THE THING

THE THING
From right to left : John, Myself, Production Manager Robert Brown, Associate Producer Larry Franco. The Juneau Ice Field. Location Scout April, 1981

Saturday, April 7, 2012

CASTING BLAIR












                From a storytelling standpoint it was our intent that Blair be infected very early on in the proceedings, and off - screen. Here we were attempting to faithfully follow the dramatic line of the Campbell novella. We all liked the idea that his crackup was a ruse, a clever feint to isolate him(it)self from the rest of the group. It was essential on some level that the audience forget about Blair until the appropriate time, requiring an actor whose everyman persona could fade into the woodwork.








               As some of you know, John was initially considering DONALD PLEASENCE for Blair, but my notes from the time reflect a concern that he may have been too identifiable, too dominating a presence - one you were likely to miss and wonder about if he were off screen for a considerable period of time. Far from occupying his now familiar role as every one's authentic grandfather and Quaker Oats spokesman, WILLFORD BRIMLEY at the time of casting THE THING was completely unknown, a fresh face. His first film, ABSENCE OF MALICE, had yet to be released. David Foster arranged for us to see the rough cut at Warner Bros, and  with a strong recommendation from director Sydney Pollack, the rest is history...










             Addendum, April 7, 2012. Although I can speak authoritatively as to our intent with the Blair character, what I think is open to question is how successful we were in realizing that intent. This is one element of the film we did not plan to be  ambiguous about. Concerned, John added several lines of dialogue in post production to make things clearer. Naul's dialogue "Hey Blair - you down there ? We got something for you" and particularly Mac's "Blair's been busy down here all by himself " ( italics mine ) were added to underline to the audience the idea that Blair was a Thing when he was locked up, and to make the direct connection between the saucer they were seeing and the creature that had built it...

















6 comments:

  1. Wow, knowing now that Blair's crackup was a ruse greatly answers some unanswered internal or subliminal questions. I watched a YouTube video on the theory that Blair could indeed have been assimilated early and played the roll even looking at his own Thing blood cells (They say at this state that Blair was conscious of himself as a person) and The Thing inside him possessed him to overreact destroying all the equipment). So was there two consciousnesses there while someone was fully assimilated or is that person gone entirely once he's been absorbed? Great info on this blog, btw. I'm going to eat up every piece of it! :)

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  2. I'd love to know if you guys figured out when Blair was assimilated.

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  3. I am digging this blog. I could read about The Thing all day...

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  4. This is a great blog thanks for putting the time in. Its funny but always to me the scene of Blair cracking up - was like 'blair' was pretending to go nuts, just how it came across to me. You have confirmed that here - what a great actor, to be able to convincingly play a character pretending to 'go nuts'.
    Cheers
    Jules

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  5. Pleasence would have been great as Blair, he would have nailed the part and been a joy to watch. But, apart from the dominant presence aspect, he also carried a significant sinister tone. Even when playing a "good guy" role, Pleasence manages to convey a certain degree of threatening... oddness. For the purpose of misdirection, Brimley was a better choice. When seeing the movie for the first time, I expected Blair to be somewhat unreliable, to act strangely, to even die, but never suspected that he could be the antagonist.

    thanks for the blog mr.cohen.

    otho

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  6. I got the impression from the movie, or at least imagined for myself, that a replica or "fake" person would at least sometimes be a completely perfect copy and not even aware of it, truly believing its self to be what it copied. At least until it was injured. Or perhaps the mimic organism would have 2 minds within it, and the evil alien one would allow the original human one to play out and steer the body so as to show perfect behavior to its peers, but be able to retract that mind and 'take-over' the body when it saw an opportunity to strike out and spread undetected. I thought this mainly because of how Charles Hallahan's character seemed to have a real heart attack, and cringed by the window before the big one hit, even though no one was around to see it.

    At the end of it all I really don't know how the thing operates, and that makes it all the more creepy, and realistic, because it would be cheap dialogue to have characters know all the answers to such a bizarre situation.

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