By Jeff Otto | The Playlist October 10, 2011 at 10:58AM
While fans and followers of John Carpenter's seminal "The Thing" are quick to dismiss anything that dares to touch the hallowed material of the horror maestro, even the strictest purists have to admit to at least a morbid curiosity in Matthijs van Heijiningen Jr.’s forthcoming prequel to the 1982 film.
It certainly helps the cause that the prequel's strong cast is led by Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the role as paleontologist Kate Lloyd. Heijiningen and writer Eric Heisserer are self-professed fanatics about the original and insist that they did everything they could to keep this new “The Thing” in line with the old one. The Playlist spoke with Winstead to get the lowdown on this Carpenter homage, and while admitting to initial skepticism when the idea was first pitched to her, she says she was later convinced by their passion for the original and the opportunity to play a kick-ass and smart leading lady. Find out the real deal behind the reshoots and how Winstead prepped for the film below.
1. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a big fan of the Carpenter original. And she checked out the novella and Howard Hawks film to prep for her role.
“The Thing” began its life as a novella by John W. Campbell before being made into a movie by (an uncredited) Howard Hawks in 1951 entitled “The Thing from Another World.” Carpenter’s beloved 1982 film was actually a remake of the Hawks' film. “I was very familiar with the Carpenter version,” says Winstead. “Definitely a classic, I’d seen it many times. It was one of my favorites. I was aware of the Howard Hawks version but hadn’t seen it. I ended up watching it when I auditioned for the film to kind of brush up on everything. I loved that one as well, but yes, I was a huge fan of the Carpenter version. I hadn’t read the novella, but I’ve got that in my collection now.”
2. Although Winstead was skeptical herself at first, the director and producers impressed her with their take on the material.
Though it boats the same title as Carpenter's film, this new version is actually a prequel of sorts and Winstead was encouraged by the respectful approach the filmmakers planned to take. “It was presented to me as a prequel,” Winstead told The Playlist. “They kind of described it to me as something taking place a few days before the Carpenter version. I didn’t really know what to think. Being a fan of that film, I was certainly a little worried as to what it was going to be. I read the script and really liked it. I met with the producers and with Matthijs and there was just such intelligence and passion and a respect for the Carpenter version. It went beyond what I expected. They were adamant about using practical effects and about character development and focusing on the paranoia and isolation and psychological elements that were so great about the Carpenter version. They really wanted to make something that was for a new generation but just as much for the fans of the Carpenter version; something both sides could get into, rather than what most remakes do which I think is just gloss over the original completely and just make something for a new group of kids. I was glad to hear that.”
3. There’s a definite Ripley vibe to Kate, especially as situations in “The Thing” escalate.
“I love the comparison,” beams Winstead. “It’s an iconic character that I looked up to growing up. I certainly don’t want to call myself Ripley because those are big shoes to fill, but I love the fact that it’s a realistically strong, intelligent woman on screen. That’s something that was really refreshing for me to read and really exciting for me to play. It’s something that unfortunately you don’t get to see that often. I’m really happy I got the chance to play a character like that.”
4. The much publicized reshoots were done to bring those unfamiliar with the Carpenter movie up to speed.
News of reshoots usually spells problems for any production. With the large skepticism already around “The Thing,” reshoot reports made an already cagey fanboy audience even more apprehensive, but Winstead offers an explanation. “We reshot a few scenes to kind of help guide the film along as far as exposition goes," she told us. "When we shot the film, we had all seen the Carpenter version a billion times, so we were like, ‘We know what’s going on, we don’t need to explain it.’ When the cut came together, it became clear that we kind of unnecessarily glossed over some of those things and we had to go back and make things more clear as far as where we are in the film and what’s happening and what everyone was doing and making it clear for people who don’t already know the story. And we did some additional things with the end sequence, making it bigger and crazier and more insane. So that was fun.”
5. Winstead doesn’t worry about being pigeonholed. She just really likes horror movies.
After parts in “The Ring Two,” “Final Destination 3,” “The Thing” and the forthcoming “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” we asked Winstead if she’s a little worried about being forever pigeonholed as a scream queen. “You know, I’ve never really worried about it,” Winstead told us. “'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' to me isn’t a horror film at all. It’s really more of an action adventure historical epic. I feel like with every role I take I just want to be challenged in some way. As long as I become a better actor and keep working, that’s really the goal. Just, you know, keep at it.”
“The Thing” opens ion Friday, October 14th.