Can you believe it's been 35 years since "The Thing" first terrorized moviegoers?
The film didn't make a huge splash when it first debuted, but over the years it's developed a massive fanbase and come to be regarded as one of the greatest horror movies ever made. To celebrate this big anniversary, here are 15 interesting facts you might not know about John Carpenter's masterpiece.
1. While he's worked with Carpenter many times over the years, Kurt Russell wasn't the first choice to play MacReady. Both Jeff Bridges and Nick Nolte turned down the role. Several actors were also considered for the part of Childs, including Isaac Hayes and Carl Weathers.
2. Carpenter considers "The Thing" to be the first part of his "Apocalypse Trilogy," which also includes 1987's "Prince of Darkness" and 1994's "In the Mouth of Madness."
3. Legendary makeup and effects artist Stan Winston (of "Alien" and "Jurassic Park" fame) had a hand in the movie. Winston was brought on board late in production after original makeup artist Rob Bottin had to be hospitalized do to the stress of the project. That's why Winston receives a "thank you" mention in the end credits.
4. Carpenter cut production costs by using the same set for both the US and Norwegian camps in the film. The Norwegian scenes were filmed after the set was destroyed for the big finale sequence.5. Though it's never mentioned in the film, Carpenter and Russell worked out a back-story for the MacReady character. They envisioned MacReady as a disaffected, alcoholic Vietnam vet/chopper pilot, who is reluctant to be thrust back into a leadership role.
6. If MacReady's shocked reaction after throwing a stick of dynamite seems surprisingly authentic, it's because Kurt Russell wasn't actually acting. He misjudged the strength of the blast after throwing the dynamite and was knocked backwards. Carpenter elected to use that take in the final film.7. Editor Todd Ramsay was concerned that audiences might react poorly to the film's dark, ambiguous ending (above), so he and Carpenter filmed an alternate ending where MacReady is rescued and a blood test confirms his humanity. However, Carpenter elected to leave that scene out of all test screenings, and to this day the alternate ending has yet to be released.
8. The only female performance in the entire movie comes courtesy of Carpenter's then-wife Adrienne Barbeau, who provided the voice of MacReady's computer in an uncredited role.
9. "The Thing" hit theaters the exact same day as "Blade Runner." Interestingly, both films suffered similar fates, receiving middling reviews and doing poorly at the box office. Eventually, they attracted massive followings on home video and became modern classics.
10. There's an alternate cut of the film designed for TV broadcast. Aside from toning down the violence and language, this version also adds voiceover narration and a new ending, where the Thing again transforms into a dog and escapes the ruins of the camp.
11. Prior to the release of the 2011 prequel (above), there were multiple attempts at green-lighting a sequel to the original film. The Sci Fi Channel announced a TV mini-series continuation in 2003, though it apparently never got past the writing stage and was quietly forgotten.
12. Carpenter himself revealed his ideas for a sequel in a 2004 interview with Empire Magazine. He envisioned "The Thing 2" picking up right where the original left off, with MacReady and Childs struggling to survive the deadly Antarctic climate until a rescue team arrived. Carpenter even planned on having Kurt Russell and Keith David reprise their roles, with frostbite injuries being used to disguise their older ages.13. In the film, T.K. Carter's Nauls (left) mysteriously vanishes during the climax and is never heard from again. Alan Dean Foster's novelization explains that disappearance, as it includes a scene from an earlier screenplay draft where Nauls is cornered by the Thing and kills himself rather than be assimilated.
14. In 2002, Black Label Games published a video game sequel to "The Thing" in the form of a third-person shooter for the PC, Playstation 2, and Xbox. The game stars a new character named Captain J.F. Blake, who leads a team to investigate the ruins of the U.S. camp and battles new manifestations of the alien virus.15. The game (which Carpenter considers to be in-canon with the film) reveals that MacReady alone survived the events of the film, while Childs perished from exposure. MacReady appears in the game's climax, where he shows up in his helicopter to provide assistance to Blake.