-Introduction scene Thule.
-Kate Adam microscope scene
-Kate tries to convince group with teeth remains, Edvard can’t leave.
-Juliette accuses Colin.
-Some close ups.
-End sequence space ship Sander/Thing.
Did you feel sorry that The Thing was so poorly exposed in Dutch cinemas? I had to go see it in a Belgium cinema, for that matter. And I live about 30 km from 3 different Dutch cinemas. None showed your movie.
Did you encounter any striking differences between the style of acting between European, US, African and Australian actors?
No not really.
Why was the Henrik-Thing not destroyed after examination? Even after The Thing has exposed itself (Juliette-Thing), the Henrik-Thing is left alone, despite its cellular activity.
They assume that it’s harmless. Don’t think they realize that in can come back from the dead.
Did you get a 'striking thought' from any actor during the filming?
Oh a lot from everybody. Especially Mary was a real pro and very helpful.
Let me finish by telling you that I was very thrilled by your movie.
I think it stands out very well against its 'sequel' and it was very brave to pick this movie up. I wish you the best of luck in your career.
Matthijs, bedankt voor je reactie. Echt klasse dat je dit doet.
Cpl Ferro asks:
Dear Mr. Matthijs,
How much of your inspiration did you draw from the Dark Horse comics based on The Thing that were published in the 1990s?
Dear Mr. Matthijs,
Did Matias find out why they were trying to kill the dog? It just seems that Lars tells him to get the copter going with no answer as to why Thule is in ruins.
Well Matias sees the remains of split face which is so bizarre in itself that I think he mentally surrenders to what ever Lars tells him to do.
Z@3 Redrum asks:Yes I like open, sort of dark ending
Did you also play the game of The Thing and did you also keep that in mind when making the movie?
I did play the game; I’m quite a gamer. No not specifically but I saw then that The Thing was just good material.
How long did the movie originally run uncut?
First cut was two hours and a little bit.
A G Thing asks:
Dear Mr. Matthijs,
Was there a reason so many of the Norwegian characters were fluent in English as the language barrier was not as massive as it could have been and could have led to many further situations of paranoia?
I wanted to be accurate and people in Northern Europe just speak really good English.
Was there a reason why the ship was flight capable when The Thing shows back up such as self-repair or recharge etc.?
The core of the ship was still intact, see the Tetris control centre. That emitted the signal in the beginning.
I noticed that clothes being ripped was not emphasized during the film thus was this something you considered to change or just to point out that it could have been a red herring in the first film?
The ripping of the clothes was always a bit of a problem. Even in JC’s The Thing it wasn’t always consistent. Blair’s clothes weren’t ripped for example when he attacks Garry. You could argue that The Thing could assimilate somebody through its head and not having to damage somebody’s clothes.
Do you believe that The Thing learned during the film? Did it carry this knowledge to the Carpenter film?
I think it learned to adapt and take a more stealthy approach in Outpost 31.
Thanks in advance for any answers!
Will there be a game to follow the movie (Xbox 360 etc.)
What do you think of Carpenter’s idea for a sequel using Kurt Russell and Keith David and explaining the ageing away to frost bite etc.?
That doesn’t make much sense.
Mr. Carmichael asks:
Did you read the abandoned Darabont/Sci-Fi channel 'Return of The Thing' screenplay and what were your thoughts on it?
No I never read it.
Thank you for this opportunity to share and explore. The idea of other life and their space ships visiting earth remain a fascinating subject matter for many. The Thing really gets the juices flowing. Now for some questions if you please.
Why doesn’t The Thing dialog with humans. Thing Q: Why are you trying to kill me? I need your help etc...What was it thinking after being asleep for 100k years? Can it be trusted or is it pure animal?
Is The Thing immortal? Can it keep morphing into different life forms thus never dying?
Probably you could burn it to a cellular level and then it dies. But you have to do it properly. Split face was dead but his cells weren’t.
Did the ship crash or did it land?
In my opinion it crashed.
Who was driving it and where are they? The enormity of the ship suggests it was not piloted by one person.
In the version I intended to shoot, the ship was steered by an Alien race and The Thing was a captive that broke free and killed everybody on board. The pilot deliberately crashed it on earth.
Something of that calibre would have to be manned by pretty intelligent creatures. Was The Thing a pet, an escaped specimen or a failed attack?
An escaped specimen.
The Thing wakes up similar to when you wake up from a bad dream which is to say rather suddenly. Can this account for its radical behaviour?
Probably. Also it’s programmed to assimilate.
I need a little clarity on its original shape and size. Teeth, fangs and body shape are more animal and don’t fit with piloting the vessel shown.
In the dead pilot version, the pilot controlled the ship with tubes stuck in his back, operating the ship through those tubes.
On finding something of this magnitude, you would think splitting into two groups 1. Investigates the ship. 2. Investigates The Thing. In the original, Dr Carrington doesn’t sleep for days. I wouldn’t either. No one would but these guys put it on hold? I don’t get it.
The ship was completely sealed off and there was no way of going inside.
Will the movie recover all its costs after all is said and done?
I truly hope so.
Thank you for speaking with us and your contribution to the subject matter. I know it’s tough to try and answer everyone’s concerns. Have fun with it is all I can say. High regards, well done and I remain a loyal fan. Richie.
Future Filmmaker asks:
Thanks, Mr. Heijningen for giving us this opportunity!
What led to the decision to focus the story on a small American team in the camp rather than simply focus on the Norwegians?
The studio wasn’t interested in an all Norwegian cast. It would not be interesting for an American audience.
Were there any homages or parallels that could be drawn between your vision and the original Howard Hawks film?
Sander Halverson, the scientist
was a tribute to Howard Hawks movie .
First of all, I'd just like to say how much I enjoyed your prequel. As a stand-alone movie, it was in itself exciting and vastly entertaining. Thank you for it!
There's a tendency for obsessive movie fans (myself included) to become infinitely 'anal' about stuff like this, so I'll confine myself to just one question concerning the internal logic of the story:
In your film, we learn that The Thing can only replicate organic matter (hence the rejection of tooth fillings, etc.). How does that square with the fact that, once fully assimilated, people/Things are seen wearing perfectly replicated clothes containing man-made artificial fibres? I'm thinking of materials like polyester, for instance, that is used in the majority of modern clothing. Same goes for items like plastic buttons and spectacle-frames, or metal belt-buckles. As a side issue, in Carpenter's film, we learn that The Thing rips through clothes when it attacks, and it's always bothered me as to how it manages to recreate the ripped clothes to complete the transformation.
In a few cases like Griggs, Juliette and Edvard they changed wardrobe, stating the theory it damaged their clothes and they redressed. Carter was a problem though, but as I said before maybe it went through his head and didn’t harm its wardrobe. It would make sense because it would expose Carter as being assimilated. Also the cold would not be good for the Carter/Thing
Sorry if the question gives you a headache. The answer won't detract from my enjoyment of your film anyway.
Many thanks for taking part!
Hello Belgium! ... uh... Netherlands.
I think I should mention that I have not been able to watch the movie as of yet - and that I'm a fan of the original novella first! (being a translator)
I was thrilled to read on the wiki page, that the characters were going to be scientists. Were any of the characters based directly on the Campbell characters?
Did you draw upon the 1951 in any way? (scenes, dialog, characters)
The creation of the main scientist was a tribute The Thing 1951.
I know that I can look for answers in the movie myself - when I did a Danish article on the many versions, I did argue that several Carpenter and Campbell characters where (arguably) still the same, no matter their names. I can probably argue the same for your movie, but I really want your opinion. If anything is spoiled for me, I can handle it.
Here in Denmark we were all set to re-release the book alongside the first screening! But then the film was pulled, and I was not able to catch it in Sweden either. Do you know what happened?
No, I’m sorry.
Peter Boyle, Julian Clarke and Jono Griffith are credited as Editors on The Thing. What were each of them responsible for and did they work together or was one or more brought in to re-cut the final version we saw in cinemas?
Peter Boyle and I had to part ways because we weren’t creatively on the same wavelength. Jono is my commercial editor and he helped me out during the time we were looking for a new editor which was Julian Clarke. Jono stayed on helping Julian and me during the rest of the edit.
There are many things that we don't know about the evolution of the script. We do know that Ronald D. Moore wrote the original script and that Eric Heisserer was then brought on board.
What specific problems were there with Moore's script?
R. Moore wrote an interesting version but it was too far off the reality setup by Carpenter. I really wanted to do a companion piece, his take was more of a stand alone version, more loose from the events described in Carpenters film.
Was Moore's script completely rejected with Heisserer beginning from scratch, or did Heisserer retain many aspects of Moore's script?
No Heisserer started from scratch.
Finally, in connection with this, are there any plans to make the shooting script publicly available?
Yes, maybe later.
Regarding cut scenes, is there any particular scene that you feel would have added significantly to a/some character arcs, but for various reasons you felt it was best to cut that scene anyway?
We had an introduction scene of Carter, Griggs and Jameson in McMurdo, it explained why they were in Antarctica. Ex vets trying to make a buck in the cold. It was not great so we killed it.
Was Dr. Halverson's acquisition of a tissue sample responsible for waking The Thing up? If so, how did this happen?
The idea was that The Thing went into a hyper sleep and the just needed a trigger to be activated. The drill was that trigger. Also just a change in movement or even a light change would have been plausible.
Mr. Noc asks:
Did the scene, or scenes, involving what has been described as a "pod chamber" ever make it into post production?
Yes it did. In the beginning. I proposed to the studio a reshoot of a scene where Kate would wonder around in the ship and sees all the carnage caused by The Thing: an exterminated pilot alien race. The Thing, a specimen captured in a pod, broke free and killed the aliens on the ship. Or they killed each other not knowing who is who. The pilot in the pilot room kills himself and crashed the ship on Earth in the hope to stop The Thing. We needed a lot of money to show the (Norwegian camp) version in space with all the dead aliens. The studio thought it was too expensive and too complicated so we erased that whole back story.
Hi, first time poster here, but fan of Carpenter's version since 1982. The new version was released on my wedding anniversary - so that became our anniversary night out, and I loved it!
Anyway, I have only one question at this time.
Mr. van Heijningen, it is widely known that you are an avid fan of Carpenter's version, and included many scenes in your version as homage to the 1982 film. In the Alan Dean Foster novelization of the 1982 film, the character of Windows was actually named Sanders. Is it just coincidence the main human antagonist in your film was named Sander, or was this a VERY obscure tie-in to the original film's novelization? If so, well done, and one homage missed by everyone I've discussed the film with.
I didn’t know that, it was a pure coincidence.
Thanks for your time,
What was Lars doing between his disappearance and reappearance at the end?
He was knocked out and tied up. He got loose and found himself a rifle. At some point we had a scene in a bar in McMurdo and we played with the idea of having him as a bartender.
Did any "big names" come up in the casting process and how did you settle on the actors that appear in the final movie? There's a rumour going about that Dennis Storhøi was originally cast as Sander but had to pull out?
Okay I will you the truth about Dennis Storhøi. Dennis was casted as Sander. We shot the first week with him but he was so out of control (drunk) that we had to fire him. Never regretted that because Ulrich was in the end so much better. The entering of the cave was shot with Dennis and in post we replaced his face with the face of Ulrich Thomson. Also arriving at Thule with the Sea King helicopter was with Dennis. Later in the reshoots we shot some new footage with Ulrich.
Can you clear up some confusion that seems to exist around the practical effects for the prequel. Is it true to say that it was intended from the start that the effects would be a mix of both practical and CGI? That is every practical effect had some sort of green screen element to it on set that was later embellished with CGI?
Yes it was always intended to be a mix.
I was amazed to discover that the breath of the characters was created using CGI - very clever. I assume that unlike Carpenter, you were unable to bring the temperature level down on set (because of modern health and safety legislation) to create this effect normally?
It would have been more expensive to build the whole set in a fridge then put breath on later.
One of the criticisms of the CGI is that it's not gory enough. Apart from Juliette's transformation, there does seem to be very little blood (either on the creature itself or on the set surrounding the creature). Was this deliberate? And if so, was it done to tone down the violence?
A lot has been said about how Kate's character is a bit of a nod to Ripley but The Thing prequel also seems to be doffing its cap to a number of other 80s sci-fi/action movies too. Is this the case? And if so was this something that was scripted or did it come into play later in production?
It was mainly Ripley. Sincere, quiet, intelligent; those were the key words.
Did you give the actors who were playing assimilated versions of their characters (Juliette, Griggs, Edvard) any special direction or were they just told to play their characters as they would normally?
Play it normally because the characters weren’t aware that they were The Thing.
One of the big things that sets the prequel apart from Carpenter's film is the score. The music in Carpenter's version is pretty sparse whereas Marco Beltrami's music seems to be present in almost every scene in the prequel - was this something that was part of the brief to Marco or was it something he brought to the production?
Two big things bug me about the ending in the ship. The part where Kate crawls into the small space where The Thing can't reach her. Surely The Thing could split off into a smaller creature to chase her in there. The second is that Carter has been assimilated but his clothes are still completely intact. These two moments are particularly jarring because they appear to break the rules of this particular monster. Do you agree that these moments are poor? Were they just oversights?
Yes I agree that these moments aren’t the strongest. In a later comment I explain how the end sequence was originally intended and what kind of sacrifices had to be made.
The Carter clothing problem is something I had to deal with. You can argue that Blair suffers the same logical problem. His clothes are intact as well and it’s not believable that he had time to get a wardrobe change. I’m saying that sometimes you have to adjust reality a bit.
The trailer that you cut for the 2010 New York Comic-Con that is floating around on Facebook is an absolute cracker. Can you tell us why you decided to axe the New York scenes? It seemed that having Kate and Adam have a "history" intensifies what happens later. Also, Sander has a longer monologue in the rec room that appears to have been been cut for the final release - what were the reasons behind this?
Actually the New York scenes were a bit corny to say the least.
Was Eric Heisserer responsible for the rewrites for the reshoots or was someone else brought in?
Someone else was brought in (and we did it partly ourselves; Newman, me and Abraham)
Is there any chance that we'll be able to one day see the version of the film that was screened for test audiences? And is it fair to say that this version was closest to your personal vision for the film?
I’m not sure if that version is still intact somewhere. You could say that it was as close as possible to my vision but that test screen version was never finished FX wise.
As opposed to a conventional story where the audience has no idea how the story is going to pan out, was it a challenge telling a story where the audience effectively knows that everyone is going to die?
I wasn’t worried about that because that’s not why you are watching the movie. The burning question is not who is going to survive, more how will The Thing manifest itself and how is everybody going to deal with it.
Was the ending a deliberate attempt to open this up for a sequel - and was there the intention from the start to develop this into a franchise or was this always viewed as a one-off?
If it was a complete finished ending I would have opted for a freezing to death scene with Kate or having her stumble into the blizzard and we would assume that she wouldn’t survive. Studio wanted to keep it slightly open.
What is up next for you as Director?
Nothing concrete yet.
If you could travel back in time to meet your younger self, glued to the screen (or cowering behind the couch, as the case may have been!) watching John Carpenter's The Thing, what would you tell him?
As a younger me I would tell him that he made one of the most disturbing films ever.
Hi Mathijs. Here are my questions. Sorry if some of this has already been asked.
Was The Thing in the ice the actual original form of the creature, or just another copy a creature it has previously assimilated on another planet.
In my opinion The Thing doesn’t have an original form. It’s just a lethal virus that had assimilated countless other life forms. It carries all the genetic information of its previous victims. That’s why it can create all these random forms.
What ever happened to Sanders' small specimen of The Thing that he took from the block of ice?
Good question. That is somewhere in a fridge. Maybe when the lab burned down it went with it.
Could thing cells perform the function of whatever it is imitating. For example, could a thing liver absorb and process alcohol?
Makes sense. It copies everything and its functionality. It uses for example its lungs to breath.
Is there a hive mind? For example, was the jed thing 'talking' to the other things whilst it was in hiding in the Norwegian camp?
Maybe not talking, but they all have the same objective.
Were you happy with the CGI?
Personally, I think you should be proud of the film. It is without a doubt the best horror film to come out in years, and stands alongside JC's film as a worthy companion piece. I would also like to congratulate you on casting Joel Edgerton. As a proud Aussie, it was awesome to see an Australian take on the 'Mac' role. Thanks again.
It seems to me that some of the (very few) continuity discrepancies may have come from some of the events and assumptions made in Carpenter's movie perhaps not standing up to scrutiny: an atomic explosion-sized crater being created using thermite being one of them. If this is so, was it ultimately worth providing more credible explanations, rather than attempting exact continuity?
Exactly, we just examined how plausible these were and the crater of the ship was one of them. It was just unbelievable that the Norwegians scientists would have created such a big and clean looking crater. To tell you the truth I long wrestled with that because I wanted to stay as close as possible to the original story
Was the idea of introducing a relationship between two of the characters ever considered?
In one of early, early scripts we had a pregnant woman and her baby was also infected but it was too much a copy of the pregnancy in Snyder's Dawn of the Dead. There was a couple and she uses her pregnancy as an excuse to leave the camp. It was just a very bad idea.
I think it is very conceivable that The Thing would attack a person during sex, as it is performed in private areas away from prying eyes.
It would be a great cover up. Would be a nasty scene though, reminds me a bit of Species though.
Was such a scene ever considered, and if so was it cut because die-hard fans might be misinterpret it as an attempt to engage the teenage market?