Thing: Characters and Actors

 In their casting, the filmmakers tried to balance the supernatural elements of the creature tale with the more traditional aspects of storytelling. Newman explains: “When you make a horror film, you’re trying to sell a reality that doesn’t exist. You have an even greater obligation to sell the reality in the areas you can control. The performance, the characterizations and what situations are not supernatural have to be even more grounded.

The cast is where you start.” They began by making Columbia University paleontologist Dr. Kate Lloyd the central character of the story. Newman shares: “The original Carpenter movie is a very male experience.

Female Perspective

Whether it’s Rosemary’s Baby or Alien or The Exorcist, there is often a feminine perspective in these films. Given that it’s 1982, it’s a man’s world. Kate is the heroine, and she provides a great way into the this tale.”

Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Winstead was cast as the scientist who travels to Antarctica for an incredible chance for advancement in her field. She takes the opportunity, and it turns out to be a horrible mistake.

Of the production’s leading lady, executive producer Dale commends: “I worked with Mary on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, where she played a very different character. She’s got versatility, gravity, pathos and strength. She has everything that Kate needs to be.” Winstead offers that she is a big fan of Carpenter’s seminal film and is honored to help bring the new story to the screen. “Having a female lead immediately differentiates us,” she says. “Kate has to be a really intelligent girl of strong will and strength of character. It’s rare to get the chance to do something where the woman gets to have that kind of power in a very realistic way.”

The situation Kate finds herself in as one of only two women among a group of male scientists allowed Winstead more layers to bring to the character. “Every-one would have a different feeling about a woman coming into the situation,” Winstead says. “And she would have certain feelings about being one of two women with all these men around. So it creates a unique dynamic between all of the characters.” Kate develops a strong bond with Carter, one of three helicopter pilots who service the camp with supplies and transport personnel.

In a departure from the norm, the relationship never develops into a romantic one. Explains Newman: “The Kate and Carter dynamic, one of the central relationships in the story, was never designed to be a love story. It had more to do with building a structure between two characters who trust one another.”

In addition to providing Kate with a like-minded and trustworthy partner, the filmmakers also wanted Carter to evoke MacReady, the character played by Kurt Russell in Carpenter’s film. Carter is just the type of man who would have known and worked with the maverick pilot in 1982.

Joel Edgerton

Warrior” Joel Edgerton proved to be just the person for the job. “Joel was, first and foremost, the right actor,” says Newman. “He’s a brilliant stage and film performer and has an intelligence to him that we needed. We don’t have the time to give everyone a hero, get-to-know-you moment. We had to go with someone who brought that depth to every scene.”

Though he has portrayed many characters in his career, the Australian-born Edgerton had never tackled a role quite like Carter. “I don’t think I’ve ever played a heroic character before,” he says. “None as heroic as Carter, that kind of thrown-into-the-chaos and ‘Come on, I’ll get us out of here’ type guy. I quite enjoyed it.” Like many involved with the pre-quel, Edgerton remains a devoted fan of Carpenter’s movie and credits van Heijningen with his attention to detail on set.

The actor notes: “Matthijs has collected a great group of actors. When I walked around the sets and saw the way the actors dressed and the way they looked, it felt dirty and true to what it would be like in that environment—a gnarly bunch of faces. He had an honest look at the way it should look and feel, and stayed true to that. And it very much stays true to the aesthetic of Carpenter’s film.”

Ulrich Thomsen

The man who brings Kate to the icy frontier is brilliant researcher Dr. Sander Halvorson, portrayed by Danish actor Ulrich Thomsen. “My character is called to Antarctica because they’ve found something in the ice,”

Thomsen explains. “In the context of the story, Sander is the bad guy because he drills into the ice to get a tissue sample of the creature and he’s not supposed to do that. But he’s a scientist and can’t wait. The creature springs back to life, and madness ensues.” Sander is directly responsible for the ensuing melee, and Thomsen was just as interested as the filmmakers were in exploring this human culpability.

Thomsen sees the film as a commentary on modern-day issues. “Sander doesn’t handle it at all,” he says. “He’s trying to make sense of the whole thing and just survive, but it doesn’t go so well. You can draw some parallels to the real world on top of the horror and the entertainment of the movie.” Eric Christian Olsen was brought aboard the production to play American Adam Goldman, Sander’s research assistant, who initially convinces Kate to come to Antarctica. He describes his character: “Adam’s incredibly good at navigating the politics of the science world, aligning himself with people who are smarter than he is, and making sure he is in the right place at the right time.”

Olsen sees this film in terms of its human relationships: “There’s a monster out here, but it’s about Jameson and Carter lock and load. – 16 –what we’re going to do to each other under the guise of self-preservation that most interested me.” Yet, this survival instinct is ultimately suppressed for the greater good.

Newman explains: “The Thing is also about the social responsibility of these people: Escape, though it may be the best thing for me, is not the best thing for mankind. With my escape, potentially the creature escapes, and it makes short work of the entire planet.”

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (of TV’s Lost fame) secured the role of Jameson, a helicopter pilot who flies alongside Carter. He describes Jameson as someone who provides the humor in the movie. The British actor notes: “It’s necessary in this scary movie for someone to be light and fluffy, and that’s Jameson. He’ll crack a joke. He’s very loyal, and he’s not to be messed with.” This friendship between Jameson and Carter is based on a shared past.

Akinnuoye-Agbaje explains: “They went through some pretty harrowing times together in Vietnam. It bonded them.” With this story focused on the Norwegian camp that ultimately releases the thing into the American camp in Carpenter’s film, van Heijningen decided to add a layer of authenticity by casting actual Norwegian actors for key roles.

The other filmmakers were quick to embrace his idea, and the team was able to cast some of the top actors from this region of Europe. Newman explains: “Matthijs was pretty insistent that the cast be authentic and so he wanted to cast a lot of Norwegian actors, even if they didn’t speak great English. So with the help of DENISE CHAMIAN, our casting director, we did some pretty extensive casting in Norway.” Having Norwegians play Norwegians also offered the filmmakers more flexibility to surprise the audience. Newman continues: “If you have Hollywood movie stars in a film like this, you generally have a good idea that the movie star is not going to die or become a bad person at the end of the movie. With this cast, anything can happen to anybody…and it does.”

The production brought a number of famous Norwegians onto the film to play the crew of research scientists and support staff at the Antarctic base. Trond Espen Seim plays noted geologist Edvard Wolner, Sander’s old friend who asks him to come investigate the frozen specimen. He is joined by JØRGEN LANGHELLE as the dog keeper, Lars; JAN GUNNAR RØISE as the Spryte Snowcat driver and guide, Olav; and STIG HENRIK HOFF as Edvard’s rifle-toting right-hand man, Peder.

For Winstead, the Norwegian elements of The Thing layer on the degrees of tension. “The fact that it’s a Norwegian base adds to the sense of paranoia,” she shares. “When they’re talking to each other, you don’t know if they’re forming an alliance against you. It really builds up that tension. It’s exciting to be in a Hollywood film that has so much of a Scandinavian presence.” Adds co-star Edgerton: “The majority of the char ac-ters are Norwegian. So you get this language clash and culture clash. It deepens the human paranoia in a film that is both human versus human and human versus creature.”

Supporting roles for the production were filled by performers KRISTOFER HIVJU as nervous researcher Jonas; PAUL BRAUNSTEIN as the third man in Carter’s crew, Griggs; KIM BUBBS as French scientist Juliette; JONATHAN LLOYD WALKER as the eccentric Brit, Colin; JO ADRIAN HAAVIND as Henrik; and CARSTEN BJØRNLUND as the veteran radio operator, Karl.

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