Interview – The Thing’s Jonathan Lloyd Walker
– by Shawn Conner
The Thing opens in theatres nationwide tomorrow (Oct 14). Despite its title, however, The Thing isn’t actually a remake of the 1982 John Carpenter classic. Instead, it’s a prequel, brought to us by the producers of Dawn of the Dead and director Matthijs van Heijningen, from a script by Eric Heisserer (Final Destination 5). The cast includes Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, Death Proof), Joel Edgerton (Warrior, Animal Kingdom) and Jonathan Lloyd Walker.
A UK-born, Vancouver-based actor, Walker plays a British radio operator in the movie. Walker’s other credits include Traitor with Guy Pearce and Don Cheadle; Transparency with Lou Diamond Phillips, Estella Warren and Deborah Kara Unger; Shooter, directed by Antoine Fugua (Training Day) as well as Red with Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich. He’s appeared in the TV series Flash Gordon, V and Smallville. He’s also a writer who is developing a new science-fiction TV series, Out of Time, about a female agent dispatched from the future to hunt down some fugitives who have escaped to our time.
We reached Walker on the phone, post-Thursday-morning-workout.
Shawn Conner: So have you seen the finished version of The Thing?
Jonathan Lloyd Walker: I saw a rough cut during pre-production, then I went down for the official premiere Monday night in Los Angeles.
SC: So what are some of the differences?
JLW: We’d re-shot certain elements back in January. The studio wanted us to change some of the interplay and ramp up the horror and the creature moments. They changed a whole chunk of the ending. I think for the most part the film achieves what it set out to do, which is to be a good and faithful prequel to Carpenter’s movie. At the tail-end of the film, there may be too much CGI for my tastes, but the creature stuff is still compelling, and all the taut character beats in the first two-thirds when we’re all mistrusting of each other, all that still works.
SC: This is a story that has gone through its own metamorphosis, from short story [“Who Goes There?” by science fiction writer John W. Campbell] to the original  Howard Hawks version to the John Carpenter remake, and now a prequel. How aware were you of that whole evolution?
JLW: Obviously I saw the Carpenter movie when I was a teenager, and I was really really impressed with the film. I do remember coming out of the theatre with my friends being both excited and frightened. It was so visceral, and so terrifying. I came from that background. In preproduction I got to see the Hawks version of the film. Also they gave out to all the crew and the cast the novella that all of the stuff was based on.
SC: Reading the description of the plot of The Thing , the movie I’m most reminded of is Alien.
JLW: There are parallels to be drawn there. You have a female protagonist who starts out as somewhat of a quiet follower who takes on more of an assertive role and drives things forward. She uses her guile to confront the creature. I would say the climax of the film – and I don’t think it’s any closely-guarded secret that the climax takes us into the spaceship – once you get it there yes, it very much feels like Alien. But I would say the first two-thirds of the film are very faithful to the Carpenter movie.
SC: Are prequels the new sequels?
JLW: At the end of the day it’s about finding the best, freshest way to bring new life to a classic. If that’s better told in an origin story or a prequel than a sequel, then so much the better. If you go back to Casino Royale, it is really a prequel, we meet James Bond before he’s given the license to kill. That’s a prequel that works very effectively. Whether it’s a trend that will carry on, I don’t know. I would love there to be a sequel to The Thing, because I think there is a lot of creative mileage you could get out of that that would take it in a new direction. I hope sequels are not dead.
SC: You’ve been in some fairly big movies with some big-name stars. I don’t want to put you on the spot, but can you tell us – which movie had the best catering?
JLW: [chuckles] Usually, the bigger the project, the higher the budget and the bigger the star-power, the food is better because they have to cater to some bigger egos. I would have to say Red had the best food.
It was a stellar cast, six Academy Award winners, and 20 Golden Globe nominees or winners. When we were shooting part of the movie in Toronto we were shooting in a hotel. What they would do – we were staying at a different hotel – they would pick us up, drive us to this other hotel, and most of us with a significant role in the movie were given this other suite in this other hotel where we were shooting.
So when it came time to eat we asked, Should we go down for catering? and they said no, go ahead and order yourselves room service. That was at the Royal York in Toronto, which is not a cheap hotel. So a lot of the other actors, at lunchtime, were ordering themselves a big steak. So I quickly jumped on that bandwagon. I can remember sitting in a room with Brian Cox and John Malkovich having a big 14-ounce steak for lunch.
SC: I was hoping you were going to say you were in a room eating steak with Helen Mirren.
JLW: Helen’s a lovely women, I did hang out with her on a few occasions. A wonderful woman, very down to earth with lots of great stories. Whilst regal in presentation, she’s very very love and warm, and a great person to work with.
The Thing opens Friday Oct 14 at a theatre near you. Check local listings.