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7 Things You Might Not Know About John Carpenter's The Thing

Learn some new things behind the making of John Carpenter's The Thing from Keith David, Dean Cundey and Larry Franco. 

By Tara Bennett

If you're compiling your Halloween horror watch list, we whole-heartedly recommend firing up John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) (now streaming on Peacock) which remains a benchmark paranoid thriller and gross out horror title. Forty years after its release, every generation of horror lover is still fascinated with The Thing for the incredible performances, overall claustrophobic vibe, and jaw-dropping practical effects by Rob Bottin.

SYFY WIRE loves to celebrate the movie whenever we can, so we dove into our 35th anniversary archive to mine some fascinating details that actor Keith David, producer Larry Franco, and cinematographer Dean Cundey shared with us.

Go Behind the Scenes of John Carpenter's The Thing 

John Carpenter Is Freakishly Efficient on Set

The shoot for The Thing was a complex 12 weeks of location and soundstage work at Universal Studios Hollywood. Because Carpenter demanded two weeks of intense rehearsals with the cast, he was able to run an incredibly efficient set where he got what he needed and then moved on. It impressed his veteran crew and his cast, including the film newbie, Keith David. 

RELATED: 'The Thing' at 40: The cast & crew's definitive history of John Carpenter's masterpiece

The Thing Was Keith David's First Film

A graduate of The Juilliard School and noted theater actor in New York, David auditioned for the role in The Thing and didn't expect to land it. He did, however, and found himself surrounded by an ensemble of well-respected character actors, from Wilford Brimley to Richard Masur, who taught him a lot about recalculating his performance style for the camera. 

The Helicopter Sequence Was Done by First A.D. Larry Franco

The guy hanging out of the helicopter shooting at the dog was the film's 1st Assistant Director, Larry Franco. As the guy who had to get things done on the set, he just buckled up with the pilot and a cameraman to get the sequence done. 

The ASPCA Thought the Special Effects Dog Was Real

By all accounts, the special effects for The Thing were just as gnarly in person as they were in the finished film. David remembers they were so realistic that some of them even convinced set consultants and actors that they were real. 

The Chest Opening Sequence 

The Thing (1982) VFX

The terrifying sequence when the creature bursts from the chest cavity of Norris (Charles Hallahan) and then attacks Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) was also a nightmare for the production crew. The used a stunt double (who was a double amputee) wearing a face cast mask of Dysart for the reaction shot over the body. Meanwhile, the body on the table was a practical special effect while Hallahan's real body was hidden under the table and just his head was exposed for more authentic reaction shots. The actor sat in a slanted chair for four to five hours as the special effects team blended the various parts on the table together. 

RELATED: From John W. Campbell Jr. to Pingu: New Book Explores All Corners of The Thing Franchise

How the Compound Was Really Blown Up at the End

The Thing Stills

The camp was built by production as an actual location and meant to brave the elements. But it was just "movie construction" grade, which looks sturdy but is actually very lightweight so it can be destroyed after filming. Franco said they had to do a tremendous amount of wood scoring and deconstruction, while using gasoline as an accelerant so the buildings would actually blow apart dramatically on camera. Because of that, the production crew had to be a mile away from the demolition for safety. They would load the cameras with a full load of film and then ignite the pyro and run. Franco remembers they were ready to walk back to get the cameras and one explosion lagged and exploded, which freaked the crew out. 

They Did Several Takes Alluding to Who Was the Thing

In shooting the scene where MacReady and Childs have survived but aren't sure if either is infected, David said they shot that moment several times including takes where it was clear neither were infected and then the more ambiguous take where neither knows. David never knew one way or the other if Childs was infected.

The Thing is now streaming on Peacock. Looking for more classic Carpenter action? Prince of Darkness (1987), They Live (1988), and Village of the Damned (1995) are also streaming on Peacock!