During Kurt Russell’s acting retrospective for GQ, the famed actor gave his thoughts on the ever-constant debate of which survivor is the Thing at the end of John Carpenter’s The Thing. During the shoot, what would be shown of the divisive ending was a matter of contention even for Carpenter himself, who now swears he’s the only one who knows who the Thing is—even though director of photography Dean Cundey has claimed the answer is in the eyes of the final two left standing.
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So who does Russell think is secretly hosting an alien creature in that frosty scene: his character, MacReady, or Keith David’s Childs? Looking back at the much-loved sci-fi horror classic, the star recalled, “John was never quite satisfied with the last scene. His main thing was he didn’t want to take the audience on a ride for two hours and bring [them] back to square one. When you’re doing a movie, you don’t know what you got. You kind of in general know what you got, but you don’t know exactly how this is gonna go together and what’s gonna come out of it. And of course John did almost all the time because you understand—you know, he’s unlike most guys.”
Russell continued. “But the last scene, what we talked about a lot, we tried out little different versions of it: ‘What do you think of that?’ … you go back and forth.” Russell and Carpenter—who have worked on five projects together over the years—spent time discussing the tone of the ending. The actor recalled telling the director, “‘I know you don’t want to come back to square one—it’s kind of what it is. We don’t even know if we’re real. We don’t even know.’ We don’t know, we don’t know,” he repeated.
The beauty of the mystery is what Russell loves most. “I think the audience can figure it out. I think that’s what makes The Thing great, is you don’t know. What if it’s already happened? Are you you? How would you know? And that all led itself down to what was the last line I said, I think it’s just like, ‘Why don’t we just sit here for a while, see what happens?’ If [the two characters] could figure out a way to kill each other in exactly the same time, I think maybe that’s the next step there,” he theorized, and added, “That, to me was John at maybe his absolute peak as a director. That’s really good filmmaking.”
Watch the rest of the video below, featuring Russell’s thoughts on Escape From New York, Guardians of the Galaxy, his Quentin Tarantino roles, and more.
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