Over the weekend, the world lost Wilford Brimley, an actor who (much like the shape-shifting alien in director John Carpenter's 1982 remake of The Thing) will live on in the various roles he inhabited on the screen — both big and small. To celebrate the late performer, SYFY WIRE reached out to Brimley's Thing co-stars and asked for their memories of the brusque, mustachioed personality.
"Well, for sure I’m gonna miss him. He was a wonderful, wonderful man. Like everyone else has been saying, that gruff exterior belied a really tender guy," Keith David, who played mechanic Childs, told us during a short phone call Sunday evening. "He knew that I was a singer also, and the last time I saw him he gave me a couple of CDs that he had made. It was great stuff. It’s wonderful to know that there was that side of him as well ... It was always great to get together with him when we were doing one of the conventions [and] break some bread together. As a matter of fact, there were several times that he and I broke bread … there used to be a place in Burbank called Nippon. I think we’d gone there a couple times. But he was a wonderful man, who I will miss."
In the beloved sci-fi/horror film that was originally panned upon release, Brimley played Dr. Blair, a biologist and the first person to realize the terrible danger that the alien poses to the planet's population of organic life. During our conversation, Mr. David recalled a humorous rehearsal for the scene in which Blair examines the half-transformed Thing brought over from the Norwegian camp.
"We were saying our lines and he was walking around the newly discovered Thing that was laid out on the table," the actor recalled. "[Wilford] walked around and he looks up and he says, ‘Do I have to say all this stuff?!’ [laughs]. And we all laughed and, of course … He was a funny guy with a great, wry sense of humor."
David added: "I discovered him in The China Syndrome and [Absence of Malice]. … He was great. I mean, he was really good at what he did, and he had great stories. Great stories!" The alum of Community and Rick and Morty revealed that those stories were about riding horses (Brimley began his entertainment career by shoeing horses for westerns) and doubling for Burt Lancaster. Ironically, it was Lancaster's son, Bill, who wrote the screenplay for the '82 version of The Thing. To this day, fans still argue over whether David's Childs is a Thing at the film's ambiguous ending.
SYFY WIRE also got in touch with Richard Masur, who played dog handler Clark. The character ends up being shot and killed by MacReady (Kurt Russell) during the famous "blood test" sequence.
"Wilfred had one of the most interesting acting origin stories I've ever heard," Masur said in an exclusive statement. "He told me he worked as a blacksmith — shoeing horses — mostly for western and period films and TV. He really wanted to act and started getting small parts because he was on the set, but mostly because he was who he was: a no-nonsense guy who always told the truth. That made him a great actor, and it was my good fortune to have worked with him and become his friend."
Carpenter paid tribute to Brimley on Twitter, writing: "Wilford Brimley was the real thing: a real cowboy, a great actor, a wonderful man. I'm going to miss you, Will. Rest in peace."
Elsewhere, T.K. Carter (who portrayed Outpost 31's resident cook, Nauls) posted a little memorial to the late actor on Instagram. "Rest In Peace Wilford Brimley," he wrote. "Working with a veteran like you was amazing. Never will forget your stories. 👍🏾🙏🏾 #thething #movies #actors #actorslife."