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Exclusive Interview: The Thing’s Joel Edgerton

On the prequel, the fans and the creature FX

When Joel Edgerton (seen in last month’s release Warrior) was cast in the prequel to The Thing, his character, Braxton, was described as a helicopter pilot. Naturally, instant comparisons were drawn to Kurt Russell’s MacReady in John Carpenter’s 1982 The Thing. But piloting a chopper is about where the similarities end between Braxton and MacReady as audiences will find out when The Thing opens October 14.

Edgerton stars in the film with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Eric Christian Olsen and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and we recently caught up with the actor to talk about the prequel. Read on and you’ll see he’s refreshingly honest about the industry and the rabid online community.

Shock Till You Drop: What makes the core of The Thing still potent today?

Joel Edgerton: Well, I’ve heard people talk about the paranoia of the Carpenter version. Communism and the Cold War stuff. There’s always a resonance in culture about paranoia of “the other” and suspicion of the other. Communism is a great parallel. I think that idea is still prevalent today. There’s a serious paranoia and fear of terrorism, not knowing where the next villain is going to pop up and with what kind of violence. Particularly with this prequel, set before Carpenter’s, you’ve got American characters set amongst these Norwegian characters, so you’ve got a clash of cultures and a language barrier. In Carpenter’s version you’ve got humans versus alien and now you’ve got extra friction because of the language barrier.

Shock: Do you think it adds an extra layer to have a strong female lead as well?

Edgerton: I don’t know whether it plays too much on the war of the genders. There is a little bit. I’m shocked, to be honest, by the Internet hate – I’m using an extreme word – but talk that has been generated about the inclusion of female characters in this prequel. I have to laugh about the extreme nature with which people have reacted. These anonymous people who can hide behind their computer screens…

Shock: Well, Carpenter’s film was a boy’s club, so they presume that’s the way it needs to be.

Edgerton: Yeah, I like how movies morph through time. I find it hard to find someone who dislikes the Carpenter version now. You would have found them in spades back in ’82. I ran into a critic the other day who said he was one of the masses who turn on Carpenter’s movie back then, but now [laughs] praises it. I feel sorry for filmmakers who…it’s like the Van Gogh theory, you’ve got to be dead and gone before you’re successful. I wish people can enjoy the success the minute they see the movie, but sometimes that’s not the case.

Shock: The FX are a tremendous part of The Thing equation. Was there something tangible for you to play off of on set when it came to the creature sequences?

Edgerton: Surprisingly, there was a lot of stuff to play with. There was a concerted effort to put as much physical FX in the film as possible. We live in a day and age where entire films are green screened and where legions of creatures are created in computer. Because Carpenter’s film was such a template for the filmmakers here, they wanted to create a film that could sit hand-in-hand with Carpenter’s film aesthetically. There was an effort to us practical FX while not denying modern technology, so you’ve got a percentage of both. I’m not sure what the final percentage will boil down to, but there was stuff to play with physically.

Shock: Do you agree a prequel was the right direction to go rather than a sequel?

Edgerton: For me, what makes the film special – and I’m a bit skeptical about the world of movie-making right now that’s so focused on movie sequels and remakes and prequels – is that I think this prequel is well-earned. Because it was so important this film stays true to the Carpenter aesthetic. Not a lot of thought goes into some remakes and sequels. I feel the studios or filmmakers randomly pluck a random, tenuous connection out of the air to create a whole movie from. I feel there was such a great set-up in the Carpenter film – what happened to the Norwegian camp? I feel this prequel opens up an episode that was waiting to be told. There’s a nice familiarity to the Carpenter version, I think people will enjoy it, but at the same time it tells its own tale with a new set of characters. I don’t think I’m giving away a spoiler, but in this film you get to have a sense of an origin and you get more with the [alien's] ship.

For clips, images and more from the film follow this link.

Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor